A New Pecking Order
The extraordinary, humble, colorful chicken makes a comeback
PHOTOGRAPHY Elizabeth Belts Kauffman & Jason D.B. Kauffman
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Drive along Hailey’s back alleys and you may spot a new kind of backyard pet. In this sleepy town, chicken coops have popped up where just a year ago there was nothing but open grassy lawn. Listen closely, and you may even hear the contented clucking of free-range hens. In backyards valleywide, urban chicken farmers are redefining the idea of local food.
A Place to Nest
This chicken revolution is about the food we eat. But it’s also about rediscovering once-common household practices. It’s about small changes that mean big things. Backyard chickens are about homeowners reclaiming their rightful place in the food chain.
Rounding up some eggs for that favorite omelet recipe is as simple as rolling out of bed, throwing on a robe and walking out the back door. There’s something deeply satisfying about eating an egg whose journey from chicken to plate can be measured in paces.
Over the comfortable span of years, we forgot that raising chickens isn’t a complicated task best reserved for professional farmers. Nor are chickens fragile creatures poorly equipped to survive harsh winters. Far from it. Their basic requirements are not so different from our own: food, time with other chickens, and shelter from weather and predators’ nighttime raids.
Anyone with average construction skills can slap together a suitable coop. Ah, but in our Valley there is style to consider. Our chickens’ environs should be as creatively considered as our own. Some are elaborate, some simple.
Take the modified Airstream trailer that houses a dozen or more hens just south of Bellevue. Or the simple but sturdy wood-frame-and-wire-mesh coop built by 9-year-old Elliot Sweek of Hailey with the help of his dad, John.
Not convinced that backyard eggs are for you? The proof may lie in the coop. >>>