Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Urban Poultry

If you are my neighbor, you've probably already seen this in the Columbia Neighborhood newsletter. If not, it may give a hint why a country girl like me is happy living in this part of town.

Suzanne Scala has lots of reasons for keeping a flock of chickens at her Washington Street home.

She’s used to them, having raised poultry for years when she lived on acreage on Lummi Island. She likes the way they cheerfully convert kitchen scraps to fertilizer for her garden. She enjoys seeing them out her kitchen window, preening and pecking in their pen. She likes gathering the eggs--white, brown, blue, and green--and carefully washing and drying each one. “It’s like a meditation.” She likes the way they have helped build relationships in her corner of Columbia as neighbors bring by scraps and buy eggs from a cooler on her porch.

“I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to have chickens,” she says.
The one thing she doesn’t do is actually eat the eggs (or the chickens). She and her daughter are both allergic to eggs, and the hens are too well-loved to convert to coq au vin when their laying days are done.

Thanks to a notice in Flip Breskin’s email newsletter a few months back, Scala’s Rhode Island Reds, Arucauna/Americanas, Buff Orpingtons, Crested Polish (the ones with the topknots) and Cochins (the ones with feathers down to their feet) are probably the best-known poultry in the neighborhood, but they are by no means the only ones. Several households have a few hens, and a few have more than a few. On North Street, Susan Harvey and Craig Kaskes keep a considerable aviary of doves and laying hens, sometimes joined by turkeys. Both past Columbia Neighborhood Board president Katie Hinton and new member Wendy Bloomenthal keep chickens. (Aspiring board members may want to take note.)

Bellingham City ordinances allow poultry, and other livestock in residential neighborhoods, as long as their enclosures are sanitary, they don’t exceed allowable levels of odor or noise, and in the case of chickens, they are not dyed Easter egg colors. Total animal weight is not to exceed 800 pounds per acre, which presumably means that a double-lot household could handle an alpaca or maybe even a llama. Within memory, Columbia has been home to pygmy goats and even a backyard horse.

Besides their contributions of eggs, fertilizer, and companionship, chickens are efficient bug eaters--although, sadly, they don’t like slugs--and they do a fair job of keeping down new weeds once garden plants are well established.

Some farms use chickens in moveable pens to help prepare rows for planting. That’s the next chicken project on Scala’s to do list. In the meantime, she says, “I spend a lot of time just watching them--it’s chicken TV.”


Anonymous said...

you have developed a very bad habit of torturing me with the infrequent postings~
I need more.... the cry from Oliver Twist...lamenting the fact that there was limited gruel for him..

As a fellow resident of the "City of Subdued Excitement", I love your blog.... more postings needed~ please??

Lanester said...

I've been in the garden (or in the classroom) instead of writing about the garden. But nothing like flattery to motivate me. More soon.

Do you have a topic on your mind?

Anonymous said...

Anything~ the world is your oyster~ just keep the blog flowing...

You teach? Food subjects?

Lanester said...

High school English.