You can file this under “Things That Happen In Hard Times That Might Continue When Things Get Better”.
A pastime once limited to the occasional overachieving gardener, backyard chicken farming has caught fire among suburbanites craving a slice of the countryside and the promise of fresh eggs.
Not all are enamored of the trend, which some view as but an eco-friendly fad. Concerns about noise, odors and sanitation abound. (Supporters say those worries are unfounded.)
And the sudden wave of interest has, in some places, outpaced the ability of city halls to react with regulations and enforcement. But make no mistake: The trend has, well, taken flight.
BackYardChickens.com, a California-based Web site about the hobby, has some 35,000 registered members and signs up 100 new members a day.
[Dan] Probst, who runs one of the few Dallas-area farms to sell hens, reckons he has sold more than 2,000 so far this year. North Haven Gardens, a popular Dallas gardening store, has begun holding regular seminars on chicken rearing.
Hens typically cost between $15 and $40 each depending on the breed. (Most cities prohibit roosters, which can be noisy and used for illicit cage fights.) They live for about a decade. At their peak, hens can lay an egg a day.
“When the economy changed, people had to start thinking of ways to get back to basics,” said Leslie Halleck, the garden store’s general manager, who started raising backyard chickens this year.
I can’t say I’m surprised by this. People may as well put those ginormous suburban lots to good use. Actually, lot size doesn’t really matter that much – I’ve noticed several houses in my neighborhood that have chicken coops in recent years. It’s a cheap way to get fresh eggs. What more do you want?
Those who pursue the hobby are confronted with a patchwork of ordinances. Rules vary from city to city and subdivision to subdivision.
Which means it’s just a matter of time before a statewide organization is formed to lobby the Legislature to create a single standard. Mark your calendars for 2011.