The chicken struggle continues

After a long, busy weekend I've picked up the fight to keep my hens. My sleep is uneasy at night and I'm feeling pretty tired, but I just can't give the girls up easily. I wrote a letter to the editor of the Chicago Tribune (with considerable help from Mark) and it is appearing on the web site now. I'm hoping this means it will be in print tomorrow since it wasn't in today's paper.

Meanwhile, the hens are oblivous and continue their carefree lives of eating and scratching around the yard. I linger a bit longer in the morning with them thinking that the days of doing so may be numbered.

Yesterday, I felt pretty mopey and cried once or twice. It's pretty easy for me to come to tears when I think about having to give them up. How would you feel if you were told it may just become illegal to keep your dog or cat and you'll have to get rid of it next month? Wouldn't you feel sad, too?

I have a very full week at work and then Mark and I are leaving on a vacation to Esalen in Big Sur. It's remote and isolated, and when we booked the trip I was looking forward to the peace and the opportunity to let go of my incredibly busy life for a short time. Now I'm just feeling anxious that I won't be able to keep in touch with what's going on back here regarding the future of my hens. And, I keep thinking that it is a week I will miss seeing them, too.

At Esalen my Treo won't work, so I won't be able to make calls or check email. The closest Internet is a few miles away up Highway 1 at the Henry Miller Memorial Library, and if we want to make a phone call we'll need a phone card. (Amazing how a phone card seems like such an outdated thing!)

I definitely need this trip. And, maybe it is the best way to deal with this maddening situation: now that I've done all that I can, I just need to let it unfold the way it's meant to. It's so hard for me to feel like I'm giving up control on this or anything else.

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Chickens on TV!

Hooray for city chickens!

A reporter for Chicago Tonight visited with me, Maisy, Betty and Selma today. The report that aired on TV tonight was quite flattering, although the girls weren't looking their best since it was a cold, rainy day. (Soggy plummage just isn't as impressive, you know.)

I don't think they post video excerpts on their website as a general rule, but it may be possible to view something.

I hope this helps our case with the city!

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I thought I lived in a progressive city, but I guess I'm wrong.

Listen to this. I can't understand how the City of Chicago could actually consider banning pet chickens in residential areas of the city when so many other cities are now allowing and encouraging it.

I wasn't at this city council committee meeting having my say because I didn't even know the meeting was taking place. The meeting date was posted only 3 business days in advance, and if I hadn't been contacted by a reporter I had previously reached out to, I likely wouldn't be up late tonight writing emails and posting notices on all the chicken forums.

I'm quite angry that I've been denied my due process, but am pushing hard to make sure I get my say. I was interviewed by the reporter today for an article to appear tomorrow, and I am hoping to get interviewed on film tomorrow for a local PBS news show, Chicago Tonight.

Below is an email I sent to my alderman tonight. I also plan to attend the alderman's next open meeting, which will hopefully be next Monday night.

Alderman Levar,

Concerning proposed amendment to ordinance 7-12-387 extending the ban on raising pigeons in residential areas to include chickens, I live in the 45th Ward and I’d like to continue raising a few hens as pets and for fresh eggs. The proposed amendment would make this illegal.

The City of Chicago would be taking a giant step backwards from other progressive cities in North America if this proposal is passed by the City Council. In recent years, as issues of Green living, eating locally grown foods, recycling, and food security have gained popularity, cities and towns all over America have been relaxing their chicken laws to encourage carefully tended, backyard pet hens for fresh eggs. Media stories on raising chickens in urban settings have been increasing, including a recent story on National Public Radio about raising chickens in the New York City borough of Brooklyn.

The amendment proposes to address filth and animal slaughter in residential areas, issues that are already covered by city ordinance 7-12-300, which bans the possession of any animal for purposes of slaughter. Numerous other ordinances already address public nuisance. If enforced, these existing ordinances more than adequately address the concerns of the proposed amendment. Chicagoans who comply with existing ordinances keep chickens in safe and clean habitats and deserve to own and care for these animals.


Pet hens are calm, docile, and affectionate pets. They come when called, eat from their owner’s hands, like to be held, are quieter than dogs, and don’t smell. Chicken droppings make amazing compost for the garden and they eat kitchen scraps, helping to reduce food waste that attracts rats or goes in landfills. Keeping pet chickens is fun, educational, healthy, and environmentally sound.

I strongly encourage you to oppose the proposed amendment, and support Chicagoans’ efforts to live natural, cleaner, more environmentally friendly lives.

Linda Nxxx




And, here's what I'm sending to the local public radio affiliate, WBEZ, who posted the audio linked above.


Regarding Shawn Allee's comments that pro-chicken advocates "dropped the ball" today, perhaps that's because the city council was playing keep-away!
If I had known that the meeting was to be held today, then I would have been there adding my testimony in favor of continuing to be allowed to raise my pet hens in my Chicago backyard.
I was first alerted to this issue on October 10 by a story in the Chicago Sun-Times. However, there was no information available about what happened when it was proposed at the September 27 meeting: was it sent to committee? was it tabled? what exactly had happened? I contacted my alderman's office, but they could not advise me of the details. Alderman Lane's office declined to offer any help, too. Calls and visits to the City Clerk, Aldermanic Offices, and City Council Services offices also yielded no clues. I was advised to await the update to the Journal of Proceedings, which should happen before the October 31 city council meeting.
So, I checked the City Clerk's website every few days. October 31 came and went, but no Journal of Proceedings for the September 27 city council meeting were available. I finally found the updated meeting minutes from September 27 on the website on November 2. No worries, though, since the minutes noted this had been referred to the Committe on Health, and my frequent checking of the City Clerk website had not indicated any Committee of Health meetings that had taken place in October; nor were there any scheduled for November as of the last time I checked the website the week of November 5th.
As I found out today, a Committee on Health meeting was posted on November 15 and held today, November 20. How can the city post notice of a public meeting only 3 business days in advance, and expect to provide a fair hearing? Give me an opportunity to speak up and share MY opinion on keeping chickens in the city.
My pet hens do not attract rats. There are other responsible chicken owners like me who want to continue raising hens as pets and for the fresh eggs. We are interested in reducing our impact on the environment, in obtaining more food security, and in just enjoying our gallacious friends zest for life as they roam the yard eating weeds and bugs.
I may be contacted at this email address or my mobile phone: xxx-xxx-xxxx.
Linda Nxxx
This really stinks, to put it mildly.

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Fruits of my labors

I thinned the winter greens a bit today, so I made myself a gourmet lunch. These tiny seedlings are often referred to as "micro greens" at fancy restaurants. Here the combination is arugula and spinach. I tossed the greens with a touch of extra-virgin olive oil and salt. The eggs are from my own chickens (of course). I've been saving a dozen eggs for about 3 weeks now just so I can make some into hard-cooked eggs. I did use the trick of putting a pinhole in the air space (through the round end), too. This combination of techniques worked: I was able to peel the eggs fairly easily.

Of course it was incredibly yummy! I still have a lot more thinning to do, so I hope to enjoy more salads like this over the next few weeks.

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Chilly hens and New Jersey

The ladies seem to be doing well even though it has been getting below freezing at night. Last night the temp was down to 29 F and I had to crack ice in their water bowl. This isn't the first time that there has been ice on top, but it was much harder to break this AM. Tonight I took a suggestion from Mark and emptied the container while locking up for the night.

I have a thermometer in the Eglu now and it showed a temp of 38 F this morning. The girls didn't seem uncomfortable at all, though. They hunker down at night and sleep close together.

I took a business trip this week and poor Mark had to get up several mornings to take care of the hens. He was quite happy when I returned a day early. But, while I was gone the ladies seem to have learned that they can get through my rigged-up barrier to the landscaped yard behind the house. The dog walker left a note that the chickens were in the main yard last Tuesday, so he wisely chose not to let the dogs run around. Luckily the hens didn't destroy any plants. They did scratch around a lot of mulch and eat the dill to nubbins, but the dill was popping up in places I really didn't want it, so they sort of did me a favor.

Today and yesterday I worked from home instead of going into the office. So, I followed the normal routine yesterday and opened up the run and coop in the morning when I fed them. By late morning, I saw them in the main yard scratching away and eating more dill. I lured them back towards the barrier with mealworms, then crossed over (I can step over the makeshift trellis barrier) and waited to see how they came into the side yard. Mark and I were thinking they were flying over the trellis barrier since we know Betty and Selma are capable of scaling a 32-inch fence. But it wasn't that complicated, at all. The trellis has wide openings. They just hopped through them. Duh. Good thing for them that the dogs weren't out!

Once I had lured them back, I locked them in the run with some dill I pulled up for them. (Who knew they liked dill?) This morning, I did not open up the run, but I found some time to get out before dark and let them roam for a while. I unrolled some of that icky plastic mesh fencing (we have tons of it) and sandwiched it between the trellis barrier layers. Then I positioned another trellis on top just in case they do try to fly over the barrier. Now that they know there is more green stuff over there, they may be determined to get at it. I'll have to see if this works.

I was in Princeton, New Jersey on my business trip. I was inside all day, but the conference room had a wall of glass that looked onto the woods. The colors were great and it was nice to look out the window for a break. One morning I saw some sort of woodpecker.

We didn't get out during the day, of course, but one evening we went into town and walked around Princeton University campus and the old town square. I couldn't resist this lone bicycle. So, can I now say I've been at an Ivy League school, even if it was just for one night?

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Winter gardening

Brrr, it's getting colder! It was 29 F last night, but the baby greens seem to be doing OK under their frost protection row cover.

On the left, is the bed the following (L to R): mache (barely visible), arugula, chard, and claytonia. The argula sprouted very fast!

On the right is the bed with the following (L to R): winter lettuce mix, dandelion, mizuna.

I neglected to take a photo of the spinach in the cold frame today, but it is already starting to form the first set of true leaves.

All need thinning, but I didn't have a chance to do that today.

I've thinned the beds only a bit once, but those arugula sprouts are incredibly tasty! I hope to keep these greens going for another month or two. It's likely they won't reach full growth, but I started them rather late. This was an experiment, and I'm happy to see any type of growth on them, frankly!

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The weather has been pretty strange this year, but I think we're finally into fall now. We still have not have a true hard freeze, but the nights have dipped down near freezing. Most of the trees still have their leaves, though, and I think this is the latest I recall this happening.

This is usually the time of year I try to sneak bagged leaves from around my neighborhood. It makes such wonderful mulch for the garden beds, and it seems such a shame to put it in a landfill. With the leaves falling so late and the incredible busy work schedule I've had, I just don't see how I'll be able to do that this year.

The daylight is steadily shrinking, and since we've rolled the clocks back an hour I find myself coming home in the dark. I've been so busy with work, that I often find myself leaving for work in the dark, too, which is most certainly not a happy situation. 

Despite the scare with the raptor/hawk a few weeks ago, I still let the hens out to roam the yard when I leave for work. If I waited for days that I could be home during daylight hours, they would only get out on weekends, and that just doesn't make for happy hens. And I want happy hens. Happy hens = good egg production!

I've done some winterizing of their Eglu and ordered a few items for when it gets really cold: a heated water bowl, and a heat mat that will fit inside their Eglu. The electrician was out a couple weeks ago and put a weather-protected outlet on the outside of the garage. So, I should be able to run an outdoor-rated extension cord to plug in the water bowl and heat mat when the bitter weather arrives.

The electrician's helper seemed to like the girls quite a bit. He said he petted one (must have been Maisy) and was surprised at how soft their feathers are.

Next week I leave on a business trip for most of the week, so Mark will need to take care of the girls all by himself. I'm sure he'll manage just fine, but I do worry. I hope it doesn't get too cold while I'm gone.

I'm traveling to Princeton, NJ and I'm hoping that they still have pretty fall colors, too. I know I'll be spending most of my days indoors, but I have about an hour's drive or train ride from Newark Airport to Princeton and I'm hoping to enjoy some foliage during the trip. I've heard New Jersey can be very pretty when you get away from the heavily industrialized area around the NYC area.

What am I doing on Thanksgiving? I have to figure that out this weekend. There are lots of options, but I know Mark will favor any that do not involve him cleaning up the kitchen!

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Just a little excitement

I was up late last night and apparently witnessed the tail end of a crime. I live in a decent neighborhood, but last night's experience seems to prove the point that it doesn't matter where you live, violence can break out anywhere.

It wasn't until tonight that I was informed what had happened. One of my neighbors came by to ask me if I was aware that there was a shooting on our block last night. While it seems that no one was "hit," the 4th house down from me has gunshot holes in their windows. Well, that just made everything I witnessed fall into place, so I told him what I saw.

At about 11:30 last night, I heard…something…outside the house. Was that firecrackers? Or was it gunshots? I wasn't in bed yet, but I was near a window overlooking the street. I quickly pulled up the window blind in time to see two cars sitting in front of my house and a couple young men hustling into them, and heard the words "Let's go! Let's go!"

I said something to Mark about how this looked serious. Typically, you don't see and hear people rushing away from the scene of a firecracker explosion. (Yes, it's illegal, but that law is rarely enforced.) Then I continued to sit at a window overlooking the street, observing for a good 5 minutes. But I saw no excitement, no activity, no fuss of any kind outside.

So, I figured it was firecrackers. I mean, if there had been shots fired at you or your house, wouldn't you be racing around making a fuss?

I guess my first instinct — that this was a big thing — was right. Now I'll have to follow up with the police at the local precinct who, if my neighbor's report is correct, really aren't too excited about dealing with this situation. Oh, and coincidentally Mark left today for a long weekend with the guys, so I'm home alone with gun-toting crazies roaming the streets outside.

Hmmm. Sort of like my single days of living alone in a truly "exciting" neighborhood filled with gang-bangers, drunk drivers, and assorted nut jobs. Just like old times, I guess.

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