The folks who live and work in Silicon Valley are looking for a way to disconnect from their hi-tech day jobs by coming home to what is becoming a trend in this upscale part of California: backyard chickens.
But this is not your grandfather’s chicken operation. These are pampered poultry that live in expensive, custom-made coops and dine on human favorites like steak and salmon.
Although meat and seafood aren’t the typical culinary fare for chickens, these birds are treated less like farm animals and more like beloved pets.
The Washington Post reported:
Silicon Valley chickens are often considered “members of the family,” explained Moira Hanes, noting that she refuses to eat baked chicken from Whole Foods in front of her three birds.
A Berkeley professor registered her one-eyed special needs rooster, Gwennie, as an emotional support animal. Because of his cross beak disability, she feeds him baby food mixed with grain. He also gets a weekly bath and a blow dry—“which he LOVES,” she said in an email.
It’s not uncommon here to see chickens roaming in their owners’ homes or even roosting in bedrooms, often with diapers on, according to Leslie Citroen, 54, one of the Bay Area’s most sought after “chicken whisperers,” who does everything from selling upscale chickens and building coops to providing consultation to backyard bird owners. Her services cost $225 an hour. Want a coop and walk-in pen (known as a run)? You can expect to pay $4,000 to $5,000 for a standard setup.
One of Citroen’s clients has a personal chef who cooks for her chickens because health of the bird and its eggs is important, the Post reported.
“It’s not uncommon here to see chickens roaming in their owners’ homes or even roosting in bedrooms, often with diapers on,” the Post reported.
Johan Land, who is married with three children and a fourth on the way, says a glass of wine and chicken care help him unwind from his hi-tech job at Google directing its self-driving car project.
In addition to 13 chickens, Land has three sheep.
“It’s a fascinating thing to sit and watch the animals because instead of looking at a screen, you’re looking at the life cycle,” Land said. “It’s very different from the abstract work that I do.”
Egg-laying chickens were once the domain of rural farmers who relied on traditional American hens like the Rhode Island Red, which lay brown eggs, or the white-egg producing Leghorn.
But in Silicon Valley owners like Land are opting for expensive heritage or heirloom chicken breeds like the Araucana, which lay bluish green eggs.
“Chickens are now a trendy, eco-conscious humblebrag on par with driving a Tesla,” the Post reported.
“We’re obsessed with chickens and it’s embarrassing,” Amina Azhar-Graham, a Costa County investigator, said. “We spend an insane amount of money. We thought we’d feed them leftovers, but our chickens end up eating grilled salmon, steak, fresh lettuce and organic watermelon.”
Watching the chickens is one of the Azhar-Graham family’s favorite pastime. They call it “hillbilly television.”
Bill Michel of Redwood City enjoys sharing videos of his chickens inside their coop with anyone who will watch.
The best viewing time is “bedtime” Michel told the Post, “They jostle for position before settling in.”
“Being able to say you have chickens says, ‘I have a backyard,’ and having a backyard says, ‘I have space,” Luca, Citroen’s 19-year-old son, said. “And having space means you have money, especially when it comes to Silicon Valley real estate.”
An unnamed professor at the University of California at Berkeley registered her one-eyed rooster, Gwennie, as an emotional support animal. He also has a beak mutation so she has to feed baby food and mixed with grain, the Post reported.
The professor said she gives the rooster a weekly bath and a blow dry, which he “loves.”
One man has even found a way to make money on the backyard chicken trend. Scott Vanderlip’s Tour de Coop has drawn as many as 2,500 participants.
“My timber-framed, Gingerbread coop is gorgeous: wired for electrical, plumbed for water, incorporating vintage windows and doors,” Laura Menard said in an email to the Post.
Matt Van Horn, a senior engineer, said its comforting to switch from the computer to the chickens.
“It’s really nice to have this tactile feel of filling the chickens’ food, filling their water, feeding them and petting them,” Van Horn, said. “Experiencing them is a way of getting away from the technology that is in our lives so much of the time.”
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