Many years ago, just before my family left the suburbs of Dallas to move to Columbia, we felt the need to take on City Hall in the attempt to legalize backyard chickens. I will be honest with you– our chickens were outlaws. It was legal to have them in Dallas, but the suburbs were a different story. Anyway … that is how I earned the moniker of “The Crazy Chicken Lady.” My notoriety followed me to the gas station, library, grocery store and pretty much anywhere else we went. I’m still a little crazy about chickens. We were so excited that we could have our chickens here in Columbia guilt-free.
I’m not sure if I can even tell you how we, otherwise normal urban/suburbanites, fell in with the likes of chickens but when we fell, we fell madly in love. It could have been the wonderful Dallas Earth Day celebrations that featured a local backyard chicken group (and their chickens.) On second thought, it could have been from reading books like “My Empire of Dirt: How One Man Turned His Big City Backyard into a Farm: A Cautionary Tale” by Manny Howard. By the way, that “cautionary” part is no lie, but I was intrigued. I would like to think that we didn’t dive right off the deep end like Mr. Howard obviously and hilariously did, but we did end up with a backyard full of chickens with names like Ingrid Birdman, Gwyneth Poultry and Madame Curry. They are the best garden help!
If you would like to know the pros (and maybe cons) of having your own backyard flock, “City Chicks: Keeping Micro-flocks of Laying Hens as Garden Helpers, Compost Creators, Bio-recyclers and Local Food Suppliers” by Patricia Foreman is one of my favorites, as is “A Chicken in Every Yard: The Urban Farm Store’s Guide to Chicken Keeping” by Robert Litt. And at some point, everyone who keeps chickens ends up needing to refer to “Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens” by Gail Damerow because the health care section is indispensable. But now I see that keeping chickens (and writing about them) has become a HUGE thing! There are so many new books about keeping backyard flocks such as “The Chicken Chick’s Guide to Backyard Chickens: Simple Steps for Healthy, Happy Hens” by Kathy Mormino, or “The Chicken Whisperer’s Guide to Keeping Chickens: Everything You Need to Know– and Didn’t Know You Needed to Know About Backyard and Urban Chickens” by Andy Schneider. Why didn’t I write a book?!
And if you do decide to follow me down the crazy chicken path, you will need a coop. There are so many different kinds of coops, and some of them are so creative! I love just thumbing through “Art of the Chicken Coop: A Fun and Essential Guide to Housing your Peeps” by Chris Gleason to see all the wonderful ways people have found to house their chickens. You can also learn more about keeping chickens by joining us for the “Scoop on the Coop” in Ashland on February 17 at 1-3 p.m. or in Columbia on February 24 at 9:30-11 a.m. Local expert Bill Ruppert will tell you all about the ins and outs of keeping a small flock, including how they benefit your vegetable garden and compost pile. You can also check out this handy list of books.