Saturday, March 28, 2015

If Dad Approves Chickens, Surely The City Will

Adorable photo taken by my cousin Lindsey;
who also knew Grandma's chickens in our childhood
So my dad called me this afternoon, and in his typical style, launched into a conversation with no preface or warning.

"You were right; egg color does depend on the breed of chicken, not their diet. Grandma must have had Leghorn chickens. But I do remember her having brown chickens, too, so she must have had Rhode Island Reds; they look red in the light, but mostly brown. I have been googling...I printed off some breeds for you."

I tried catching my breath--not because I wanted to say anything, dad would have talked over me anyway--but to try to hold in my glee. Let me explain something about my dad. When he makes a phone call out of the blue, has lots to say about a topic you love, and even admits to googling it...well, it means you've earned his approval. You've sparked his interest and given him a way to bond in his own quirky way.

Let me back up a little.

Chickens have been on my brain for several years now, though my yard contains none. Our city doesn't allow backyard chickens, and lots of us would like to change that. About this time last year, petition number one made the rounds on the internet, my hope was spurred, and I wrote this post when I was told that 'urban people are not farmers'. Petition number one died out, sadly, and during the past year I started to think of ways to enamor my neighbors with the idea of my secretly keeping chickens, assuming that they'd never be legal. THEN, petition number two showed up, written and promoted by a local woman who had once kept chickens illegally in my city.

This petition picked up speed quickly, and not only that, Michele (writer of the petition) gathered a bunch of us through Facebook to approach city council. The meeting was on Tuesday night and left me feeling ecstatic. I have no idea yet if any of the city council members are willing to take on the proposal, but a few seemed very intrigued and enthusiastic. The conversation's been started, and we will keep bugging city council until they take action or bluntly turn us down.

My excitement was still tangible last night during my weekly Friday-night visit to my parents'. Both my brothers and their wives were there, and they had caught wind of my newest chicken adventures. My dad never knew I wanted chickens in my backyard and, of course, he was initially astounded--but not speechless. He immediately started telling me all the negative aspects of chickens, not knowing I've been researching for years.

He grew up with chickens. He does know what he's talking about. And every point he made was valid:

"There will be shit everywhere. You will walk inside with it on your shoes every time you go outside."
"You have to feed them. Feed's expensive. So you certainly won't be getting free eggs."
"They stop laying eggs after a few years."
"Do you even like eggs?" (He doesn't.)
"They can escape."
"You do know that predators will be after them?"
"Where would you put them?"
"Chickens in the city are not a new idea."
"....there will be shit, everywhere." (Again with the shit--dad, I get it.)

I'm very accustomed to my dad's initial reaction to most ideas, and I've learned that he is not trying to be overly critical or discouraging. When he goes on a little rant about whatever topic has been brought to his attention, what he is actually doing is thinking out loud to find whatever negative aspects might be involved. It's his way of staying realistic. I recognize the quality very well, since I have that same trait. Outwardly I might be enthusiastic and positive, but I'm a critic and skeptic by nature. In fact, my mind inwardly races with everything that is wrong even as I outwardly champion an idea--like backyard chickens. I want them, but the idea does terrify me a bit. I have laid awake at night worrying about the very issues dad mentioned, plus some.

As my dad went on that night, I realized what he was doing, and I didn't get defensive. I acknowledged all his concerns, impressed him a little bit with some of the facts I have learned on my own, and then we talked a little bit about Grandma's chickens. I ended the conversation with "Dad, I grew up with chickens, too. I was at Grandma's house almost every day. I know some of the realities of chickens, but I don't care...I still want them."

His phone call was a welcome surprise this afternoon. I smiled as I imagined him googling and discovering some things about chickens in general...things he may have forgotten over the years or simply never knew. I heard papers ruffling as he referred to notes he'd printed off. I was happy inside knowing that this was my dad's way of giving a stamp of approval on something he actually thought was insane--his way of acknowledging that I'm a very different person that he, but that my ideas are okay. He had taken time out of his day (and the man never stops for much of anything), had looked for a way to connect and bond, and left me feeling on top of the world.

"Grandma and Grandpa complained about one thing a lot." I held my breath, not wanting to tarnish the romantic view I had of my paternal grandparents, wondering what horrible thing about chickens I was about to hear next.

"They hated those store bought eggs. Said they had the consistency of snot. They wouldn't even consider not keeping chickens for that reason." I let my breath out, smiled, and said "I know."

If my dad is willing to look at the chicken situation with a level head and encouraging words, then I have the highest of hopes that city council will, too.


  1. Oh I hope council will come through this time.. We cannot keep chickens because of shared garden but we have the privilege to get fresh free range eggs from neighbors and the difference is amazing!

    1. I was thinking that with your move you were now going to have chickens...bummer! But if you have neighbors with chickens who are willing to share, that's wonderful. :)