Saturday, January 15, 2011

CLUCK on Location: Sarah the Buff Brahma visits South Poinsettia Picnic

Sarah the Buff Brahma spent two hours today at the South Poinsettia Neighborhood Picnic. It was a classic neighborhood event --the police talked about the importance of locking cars, Commissioner Clapp answered questions, and city staff helped make the case for neighborhood involvement in traffic calming. CCNA representative Warren Miller had invited Sarah and myself to help gauge neighbors reactions to chickens. The results surprised me.

I had assumed children would be drawn to the big fluffy bird and I was right. Tiny kids pointed, older kids asked questions. One girl was alarmed by Sarah's bright red caruncled comb. All that was to be expected.

But many adults stopped by with their own chicken tales about keeping them in England or New Hampshire or a relative that has 18 out east. One gentlemen inquired if he could give Sarah a cookie, and, like a concerned parent, I told him a little. I watched as he broke off crumby pieces and Sarah gobbled them up. Maybe I was projecting but I imagined the experience was transporting him back decades to another time when kids actually fed the chickens instead of lobbying to play Angry Birds on their parent's iPhone.

It just so happened that this was the neighborhood that lived through the menagerie that led to the banning of chickens in the first place. It seems that back in the late 90's one recalcitrant neighbor on Datura had accumulated  45 chickens, 40 rabbits, 8 turkeys, 2 pheasants, and a pygmy goat on a single family lot. No wonder the City Commission got heavy handed. 

Still, you have to wonder what would have happened if it had been 30 dogs, 20 cats, etc. Would those animals have been banned in the City or would the response have been more pinpointed, less broadbased?

Even in this neighborhood that had suffered from an inconsiderate neighbor in the past, it was not hard to find support for backyard hens.

Sarah made it easy, she was a great ambassador. She perked up once and started clucking alarmingly when a small dog on a leash approached. Other than that, she was the queen of calm, sampling some Spanish Moss, drinking occasionally and serenely demonstrating that chickens need not be noisy, smelly, life threatening or any of the other scary traits attributed to chickens.

It was a lovely sunny picnic that re-affirmed our experience that when people meet chickens and learn what is actually being proposed, concern melts away.

Too bad more neighborhoods haven't seen fit to approach the matter with an open mind.

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