Sunday, July 17, 2011

On Wearing a "Legalize It" Sticker

It was a combination of things that got me to an urban chicken documentary this afternoon.

When I was in third grade, our class did a chicken project. Each student had an egg with his name on it in an incubator in the classroom.

We had to turn them daily, eventually they hatched (and class disrupted every time we heard the tell-tale pecking that meant one was on the way out) and then we got to take them home.

You can imagine my city mother's excitement  over having a baby chick in the house along with six daughters under eight.

We ended up giving the chick to our milkman Ollie who had a farm where, presumably, the chick lived out a happy free-ranging life.

For all I know, we ate its eggs in the deliveries we got from Ollie over the years.

Every time I drive to the Northern Neck to visit my parents, I pass a farm on Route 360 with a sign on a sample chicken coop saying "Coops for Sale."

Just two days ago, I'd enjoyed a 24-hour old fried egg at Amuse that reminded me what eggs are supposed to taste (and look) like.

So today's showing of "Mad City Chickens" at the Byrd seemed like an interesting and informative way to wile away the afternoon.

While waiting to buy my ticket, the woman in front of me told the ticket seller, "I have my own four chickens. If you ever try your own chicken's eggs, you'll never buy eggs from the store again."

Clearly the audience was going to be a mix of chicken owners and the rest of us.

Beginning with a quite by Grandma Moses, "If I hadn't started painting, I would have raised chickens," the film told the story of long-time chicken owners, recent converts, the people who fought to make keeping chickens legal in their cities and experts like the editor of "Backyard Poultry" magazine.

Color me surprised that there was such a publication, but after an initial printing of 15,000 copies, they had to reprint twice due to demand.

Damn, that's a lot of chicken lovers.

To my amazement, there was even a woman in the movie from the Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities. Where do you think the term "egg money" came from?

I live to find out about arcane facts like that.

For a documentary, there was a lot of humor, including a giant hen stepping out of a painting and taking over the streets chasing terrified workers.

But mostly it was real people talking about the satisfaction and pleasures of owning chickens, savoring fresh eggs and feeling a connection to the source of their food.

Only an idiot wouldn't be taken by the studies showing that pasture-raised eggs have a third less cholesterol as well as significantly more bet-carotene, Vitamin A and Omega 3s than factory-farmed eggs.

During the question and answer period afterwards, a show of hands revealed that fully a third of the audience already have chickens and another third aspire to.

I only know two friends who do, but both rave about the birds and the eggs. And neither is in Jackson Ward.

Of course, Richmond was not listed among the legally chicken-friendly cities like New York, Portland, London, Madison and Seattle. Sigh.

And that's where ChickunzRVA comes in. They're a grass roots movement to legalize urban chickens in the greater Richmond area.

I had plastered one of their stickers to my dress when I bought my ticket and had signed their petition at Broad Appetit.

And while I couldn't possibly add urban chicken raising to everything else that I do, I would love having a neighbor willing to share/barter fresh eggs with me.

To paraphrase Grandma Moses, if I hadn't taken up non-stop culture, eating and drinking, I would have raised chickens.

Seriously, how many people get started in the third grade?

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