As a long-time San Marino resident interested in owning backyard chickens for a host reasons, I've watched and waited for the city council to act on a proposed ordinance to lift the ban on chicken ownership in this city. On Friday, January 25, 2013, the council approved Ordinance No. 0-13-1271. Chicken ownership will be permitted beginning on February 25th and I, for one, intend to try my hand at raising some backyard egg-producing hens. I have never owned chickens, or any other kind of bird for that matter, but am excited to learn. I thought it might be fun to take anyone reading this post on the journey with me. I don't know how often I will post or if it will be funny or informative or what, but to the extent you join in on this blog, please feel free comment or ask questions and we can work through the process together.
My first order of business is to pick the place where the hens will reside for years of egg-laying bliss. The city ordinance has restricted the site by describing setback requirements. A required coop must be in the backyard and not visible from the street, it must be 35 feet from the nearest dwelling and 5 feet from the perimeter of my property. My backyard must be fenced to keep the hens from intruding on my neighbors' property. The city must approve the site on a plot map. In addition, because this is California and we don't want our cows to be happier than our chickens, there are the practical considerations for keeping our hens smiling as well.
In anticipation of the Council's wise decision to lift the ban, I've been reading on-line about chickens and coop placement for months now and have selected a spot in my tiny backyard where I think they will be happy and content to live out their egg-laying years and still not run "afowl" of the ordinance restrictions. I've chosen a site under a huge Live oak and next to our air conditioning condenser unit. Since the unit runs very seldom, they should be happy with the solitude. The area is the right size for my imagined coop and pen and is not far from my backdoor but, then again, not too close either. It is very close to my organic vegetable garden, where I'm sure the little chickadees will dine on the leaves of some of my prized kale and collards and scope out the too many slugs and snake-sized worms that inhabit the space. The coop will sit in part shade and part sun. I don't want it to be too hot or too cold and if I give them both sun and shade maybe they can choose what they like. The site has good drainage and I've tightened up some of the sprinkler tops so that water to the area is either cut-off completely or so minimal that the coop will not get sprayed and the ground will stay dry. By ensuring the dry space, their spa days will be limited to the dirt baths they love to take and won't include the mud baths they don't love. I plan to put in a hose extender so that I'll have running water at my fingertips for any clean-up I might need to do. The ground will have to be leveled a bit so that the coop can stand on solid dirt, without wobbling. The leveling will take some work and lots of Bengay.
In preparation for this venture, I purchased two books, Building Chicken Coops For Dummies (this will also be available soon in our own San Marino Crowell Public Library) and Raising Chickens For Dummies, and my mom sent me Farm City, The Education of an Urban Farmer, by Novella Carpenter; she thought I might find some of her thoughts, experiences, inspirations and resources useful. The first two books are my backstops so that I have the step-by-step how-to in hand as each scene of this ride approaches and the third is a description of the real life events of a couple's experience creating an urban farm in Oakland California, somewhat like my own without the barnyard animals. By the way, my mom was right about Farm City, something I am saying about her advice more and more as I grow older.
If anyone is interested in setting up a chicken co-op let me know. Enjoy the day!