Don’t get your feathers ruffled, but StyleBlueprint has done some circumspect pecking around and uncovered an underground chicken movement right here in Music City. Lots of folks (can’t name names or they’d batter me up and fry me in hot oil) raise chickens in zip codes full of high thread count sheets and fluffy down comforters, but they have to keep their passion cooped up or risk landing in the pen. Just today, a friend crowed about her love of chickens in one email. Within minutes her next email flew into my inbox: “PLEASE do not use my name. If you do, I’ll tar and feather you!”
By keeping her beak to the ground, your intrepid SB reporter clawed this true story out of a reliable source: a successful health executive had just cashed in big-time on stock options and laid out a beautiful spread for a giant hen (and rooster) party at a hoity-toity Belle Meade location. Not your usual barnyard affair. Guests strolled the veranda, sipping chilled Veuve Cliquot and listening to the sounds of …. of ….. chickens clucking and scratching and flapping in the neighbor’s backyard. The hens were out of the pen and free-ranging it, and an ever so slight scent of chicken, er, fertilizer wafted through the warm summer breeze. The Belle Meade cops were called to the neighbor’s house. They knocked at the door and asked, “Do you have chickens in your backyard? It is against ordinance, you know.” Just when the neighbor was about to deny any fowl association, a couple of hens got into a noisy squawk out back. Case cracked.
Chickens are unfairly maligned, even in the realm of clichés. There’s nothing worse than being called “chicken sh*t” or someone telling you to “stop walking around like a chicken with your head cut off” or “don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched.” And what Bonaroo stoner hasn’t blown his mind trying to answer the timeless question: “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”
The nosy hen in all of us wants to know – what’s up with our love-hate thing with chickens? SB has endeavored to lay out the facts and, in a nut(shell) give you the pros and cons of raising chickens within the city limits:
PROS: Backyard chickens help kids understand that Sunday dinner doesn’t come from the back room of Kroger’s. It’s no barnyard fable to get your kids thinking “green.” Chickens are actually clean (cleaner than a dog!). Their poop (only slightly odiferous, unless you are driving by a chicken factory in Arkansas) makes good fertilizer, the shells can be tossed in the compost pile, and eggs are high in protein (ask any card carrying Weight Watcher). As my neighbor, the climate expert, Michael Vandenburgh, might say, chickens have a relatively low carbon foot print. Chickens also offer wonderful social opportunities in the form of neighborhood gatherings, where those who are competitive by nature challenge each other to the best egg dish.
Here’s a perfect morning from the perspective of a chicken owner: the alarm goes off, the kids wake up, gather the day’s freshly-laid eggs and sit down to enjoy them scrambled about five minutes later. The kids dash out the door after throwing their shells in the compost pile. Fortified by protein and organic, local food, no one fights in the back seat. Life doesn’t get any better than that.
CONS: The downsides are summed up nicely in the dinner party story above. Who wants their nice party spoiled by squawking chickens and barnyard smells? And who wants their children to watch the family’s pet chickens scooped up by the po-po as a result? The subject of chickens just gets some people’s feathers ruffled, including one 13-year-old Nashville entrepreneur (with a future in the justice system, no doubt) who discovered his blue-egg-laying Araucanas and small, white, fluffy frizzles were contraband when the police showed up with blue lights flashing. Equally bummed were his friends and neighbors who liked to buy (and eat) fresh eggs.
Will the sky fall or will good sense prevail in the battle over backyard chicken coops? Should chickens roam free in 37205 and 37215, spending their nights on monogrammed roosts in some of Nashville’s best neighborhoods, with cutesy names like Puffy and Sweet Tweet?
Nashville came together after the Big Flood of 2010 and showed the nation how Music City copes with disaster. Let’s hope our bipartisan example can extend to the Great Chicken Wars.
Note from Elizabeth: I want to thank my good friend and incredible writer, Jennifer Johnston, for her contribution to this post. She added most of the squawk talk, while I framed up the story line. Also, thanks to the scores of friends who gave me their passionate two cents’ worth and personal photos. They have asked , however, to remain anonymous.