Chickens Become Chic Urban and Suburban Pets

ByABC News
July 22, 2002, 12:21 PM

July 23 -- They don't bark, bite or require daily walks. They even offer tokens in return for their care.

More and more urban and suburban elite are moving beyond keeping poodles and cats and adopting another kind of animal to coddle: the chicken.

"They're just so relaxing to watch," says Robin Fox, a Miami resident who began keeping chickens in her apartment in the late 1990s. "They're friendly birds, they're fluffy and they give you eggs. Dogs don't give you eggs."

While some immigrants have long recognized the benefits of keeping chickens in urban lots (free fresh eggs and chicken breasts) the concept appears to have taken flight, so to speak, among urban yuppies and suburban elite who build elaborate coops for their flocks.

And then there is Fox, who says she must have chickens in her life, no matter the inconvenience.

"The only problem is they can't be potty trained. You have to change their paper every day," says Fox who reports some of her furniture is spotted by chicken droppings but she's sure only she can see the stains.

Chicken Rules

Steven Keel, the owner of Egganic Industries in Ringgold, Va., says that sales of his elaborate $1,500 Henspas low-maintenance, high-comfort homes designed for urban and suburban chickens are up 15 percent. The McMurray Hatchery in Webster City, Iowa, reports they're sending more mail-order chicks (ranging in cost from about $1 to $5 per chick) to addresses in upper-class suburbs.

And the City Chicken Workshop sessions at the Seattle Tilth Association have been filled to standing-room only. The two-hour classes held four times a year teach new chicken owners the basics in building coops and keeping their animals healthy. Director Pamela Burton says they'll soon be adding classes.

"The demand is too great," she says. "We're thinking we'll have a beginning chicken class and then add intermediate classes."

What's there to learn about keeping chickens in urban lots? For starters, says Burton, it's good to know if it's legal.