Goodbye to our girls

What harm are backyard chickens?

The author is a fifth-grade teacher at Biggs Elementary School.

My parents have always been ahead of their time. They have been strict recyclers since the ’70s, and we belonged to a natural-foods co-op. Dad kept a compost pile and was vice president of the organic-gardening club, and we had chickens in our back yard. No, we weren’t hippies living in the country; my parents, staunch Republicans, live in an urban neighborhood in Costa Mesa, Orange County.

I followed in my parents’ footsteps with the gardening, recycling and healthy eating. I got interested in backyard chickens after visiting a farm in Durham. On an acre or two, the farmer grew more than 250 different fruits and veggies. What struck me was that his only fertilizer came from his chickens, which also helped him recycle of all his garden waste. What a system!

That spring, we had day-old chicks in a box with a light in our living room. My son and I played with our babies every day, while my husband built the coop. When the chicks were big enough to go outside, we moved them into the coop. I locked them up each night and let them out each morning. What a kick! Since the coop is off the ground, it was a walk down the ramp or half fly, half jump into the yard. I drank my coffee and enjoyed the antics.

Our chickens brought the neighborhood together too. All the kids wanted to visit and bring treats, and six months later, when the girls started to lay, our neighbors were thrilled with the eggs we shared.

Every day, when I get home from work, I check the chickens and give them our kitchen scraps. Collecting the eggs feels like collecting gold—little warm, round, nutritious gifts. I can’t imagine my garden without hearing the soft clucking of my girls.

What a shock it was to get a visit from a Butte County code enforcer and a letter stating we had 30 days to get rid of our chickens.

I thought we were safe! We live in the county, we have no neighbors directly behind us, no roosters, and our neighbors all love our girls. If we lived one street over, we would be in Chico city limits and could buy a chicken permit, but in Butte County, zoned residential, no chickens period.

How could this be? Chickens in Costa Mesa, but not Butte County? My family loves our girls and the life they bring to our garden. We are heartbroken.