Urban Chicken Wars

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.)

chicken book

Chickens for the Backyard: A beginner's guide

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.

coop under construction

Simeon is assembling the run for the chickens. The roof will go on later.

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).

coop interior

The interior of the coop has roosts and nesting boxes, with a door opening to the exterior for cleaning and egg-gathering.

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.

our neighborhood

Our Huntington Beach neighborhood has tile-roofed, stuccoed houses with three car garages.

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.

my neighborhood

Some houses are one-story and some are two.

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.)

About Lou Murray, Ph.D.

I'm a professional writer/photographer, avid gardener, and active environmentalist living in southern California. I am retired from writing a weekly newspaper column on environmental topics in the Huntington Beach Independent, but I am still teaching at the Orange County Conservation Corps. This blog chronicles my efforts to live a green life growing as much food as possible for my husband and myself on a 4,500 sq ft yard that is covered mainly by house, garage, driveway, and sidewalks.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Urban Chicken Wars

  1. Barbara says:

    Good luck winning that battle and getting up your Cluckingham Palace! With all that diversity in your neighborhood there should be room for a few chickens. How wonderful it will be to have fresh organic eggs. I wonder – do chickens eat slugs?

    I’m also enjoying your blog very much, and am looking forward to more exchanges at Blotanical or via comments. BTW my very first exposure to dry toilets was at an exhibition at UC Berkeley years ago, and the context was, indeed, saving water in California.

    • Yes, chickens enjoy slugs and snails, but we don’t have either in the yard. I declared war on the snails a decade ago (choosing not to simply watch them or feed them elsewhere, as I learned was possible from your blog). I got decollate snails, which are predatory, and hand-picked the brown snails (Helix aspersa) every morning. Didn’t take long for them to disappear.

      But the eggs won’t be organic unless I buy organic feed, which is $10 a bag more. The first bag that I bought was non-organic, but now that I know that organic is available at our local feedstore, I’ll buy that. Assuming that I get my permit and actually get chickens. Should have waited to buy the feed.

  2. Larry says:

    Feed the snails on lettuce and cornmeal for a month. A little butter and garlic makes anything taste good! (If you pardon my French.)

  3. Sylvana says:

    This is probably the most detailed urban chicken post that I have read. Thanks!
    As for your complaining neighbors, I think you already know that they are a-holes so it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise that they would have something to say about the chickens. You will prevail 🙂

    • I wouldn’t call my neighbors “anal orifices.” They’re really just unaware, oblivious, not mean and nasty. They ended up not sending in a letter of complaint about the chickens that I still don’t have yet, and they’re keeping their barking dog quieter now. Thanks for visiting my blog.

  4. Yea, let’s hope the chicken’s get to stay. Love your writing style. I read your newspaper article too.

  5. vickie says:

    That part of the oridiance I don’t like, asking your neighbors. Kind of like a kindergarden thing.
    But I think some of our dogs here, like your neighbor’s dog, make more noise than any chicken. Hope you get your chickens soon. Thanks for all the information.
    vickie

    • At this point the delay in getting the chickens is all my fault. I’m still “playing house” with the coop. I want to install tile on the floor of the coop to make cleanup easier, hang netting to keep the birds from flying out when I gather eggs, and apply the final coat of paint. Since it’s raining today, I’ll make no progress on the coop.

  6. Janet J. says:

    I am trying to find out if chickens can be kept in Palos Verdes Peninsula? We might move there but we have four chickens and I won’t move without the chickens.

    Thanks.

    Janet
    Virginia

    • Hi Janet J. I can’t comment on the laws governing chickens on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, because I don’t know. I know that peacocks run wild in that area, and I’ve seen poultry there as well. It might be an unincorporated area of Los Angeles County. But watch property in that area carefully. The slope slides and land titles can be iffy when one person’s house slides down the slope and sits upon another’s property.

  7. What a hectic neighborhood procedures just to have three hens at your backyard. May I know what’s the current status of your urban chicken wars? Did you manage to get the approval already?

    Daniel

    Chicken coop plans

    • Hi Daniel, I got my permit back in November ’09 I think, and got my hens in February. Only one neighbor had objected prior to my getting my permit, and apparently she never filed a formal protest. I got a petition from five other neighbors who did not object, so the permit was a slam dunk. Love having my hens and those fresh eggs.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s