There is a place in L.A. county where, when it snows you can smell it. There are days when the ocean, though many miles away, overwhelms the senses and leaves you longing for the fog that doesnâ€™t come this far inland. Most of all though, you can smell Chino, and the smell of Chino â€“ though quickly being paved over with tract homes â€“ is cows. Cow excrement, to be precise. And here, in L.A. county, when the wind blows in from Chino, fans, plug-ins, orange blossoms, and air conditioners all raise arms in the battle against the stink.
Yet there is something to this stink that is, to many Americans, nostalgic. (My sister has a friend whose father once drove them through farm country on a trip up north. When the smell of a particular dairy became toxically intense, he pulled over and hopped out of his car to inhale that methane deeply, returning for a few dreamy moments to his childhood.) You see, even in this irrigated land of tinsel-town palms and botox galas, Californians have a vague pastoral fantasy where all crops are organic and all chickens free-range and all cows happy to make cheese. And that fantasy, here in Pomona (not the heart of the Inland Empire but certainly a vital artery) is alive and well. Case in point is my backyard. I live in an urban community planned in the 1910s, with a nice, rectangular, fenced yard. And while my backyard probably has a bit more space than your average happy California cow is allotted, I do not keep cows. I do, however, keep chickens.
Keeping chickens in LA isnâ€™t hard and is delightful.(Think of the L.A. County fair...those hundreds of show chickens live somewhere among us.) Because I love baby chicks (and who doesnâ€™t at this time of year when they hop in and out of decorated spotted, sprinkled, striped Easter eggs and brightly colored cards?) I thought about getting a rooster, to go with my hens and make babies. (Roosters are more than obliging.) This is, however, a street of nicely trimmed lawns and neighbors trigger happy with telephones to call code enforcement. Roosters, by all accounts, are loud. So, its just me, my erstwhile boyfriend, and my two girls Rosalinde and Marie Antoinette. Rosie and Marie for short.
Miss Rosie and Miss Marie have a lovely little pen where they spend much of their chicken days scratching the ground and dreaming earthworms (which they eat.) The pen is built of a fence we didnâ€™t get around to putting up (white picket, of course) and chicken wire. They have a roof, a hutch, a box, hay all over, and a hole in the ground that Marie dug herself to lay eggs in. On days when Iâ€™ll be in the garden, or when the weather is warm, Iâ€™ll leave the door open and theyâ€™ll play outside, clucking and squawking delightedly at all of the bugs to be found, leaves to be tossed and pine needles to be arranged as nests. They will mess up any pile Iâ€™ve raked, unearth and eat any seeds Iâ€™ve planted, and take flying leaps across the yard to be at my side. Rosie will come cuddle. Marie is a bit more wary, having come from her big farm to my little one in a burlap sack previously used for rice, but prances around like the queen she's named for.
When foraging/playtime is over, and twilight predators start lurking (there is one particularly ugly neighborhood cat with a very fat belly and avaricious yellow eyes) I herd Marie into the cage and pick up Rosie and deposit her, flapping and protesting inside. Rosie, who is half the size of Marie but also older and wiser, used to bully Marie for food and lodging, but when the weather got cold, they became fast friends and cuddle up on their roost at night. Now they cry when they are separated. Food drops like manna from the sky (the cage opens from the top â€“ surely to foil any over-eager raccoons, or just to drive me nuts). They love, in particular, uncooked rice, tomatoes, bread, tortillas, and when the weather is hot, frozen peas and corn. For Marie Antoinetteâ€™s benefit, I also let them eat cake. In return, they lay beautiful, delicious eggs.
Where did these gals come from? Rosie came from a cousin... other than the fact that she came from his woodshed, I know nothing of her past. Marie came from a phone call to a pet store, re-directed to a farm where the silver bullet trailer was smaller than the chicken pen, in, of all places! Chino. A few phone calls should turn up a chicken, particularly at this time of year when they are in vogue. (Helpful hint: do not call frag farms, even if they are listed in the pet section of your phone book. They are computer gamers and will laugh in your face when you ask if they sell chickens. I know, because I tried.) If you have at least 12 sq. feet of grass, or hay, or dirt, and the wherewithal (or cute boyfriend or girlfriend) to build your little chicken a pen you will be very happy with a cuddly new friend. She may tip her water over twice a day, or throw her hay (or worse) into it. She may need her cage raked once a week and fresh hay laid down (usually you can get enough for free at any place that sells hay for horses). She may eat rice and corn faster then you can replenish it (once or twice a day) and she may cluck bossily - but I can assure you she is much easier (and cheaper) to keep than a puppy, or even a kitten or gerbil. If you have a rabbit, it will play leap-frog over the chicken and they will get along famously. And if you live someplace where you can smell cows, be happy that your little piece of the farm doesnâ€™t include them.
A website for hipsters who want to own chickens: http://www.omlet.us/homepage/homepage.php
A site where you can order chickens directly. The specialty breeds are fantastic!
Centinela Feed & Pet Supplies is a friendly pet store willing to help you with any questions you may have about caring for your chickens.
A silly video featuring baby chicks to get you in the mood:
WORLD - CULTURE
Copyright © 2010 Reed
L.A. Chicks are Hot! (keeping chickens in Los Angeles)
Copyright © 2010 Reed
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