Chick, Chick Hooray

The hens, named Peep and Daisy, occupy a corner of the garden behind their owner’s Arlington home. They don’t need a lot of room, just a small patch of ground to peck and a prefab shelter. They don’t make much noise, either (only roosters crow at dawn). Nevertheless, keeping chickens in Arlington is forbidden, which is why their owner, Mark, asked that his last name not be used.

Like a growing number of foodies embracing the "eat local" mantra, Mark, who works for an investment firm, sees chickens as an easy way to produce his own food. Though some slaughter their birds for meat, he’s in it for the eggs, which he says are infinitely tastier than store-bought. Coops can seem downright economical, too, with the price of commercial eggs having jumped 29 percent in 2007 alone. Plus, Mark says, "chickens are the perfect pets. They give back every day and don’t need any love."

A whole industry has sprung up around chicken hobbyists: books, websites, magazines. And in New York and San Francisco, where keeping fowl is permitted, there are even chicken-centric social clubs. In most towns around here, though—Boston and Cambridge among them—zoning boards tend to frown on this sort of animal husbandry. But there are exceptions. In Belmont, retired software developer Joan Teebagy keeps chickens legally, having petitioned the town for permission. She began four years ago with five hens, and today teaches others how to do it, at Codman Community Farms. "The first classes filled up," she says. "We were surprised. Maybe there was a pent-up demand."

Peep Your Home
Want to raise your own poultry? Here’s how to get started.

1. Be a Good Egg Area towns that allow chickens (you may need a permit) include Belmont, Beverly, Concord, Essex, Lincoln, Newton, Somerville, Southborough, and Wakefield.

2. Feed Your Brain Codman Community Farms in Lincoln offers regular classes in chicken-rearing. Scheduled for 5/10 and 6/14: "Backyard Chickens," $60–$75, 58 Codman Rd., Lincoln, 781-259-0456, codmanfarm.citymax.com. Another good resource is Backyard Poultry magazine, $21 for a one-year subscription, backyardpoultrymag.com.

3. Pick your Chick Baby chicks and feed, as well as the Eglu chicken house ($495), are available from Omlet USA, 866-653-8872, omlet.us, or My Pet Chicken, 888-460-1529, mypetchicken.com.