Friday, June 28, 2013

Chicks in the Hood!

On Sunday, June 9, I participated in the 3rd Annual Chicks in the Hood tour of some of the city's backyard chicken coops. The tour was of the East End and North Side, which have the highest concentration of coops in the city. I recruited my parents, Christina and Ellis, to join me, and we decided to tackle the tour on bicycles. After picking up our maps at the Quiet Storm on Penn Avenue,we checked out some of the Highland Park spots, where we ended up seeing four coops.

I was somewhat familiar with the regulations pertaining to keeping chickens in the city (no roosters allowed!) before the tour, but was surprised to see the variety of the set-ups. Some chickens had permanent enclosures, while others were portable, so the birds could be moved to new grass to forage for grubs. Yard sizes ranged as well from a pretty small city plot to a sprawling expanse on the Allegheny riverfront.
Chicks in the Hood 2013
The common thread between them all was the affection owners had for their birds.The chickens had names and their owners talked eagerly about personality differences and quirks. All the chickens we saw were used for eggs, rather than meat, and even older birds which were no longer star layers, were allowed to roam around in peace.

This event has a lot to offer for varied audiences. It satisfies the curiosity of those who are totally unfamiliar with keeping urban chickens (and it doubles as a stellar garden tour!), or it can provide some practical options and answers for those looking to start their own backyard flock. For me, this event was an education in the practice of keeping backyard chickens in the city; you don't need a massive yard and you don't need fancy, ultra-expensive equipment. Seeing the chicks in person, raised by my Pittsburgh neighbors, made owning birds in the future seem not only highly rewarding but also more feasible than I'd thought.

Sorry you missed out? This year's tour benefited Just Harvest, so if you want to make a belated donation to us (always welcome!) you can do so here. And if you want to learn more about urban chicken farming, you don't have to wait 'til next year's tour. If you're on Facebook check out the Chicks in the Hood page – their ongoing posts are full of fun facts and humorous pictures, and they would be happy to help get you started! Or you can contact the folks at P4 who organized the tour.

-- Emily Schmidlapp, Fresh Access Coordinator (Learn more about our Fresh Access program.)

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