BACKYARD URBAN CHICKEN farming isn’t a new idea. During the Great Depression, the U. S. government encouraged families to be self-sufficient and grow their own food. This trend diminished when small neigh- borhood groceries emerged, selling clean eggs and roasted chickens. Then in the mid-1990s the backyard chicken-raising movement ramped up, instructive websites launched and affinity groups formed, even though many communities still banned the practice. As recently as eight years ago many Marin cities still
forbade it. Today, all allow it to an extent, some requiring a permit, and the practice is as popular as ever.
The appeal of at-home chickens goes way beyond the 4-H crowd; in Marin, not surprisingly, you can find everything
from elaborate chicken McMansions to pricier Araucana hens laying fancy blue and green eggs to flocks consuming
organic watermelon. “Marin chicken owners are inspired to treat their chickens with love and dignity,” notes Leslie
Citroen of Mill Valley Chickens, a family business offering heritage chickens, coops, and feed and supplies. “Which I
think makes owners of chickens in the rest of the country think we are bonkers.”
Who enjoys raising chickens? While there’s no single poultry owner type, many do favor the eco-friendly life. As Citroen
observes, “virtually all chicken owners are property owners, since most landlords won’t allow chickens, so it tends to
be a more affluent crowd. Chicken owners also tend to be well educated and knowledgeable about factory farming and
concerned about the food they eat and where it comes from.” Still, “it’s not for everyone,” admits Jim Pellegrin, who has
four hens and a rooster in Point Reyes. “In fact, I’m surprised it’s for me, but all the same, late in life my wife and I find
ourselves to be chicken people.” They’ve been happy home poultry raisers for five years.
ALL COOPED UP
Raising backyard chickens is more popular than ever.
BY KIER HOLMES • PHOTOS BY STEVE KEPPLE