It seemed like a good idea at the time. As part of our plan to become more self-sufficient and live sustainably, we decided to get some chickens. (When I say “we”, of course I mean ME. Hubby Vic is a reluctant participant in this project.)
We’re hardly at the forefront of the urban chicken movement, since Sunset and National Geographic magazines, as well as the Los Angeles Times, all had articles on the subject last winter. I began researching the topic, going to www.chickencoops.com to get ideas. I sat down with my co-worker and carpenter friend, Simeon Jasso, to design a custom coop just the right size for three hens.
Between my frequent out-of-town trips and Simeon’s schedule at work and his callups from the Navy Reserves, it took us many months to settle on a plan and get construction of Cluckingham Palace underway. The coop and run are now mostly finished, with the roof going on this Friday. The entire run is enclosed with half-inch mesh hardware cloth to keep out wild birds and urban wildlife (raccoons, opossums, skunks, coyotes, gray fox, red squirrels, ground squirrels–we’ve got ’em all).
To do this legally, I needed a Huntington Beach city permit to keep chickens. That cost a whopping $189 (on top of the $800 for the coop, and another hundred or so for a feeder, waterer, carrying case (my husband plans to take a chicken to class every so often for his feather and bird anatomy lectures), etc. At least the city permit is for life, not an annual permit.
The city planning department sent notices to my neighbors that we planned to keep chickens, and that’s when the war began. Most of our neighbors are great people. But the people behind us have a bark-bark-barking mini-dachsund that has been the bane of my existence for its entire 15-year life. That nervous little dog–who lives outdoors–makes my life a living hell. Naturally, those are the people who are objecting to my chickens–which I don’t even have yet. They’re concerned about the noise. Unbelievable.
The city recommended that I get signatures from those neighbors who don’t object in order to counteract her letter of objection. Our neighbors are a cosmopolitan melting pot consisting of Cuban Jews, Vietnamese Buddhists, Egyptian Christians, Mexican Catholics and a couple of Anglo whatevers. Many of them had parents who kept chickens in the old country. They were delighted to have chickens in the neighborhood. So. No egg on my face.
I’m not sure why my neighbor with the noisy dog got her feathers all ruffled over this, but she’s going DOWN. The yolk is going to be on her. My coop construction and placement are within city code and I’m gonna be getting that permit. I hope. Stay tuned.
(To read more of Lou Murray’s environmental writing, see her weekly column, Natural Perspectives, in the Huntington Beach Independent at www.hbindependent.com, under columnists. Today’s column is on urban chickens! See it at http://www.hbindependent.com/articles/2009/10/29/blogs_and_columns/natural_perspectives/hbi-natural102909.txt/ It should remain online for 5 weeks.)