It was a warm Saturday morning. A good friend and I foisted our children off on our respective husbands and headed out for a Backyard Chickens class at Common Ground. At the Palo Alto headquarters, we were redirected to a house fifteen minutes away. Wending past wildflower encrusted hills and soaring oaks, we arrived at our destination - an old farmhouse roosting on the edge of a cliff. A large hen house lounged in the middle of an edible garden. Bolted lettuce, grape vines and tomatoes sidled up with poppies, apricot trees and lavender. Straw paths slinked between beds filled with soil the color of chocolate.
We wandered through the gardens, reaching to touch a raspberry bush here, savor the tousled beauty of intermingled vegetables, herbs and "weeds" there. Four rows of white plastic chairs fanned out in front of the chicken coop. We scooted into the shade of a plum tree and awaited our host, Jody Main.
Over the next two hours, Jody alternately instructed us on feeding chickens (in addition to their feed all green waste goes through the chickens before landing in the compost pile), building and cleaning a chicken coop, explained how to store eggs, and charmed us with chicken lore. All takers, including yours truly, plucked a dinosaur sized leaf of Swiss chard and ventured into the coop to feed the feathered fowl.
Soon, the two hours were over. Reluctantly, my friend and I finished our homemade egg pate and emptied the ice tea with home grown spearmint. We shuttled past the chicken coop one last time, peering in at the girls as they pecked at chard leaves and comfrey. Jody waved good bye and we trundled back to the car, to our own small yards - where fruit trees don't yet sprawl into the street, wheat doesn't sprout from well manured mounds and the air isn't peppered with contented clucks. On the ride home, my friend vowed to get chicks next spring. She had just the spot - at the back of her property where it borders open space. The prior owners had had chickens there, she disclosed, and her husband was raised on a farm.
A couple weeks later, I visited my sister, who has likewise gone to the birds. She and her family recently adopted three heritage breed chicks and are well on their way to backyard eggs.
As for me, am I chicken? I am afraid I am. A bit. My yard is smaller than my friend's, more narrow than my sister's, my boys more boisterous than any of their children. Can I eek out a corner somewhere, big enough for hens but not so big as to encroach on the little play space we have left in our yard? Will we end up with a backyard farm of our own? Stay tuned.
How about you? Are you chicken?