Extremism in defense of tastiness is no vice.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

3rd Floor Agriculture

One of my favorite times in the day is that moment when I leave my kitchen, venture across the living room, and, imaging myself an urban, Midwestern Jerry Traunfeld, pick fresh herbs from the pots and planters on my balcony. The satisfaction comes on two levels: first, the sense of a job well done, of the disproportionate rewards for a bit of watering and attention, and second, the immediate gratification that is gluttony, the smells and tastes (because a nibble of fresh tarragon is practically a requirement) available now, in my own home, without a trip to the market.

Because of this burgeoning urban-agrarianism, my balcony doesn't feature the luxuries that my neighbors enjoy: instead of chairs, I have Green Zebras. In more feverish moments, I like to fancy myself a sort of latter day gentleman farmer, albeit one who can take a five minute walk to Restaurant Magnus or L'Etoile. Reading the Times over the weekend, this article played to my delusions.

Apparently I've been missing out on the great urban chicken craze of 2007. Like the backyard herb garden, the chicken coop seems to provide a stream of homegrown sustenance for minimal effort. Like herbs, fresher eggs are generally superior. Those rare eggs with a clearly visible chalazae, prominent taste, and that white whose consistency is just perfect? That could be breakfast every day. Those chickens who have lived and exercised long enough to taste like chicken--real chicken--instead of the bland grocery store variety? There's dinner. Coq au vin with real, adult rooster and real rooster's blood? That, my friends, is eating.

Better yet, this isn't, apparently, just for our suburban compatriots with their fancy "yards." Pet chickens can be raised just like parrots, but earn their keep by providing an endless stream of omelette and frittata. And they don't talk back when you're ready to eat them.

Too good to be true? I was a little skeptical at first, but I've confirmed it. Like various theories of alien pyramid pumps and a full range of disturbing German and Japanese pornography, it was on the internet.

Ever wonder if Bantam hens have a better disposition than other chickens? If a chicken tractor requires a regular house and pen, too? How to quiet your crowing rooster? Neither have I, but these are all covered as Frequently Asked Questions over at http://www.thecitychicken.com.

Of course, this is Madison, not New York City. There's plenty of space nearby to raise chickens without resorting to my balcony. But an early morning trip across town is a lot less pleasant than a robed stroll across the living room. Until I hear otherwise from my landlord, I'm on the market for 4'x4' coops.


Brian said...

For anyone sufficiently intrigued, www.thecitychicken.com lists Madison, WI chicken laws as follows: "Up to four chickens per household. Not allowed to roam free. Keep pen 25 ft. from neighbors. $6 annual permit required."

You know you want chickens.

Delia said...

Well written article.