Home & Garden

‘The girls’ next door

In the backyard, chicks are the new chic.

In cities and suburbs around the country, chicken coops now claim equal billing with icons like the swing set or the barbecue.

What was once the province of true farmers or back-to-nature hippies has become the new American way. Everybody, it seems, is flocking to the backyard chicken movement.

Jenn Adrien of Tacoma joined the growing trend a year ago, with the addition of three hens – Gwen, Tribble and Nugget – to her household. This year, she added two more chicks, Curry and Croquette.

Despite their names, Adrien wouldn’t think of putting any of her “girls” on the dinner table. Like most of the new backyard chicken hobbyists, she’s strictly in it for the eggs. And the fun.

“We raise chickens to have fresh eggs, fertile compost for our gardens, free weeding, a place to get rid of table scraps and lots of backyard entertainment,” she says. There’s nothing more satisfying than sitting at her backyard table on a sunny morning, drinking tea, reading the paper and listening to her chickens cluck, she says.

Two doors down the block, Adrien’s neighbor Kim Desmarais keeps six hens: Tamarind, Grey Cheeks, Pheasant, Gemini, Obsidian and Flapjack.

“I grew up on a farm,” Desmarais says. “I like collecting the eggs. I like knowing where they came from.”

The two households take turns caring for each others’ flocks when one family goes on vacation.

Chris Benedict, agriculture extension agent for Washington State University Extension in Puyallup, says interest in chicken-raising is booming in Pierce County’s cities and suburbs.

“People are trying to reconnect,” says Benedict. “They are realizing it’s important to reconnect with where food comes from.”

He sees the backyard chicken movement as a natural outgrowth of other close-to-home food trends, including farmers markets, food co-ops and the practice of buying farm shares.

Benedict is organizing a May 16 workshop for people interested in raising chickens. It will offer information to help people get started.

Adrien says she and her boyfriend began raising chickens because “we wanted to do something that alleviated, even if just a little, the demand on cage-raised hens. The practice of de-beaking, cramped conditions and hens’ very short lives never sat right with me.”

But to her surprise, her “girls” have become a fascinating hobby that “makes us laugh, provides food for our household and friends, and opens a door into a whole new community of like-minded people.”

Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635


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