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Chickens in the City

Meet Anne-Marie and Scarlett, mother and daughter who keep backyard poultry as a hobby

Mother and Daughter sit and hold a chicken

Mother and Daughter sit and hold a chicken; Photo courtesy of Rebecca Myers.

"Chickens are easy, and they're so much fun!" exclaims Anne-Marie, as she holds two beige and pale-blue eggs just laid that day. She's an avid gardener and teaches backyard poultry-keeping at the Wylde Center in Decatur, Georgia, a small city just outside Atlanta. Her daughter, Scarlett, helps with the chickens and co-teaches the Kids in the Coop class.

Anne-Marie and Scarlett share their passion for gardening and for chickens with their neighbor. Together they decided to build a chicken coop directly between both houses, but out of sight from the street. It is perched on a hill, allowing excellent drainage of rainwater into the yard behind their houses.

Not only are chickens fun to have around, but also they’re great teachers. "My daughter, Scarlett, has learned about farm animals, how we get eggs and chicken meat, and what it takes to care for them," said Anne-Marie. She feels like sometimes "people are very distanced from nature, and this brings it all back together."

As Anne-Marie approaches the coop, a half-dozen colorful hens scurry to the door, cackling their greeting. It is easy to tell that these chickens are well cared for and happy. There's no odor, and the chickens are clean. As she lets the small flock out into the backyard to scratch and peck in the leaves, Anne-Marie says that, aside from a hawk attack, her chickens have been quite happy in the city.

She attributes her chickens' happiness and health to a strict cleaning and pest control routine. She changes the bedding beneath their roost weekly and cleans feeders and waterers daily. She also washes down their roosts and changes the straw in the nest boxes. She keeps pests at bay by keeping feed in tightly closed metal containers and by using a chicken-friendly pest control service. In addition, the coop's protective covering of wire and mesh keeps out predators, such as hawks.

Girl petting a chicken

Scarlett pets a chicken; Photo Courtesy of Rebecca Myers.

Human members of her family keep germs at bay by dedicating a pair of shoes specifically for working with the chickens and taking them off before entering the house. Anne-Marie says that the family keeps chickens and their equipment outside and that everyone must wash their hands after handling the birds.

The family has been fostering some chicks over the past few weeks and enjoys watching them play in a pen in the front yard. Scarlett holds the youngest chick, a black ball of fluff. Handling backyard poultry often is important, Scarlett explains, so they are socialized and easy to work with. "They come when we call them," says Scarlett, who bends down to nestle a young hen in her arms. When asked what her role in keeping the foster chickens was, the 8-year-old grins and says, "I'm training them for their next owners." Both mother and daughter are eager to share their passion for chickens with others who might be interested in the hobby.

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