The It Bird (from The New Yorker)

by judyko

This is an entertaining article written by Susan Orlean for The New Yorker. Now I want a pet chicken and my own fresh hatched eggs (see Martha Stewart’s April 2, 2010 Chicken Show)

I
f I had never seen Janet Bonney reënact the mouth-to-beak resuscitation of her hen Number Seven, who had been frozen solid in a nor’easter, then was thawed and nursed back to life—being hand-fed and massaged as she watched doctor shows on TV—I might never have become a chicken person. But a few years ago I happened to watch a documentary called “The Natural History of the Chicken,” which opens with the story of Bonney and Number Seven, and for the first time the thought of owning chickens entered my mind. I had watched the film with no preëxisting chicken condition. But seeing Number Seven’s resurrection, followed by beauty shots of exotic hens, and segments about small back-yard flocks, I suddenly found myself wanting chickens, and wanting them with an urgency that exceeded even my mad adolescent desire to have a pony. At first, I thought this chicken fixation was a phase that I alone was going through, but it turns out that right now, across the country and beyond, there is a surging passion for raising the birds. Chickens seem to be a perfect convergence of the economic, environmental, gastronomic, and emotional matters of the moment, plus, in the past few years, they have undergone an image rehabilitation so astonishing that it should be studied by marketing consultants. Now that I actually have chickens—seven, at last count, but that number, because of predators, is disturbingly variable—I am the object of more pure envy than I have ever experienced in my life. …

… Since then, TreeHugger.com, which monitors ecological trends, has gone from describing urban chicken-raising as a “weird eco-habit” to declaring it a “movement across North America.” There have been successful challenges to anti-chicken-keeping laws in Fort Collins, Cleveland, Missoula, Ann Arbor, Madison, and South Portland, Maine, and guides published for anyone wanting to challenge anti-chicken ordinances in his or her town. There is a petition currently circulating urging the Obamas to add a chicken flock to the White House garden. (“Sasha and Malia will love them. Tad Lincoln kept a turkey he named Jack in the White House. Bring back this happy practice!”) Backyard Poultry, a magazine that began publishing four years ago, is now distributing a hundred thousand copies. The publisher, Dave Belanger, says that stores are eager to carry it, while in the past, “I don’t think you could have gotten a chicken magazine on a newsstand.” Many pet stores are now carrying chicken feed alongside the racks of Fancy Feast and rawhide rolls. I recently came across the ultimate evidence of contemporary chicken ownership: instructions, on the blog Ikeahacker, for building a chicken coop out of furniture from Ikea. …

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