Saturday, May 12, 2018

Chickens: The latest urban status symbol

I must admit, I love chickens. They're dumb, they're noisy, they're messy -- but I just love 'em. On warm evenings, it's a fairly common thing for me to take a glass of wine and a book and sit outside "communing with chickens," as I call it. Half the time I'm not reading my book; I'm watching the birds preen, peck, scratch, doze, or just sit, with a foolish and satisfied smile on my face.

Which is why I found it amusing to see this article from a few weeks ago entitled "The Silicon Valley elite’s latest status symbol: Chickens." The subheading read: "Their pampered birds wear diapers and have personal chefs — but lay the finest eggs tech money can buy."

Urban chickens have been rising in popularity for years, of course. It's now a "humblebrag" to say you have your little backyard flock of hens (roosters are discouraged in urban quarters for obvious reasons). I found it interesting that the high-powered tech gurus profiled in this article enjoy their birds for the same reason I enjoy ours.

Johan Land, a tech elite, enjoys "relaxing with a glass of wine in the back yard alongside his wife, kids and the family’s 13 chickens and three sheep. It’s mindless, he said, but far from banal. 'It's a fascinating thing to sit and watch the animals because instead of looking at a screen, you're looking at the life cycle,' Land said. 'It’s very different from the abstract work that I do.'"

Yep, chickens ground people. They're not abstract. Even rural folks enjoy them.

Of course, the article then illustrates where homestead chickens depart from urban chickens: Fancy living quarters.
In true Silicon Valley fashion, chicken owners approach their birds as any savvy venture capitalist might: By throwing lots of money at a promising flock (spending as much as $20,000 for high-tech coops). By charting their productivity (number and color of eggs). And by finding new ways to optimize their birds’ happiness — as well as their own.
Instead of cobbling together a plywood coop with materials from the local hardware store, the rare birds of Silicon Valley are hiring contractors to build $20,000 coops using reclaimed materials or pricey redwood that matches their human homes. Others opt for a Williams-Sonoma coop — chemical free and made from sustainable red pine — that has been called the “Range Rover of chicken cribs.” Coops are also outfitted with solar panels, automated doors and electrical lighting — as well as video cameras that allow owners to check on their beloved birds remotely.

Like any successful start-up, broods aren’t built so much as reverse engineered. Decisions about breed selection are resolved by using engineering matrices and spreadsheets that capture “YoY growth.” Some chicken owners talk about their increasingly extravagant birds like software updates, referring to them as “Gen 1,” “Gen 2,” “Gen 3” and so on. They keep the chicken brokers of the region busy finding ever more novel birds.

While the rest of the nation spends $15 on an ordinary chicken at their local feed store, Silicon Valley residents might spend more than $350 for one heritage breed, a designation for rare, nonindustrial birds with genetic lines that can be traced back generations. They are selecting for desirable personality traits (such as being affectionate and calm — the lap chickens that are gentle enough for a child to cuddle), rarity, beauty and the ability to produce highly coveted, colored eggs.

(Um, speaking as the "rest of the nation," who spends "$15 on an ordinary chicken" at the local feed store? For $15, it had better be something durned extraordinary. I know of no one -- at all -- who would drop that kind of money on a chicken. But I digress.)

The article continues: "All of it happens in cutting-edge coops, with exorbitant veterinarian bills and a steady diet of organic salmon, watermelon and steak." Some even employ personal chefs or outfit their birds with diapers so they can roam the house.

Okay, that's just silly.

And yet -- and yet, these tech gurus need to relax as much as anyone else. One so-called "chicken whisperer's" clients "are usually men in their 30s and 40s, with young families. After spending their days in front of computers, they long for a connection to nature. What they want most of all, she said, is a 'rainbow assortment' of beautiful, colored eggs in various shades of blue, olive green and speckled brown." -- due to the status symbol announcement that such eggs didn't come from Walmart. A hand-selected carton of beautiful eggs is supplanting a bottle of wine as a preferred hostess gift.

Another family notes, "Watching the chickens is one of the family’s favorite activities. They call it: 'Hillbilly television.'"

See, I get this. I get this. That's what "communing with the chickens" is all about.

My conclusion is as follows: It's hard to bury Mother Nature. The desire to connect with food sources is innate and can only be suppressed for so long before it erupts in one form or another.

We may chuckle at the waste of money -- personal chefs and "gingerbread coops" and organic salmon diets -- but in the end what these wealthy high-tech gurus are doing is exactly what I like to do: mindlessly watch the chickens cluck.

More power to them.


  1. We had chickens back when I was a boy. I loved gathering the eggs and talking to the chickens. When we retired to the country one of the things that I wanted was some chickens. We got some buff orpingtons and I was once again getting eggs with deep golden yokes. That year for Christmas my son brought me an americana chicken. It was the prettiest bird that I had ever seen and it gave me pale blue eggs. One of the best presents ever! We purchased a chicken tractor from Pidgeon Kansas and it was very well designed and made. It was expensive but you could very easily protect the birds from all the critters that we have. That was 6 or 7 years ago and we have raised a number of chicks since. We usually get 2 to 4 each year and raise them in the house and hold them while watching TV while they are young. They, when grown, will allow me to pick them up and they are very happy. But oh the deep yellow egg yolks are just the best!!!

  2. Watching chickens has a relaxing and sort of a "takes you out of your problems" type of moment. There is also the humor they can provide. I love my chickens.

  3. Lots of eggs and omelets. Not so many chicken recipes.

    These city-dwelling Libtards seem cute, quaint and innocent now. Just wait until they make it illegal to kill chickens and enforce the law with a government gun to our heads.
    Dock Guy

  4. Hey, you wanna really, REALLY enjoy your time watching your food grow, get baby goats. The best time in the world is spent watching baby goats with lots of things to jump and climb on. And when it's cold you get to dress them in baby pajamas. Waay too cute.

  5. Sigh... sounds like a wonderful way to relax. If only we could think of a way to keep a few chickens hidden from the HOA....

  6. pulling up a lawn chair to watch the chickens and ducks do what birds do is what I miss the most about having them around. We started out with a mixed bunch with many roosters ( live and learn) The neighbor came to feed them once ,when we were on vacation , in sandals...with her toenails painted . red .....

  7. I about choked on my homegrown omelette... $15 for one hen?! BAH!
    Lara R.

  8. Not there yet....I live in a "town" in a rural township. Chickens are not allowed in our section because its classified as "high density residential". Actually, that's rules made up my the uppity crowd that moved around the small lake just north of here. They have a HOA there proclaiming rules around the mud puddle. Of course, several are on the township board.....

    I kept quail for a while....they never knew it. lol

  9. Read on SurvivalBlog comment somebody rented a coop and 2 chickens to ease them in and learn about chickens. Didn't tell where they live but they used "Rent the Chicken"

  10. I wonder what they would do if they had to eat one of their chickens....

  11. It's not just chickens that can provide that peaceful mindless entertainment. My dd has a gerbil and sometimes I just flop down in front of his cage and watch him scurry around his tunnels between the different rooms of his complex searching for select tidbits he's "gerbiled" away; endlessly turning our cardboard tubes into nesting material... he doesn't provide food, he bites so we can't even pet him, but vibe. When you're in the rat race, watching something else in a different rat race is a good escape.

  12. What an entertaining post! I used to have chickens. I loved them. Reading this makes me want to get a couple more...they are wonderful pets.

  13. It's a huge cross to have to live in town and not be allowed to raise livestock per the government. Once in a while we see an Amish buggy drive through. It's probably for the best that the are these rules though as I imagine uninformed and uneducated would ruin the fun for us who do things correctly. So instead we focus on what we can do. Garden, rainwater collection and hopefully some day solar. In this area of the country it is a luxury to have land and we (with 5 kids single income homeschoolers) simply do not have the money to pay in taxes and repair to something we might could afford.... Plus safety (as most farms here are chock full of mold lead and abspestos to name a few). The only way to afford land here is to be dual income executives no kids or to be given the farm from relatives as an inheritance or buy from relatives low cost. It's really really sad but we are not able to move away from here for to the job. We search... We pray and we trust God has us here for a reason. Anyway!! If a chicken cost that much it better last GOLD EGGS!!