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Chickened Out
Sara Marcellino was a happy urban farmer raising happy chickens until an unhappy problem intervened. The neighbor.

By Sara Marcellino

This is a sad time for my family. In order to placate our neighbor, we gave our chickens away and with them our source of fresh eggs.

Proponents of sourcing food locally, my husband and I decided to complement our vegetable garden and fruit trees with chickens. We learned a great deal as we nurtured our flock.  When Blackie molted and lost two-thirds of her feathers, we fed her extra protein to enhance new feather growth. When Biden became egg-bound, we cleared with a warm compress. When a juvenile red-tailed hawk eyed young Dash for its lunch, we provided more shelter. Food scraps from my kids' school lunches never went to waste. And in return, our girls fed us, friends and neighbors with their miraculous little protein balls.

But our neighbor disliked their noises. She tried to appreciate them, she said, but they bothered her. We do live in a dense pocket of the East Bay. Their clucks and cackles were just part of the urban cacophony of BART trains, the loud teenager, the mourning doves, barking dogs, the motorcycle roaring to life at dawn. It didn't matter, she didn't want to hear chickens and we didn't want one bad relationship to tarnish our sense of community.

With the recent growth of the local food movement, environmental awareness and the economic downturn, keeping chickens, bees and goats for food production and security has grown with it. An Internet scan of many Bay Area city codes shows policies that support keeping chickens, with certain setback limits and sometimes need for written permission from neighbors. I wish our neighbor could see this bigger picture. It would help if our leaders provided the context behind policies supporting backyard food production. For example, that it could help get us through the next big earthquake if we're cut off from our store-based food supply.

Letting go of something you care about is never easy. And thankfully, the local Trader Joe's is still in the business of selling eggs. I hold out hope that we'll figure out a way to keep chickens again. But for now, the coop is empty.

With a Perspective, I'm Sara Marcellino.

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