June 28, 2011 in City

Doug Clark: Chicken fever spurs crazed financial behavior

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Believe it or not, thousands of otherwise sane and civilized Americans are raising chickens on their city property.

Really. I wouldn’t pullet your leg.

I learned this the other day when I was outside and heard this mindless clucking noise.

Fearing the worst, I figured that the mayoral candidates must be campaigning in my neighborhood.

Upon further reflection, however, I realized what I was hearing was not from dumb cluck politicians but from, well, actual dumb clucks.

A call to the City Hall the next day confirmed my suspicion that Spokane is part of the large chicken-raising trend that is pecking the nation.

“Oh, yeah, definitely,” said Sandy Scott, who works in neighborhood services. “They think the eggs taste better than supermarket eggs.”

City code, with a few exclusions, allows every homeowner to keep as many as four pets.

And if you want to satisfy your inner Jed Clampett by making some or all of those critters chickens, well, so be it.

(Note: Deranged, drooling relatives being kept in a basement or attic don’t count.)

This was exciting news.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a huge fan of chicken, especially the KFC bucket varieties.

I also come from a long line of chicken ranchers.

My grandfather – the late D.L. Pugh – actually kept dozens of chickens all through the 1950s in a large coop behind his South Altamont Boulevard home.

Spokane’s animal husbandry laws were a lot more lenient back then. Heck, you could slaughter pigs on your front porch all day long and get away with it.

I’ve never been one to miss out on a fad, no matter how nuts.

So on Monday I drove to Northwest Seed & Pet to see what it would take to follow in my grandfather’s manure-encrusted footsteps.

First I met Rick Safran, who told me about a “rogue rooster” that terrorized Hillyard two years ago.

“The nastiest rooster I’ve ever met,” said Safran, who added that the reign of feathered terror lasted a couple of weeks.

Then what happened?

“Somebody ate him.”

Hillyard always has had its own way of dispensing law and order.

Safran then introduced me to Bob Mauk. The Northwest Seed employee is currently raising three chickens (Lily, Maybelle and June) at his abode near Manito Park.

Mauk told me the basics. He took me over to the chicken supplies. I jotted down a few notes that should cover what I’ll need to become a Spokane chicken farmer. Those eggs better be good since it takes about 20 weeks for a chicken to start laying an egg a day.

• 4 baby chicks – $3.99 each.

• 1 heat lamp for brooder box – $15.

• 1 bale of pine shavings for litter – $15.

(Shredded Clark columns optional.)

• 1 big bag of chicken starter food – $8.

• 1 feeder dish – $3.

• 1 water feeder – $2.

• 1 prefab chicken coop – $400.

• 1 50-pound bag Purina chicken mash – $20.

(Older chickens need different food.)

• Freeze-dried mealworms for treats – $10.

(Mauk calls this “chicken crack.”)

• Wire to protect chicken coop from predators – $150.

• Big stick to ward off chicken-hungry raccoons – free.

• Emergency room treatment for multiple raccoon bites – $1,500.

• Antibiotics to keep from losing leg after raccoon attack – $75.

• 1 pair of crutches – $78.

• 4 new chicks to replace poultry holocaust – $3.99 each.

• 1 dozen eggs at Fred Meyer – $1.37.

Oh, yeah. I can definitely see why so many people are doing this.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or dougc@spokesman.com.


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