A Chicken in Every Plot

My name is Linda and my passion is urban gardens and backyard chickens. I write about tips and tricks for kitchen gardeners in our area and antics of Henny and Penny, our resident hens.

When I became seriously involved in creating neighbor-friendly settings for chickens in the Bay Area, I found there were few resources for those of us who live in Southern Alameda County.

Since Castro Valley has a history as the Chicken Capital, it just seems logical to revive chicken enthusiasm to fit today's lifestyles. 

Over the past four years, we have relandscaped both our front and back yards to be bay friendly gardens — a mixture of edibles and plants that grow well in our climate zone.  Henny and Penny, our resident Gingernut Rangers, are the latest addition to the family and the goal is to incorporate them into our established landscape.

For those of you who have been following Henny and Penny on my blog Fingers In The Dirt, you'll remember the begining when they arrived at the post office. The first weeks when I thought they would be friendly additions to the yard and tread gently on the earth, the first cute coop and run, the loss of flowers and kale, the holes in the drip irrigation system. We have now finished their final gated community — Hensongs — and we're all settled in with a backyard and neighbor-friendly chicken home.

Backyard chicken ranching is all about meeting the challenges as they come. Left to their own chickeny devices, our yard would resemble a moonscape in no time. 

What works for one urban garden does not usually always work for all. Our goal is to present options for blending our human and feathered friends and family — hoping that the choices we make will help the rest of you as you add chickens to your city dwellings.

The summer garden has been planted. Strawberries, blueberries, limes, lemons and apples are ripening. Tomato plants are loaded with fruit; green beans and herbs are growing nicely.

I hope you'll join me as I chronicle the successes and challenges of this year's kitchen garden and Henny and Penny's views from their little backyard world.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Cisco Diaz June 21, 2012 at 02:42 PM
About a year ago we had a visitor in our yard from time to time. It was a chicken from who knows where, it jumped the fence to get over. It felt comfortable enough to visit us so we feed it some left over wild bird food. One day we had some leftover cooked corn on the cob in the frig so we thought let's see if the bird would eat it. Who knew, the bird loved it picked it clean. Not sure what ever happened to that bird we sure do miss it.
Linda June 21, 2012 at 03:22 PM
Yes, it can be disturbing to find out that chickens will eat chicken! They are also good enough flyers to get themselves out of one yard and into another (guess that's where the phrase "flew the coop" comes from). Thanks for stopping by my blog. I look forward to sharing plant container ideas with you.
annoneh June 21, 2012 at 03:26 PM
i used to buy eggs from a neighbor, but have moved to hayward and would like to continue, any tips on how to find out who/where to buy fresh eggs? am also thinking about our own chicken farm but concerned the wild turkeys in the neighborhood.
Linda June 21, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Aren't fresh eggs just the best?! We get 2 eggs a day from Henny and Penny. You have a few choices for fresh eggs from pastured chickens in our area. Occasionally, there are signs on Crow Canyon Road and Palomares Road for eggs available at individual ranches. My favorite source is Soul Food Farm (owned by a friend of a friend). Alexis and Eric distribute eggs at various farmer's markets and also have a Egg Share purchase program. You can find details on their website: http://www.soulfoodfarm.com . Wild turkeys in the neighborhood shouldn't stop you from considering chickens. your hens will live in a secure coop. Let me know if you want some recommended reading for backyard chickens and I'll pass that along.
Analisa Harangozo (Editor) June 21, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Such a great first blog post, Linda! I was lucky enough to meet Henny and Penny and they are by far the friendliest chickens I've ever met. They also provide some of the tastiest eggs I've ever eaten in the Bay Area if I do say so myself!
Linda June 21, 2012 at 04:43 PM
Thanks Analisa, It was great to meet you and show you the urban farm. We're trying to not let all of the fame go to Henny and Penny's heads :)
Joan Olsson June 22, 2012 at 12:35 AM
Now Hayward is another bird altogether. In Hayward, unless you live on a few acres and are zoned rural, you need to have a livestock permit to be able to have a few hens in your backyard. The initial permit is $2,500. I didn't listen to the rest of the costs because I was in shock. I can't believe this city is so backward when it comes to backyards.
Linda June 22, 2012 at 12:56 AM
Hi Joan, Isn't it amazing (translate: nutty) how ordinances are so different from city to city. There is a lot of movement in the urban farming community these days to work with cities to become more backyard chicken friendly. I am going to check with the Hayward city planning office and get some definitive answers about this. The link I find to the source ordinance is broken but someone posted information on http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/hayward-california-chicken-ordinance citing what you also found out. It's not official info, so I do want to give the city a chance to speak for themselves.
Linda June 22, 2012 at 06:10 AM
I just check my after hours source and was surprised to learn that Hayward isn't YET backyard chicken friendly - the livestock permit isn't quite that much but is still 4 figures at this time. Perhaps Henny and Penny and other backyard hens can send up enough love to get the attention of the powers that be at Hayward City Hall.
Joan Olsson June 23, 2012 at 09:35 PM
Thanks for checking it out, Linda. We're hoping that a little public pressure will encourage the Hayward city fathers catch up with the times. I saw a Facebook post the other day showing a brochure (or perhaps something from some publication) published during WW2 urging all citizens to do the right thing by having a Victory Garden and also raising backyard chickens - "one hen for every family member" - to support the war effort.
Linda June 23, 2012 at 10:49 PM
I suggested to my source that a parade of hens with picket signs might be in order :). Or, perhaps, cutting off the supply of eggs within the city limits. Henny and Penny suggested that one! I'd love the link to that brochure if you still have it. You can find me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/fingersinthedirt
Darryl Ray June 24, 2012 at 02:16 PM
Linda, I enjoyed reading your story about Henny and Penny. We live in Castro Valley and have had chickens for over 10 years. Once you have homegrown eggs it is impossible to look at supermarket eggs the same way again. You are right about how chickens can convert landscaping into moonscaping! A chicken tractor is a good compromise however. I am glad that you mentioned Backyardchickens.com in your comments, it is a great source of info for anyone interested in raising their own chickens. I have passed on the info about Hayward's unfriendly chicken regulations to some folks I know and will let you know if I find out anything useful. Looking forward to more articles!
Linda June 24, 2012 at 08:34 PM
Hi Darryl, Nice to meet you. Chicken tractors are great things. We do a compromise by moving a child's play yard fencing thingie around the lawn and vegetable beds when we want the hens to scratch and peck as our yard isn't set up for even a chicken tractor. As you can see, Henny and Penny's run is bigger than they really need but it results in less concentration of chicken poop and the accompanying flies and smell. We hope to replace the Eglu with an Eglu Cube in the future which will allow for more hens and still be very very easy to clean. I'll be writing about why we chose that type of coop in my next blog entry.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something