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My neighbor (two-houses-over) says she hates my other (three-houses-over) neighbor’s rooster, but I don’t thinks she really does.
I’ve been asking around for the past week to see if keeping chickens is becoming as popular here as it is in other suburban parts of the country, and I’d say the answer to that is a resounding yes.
Just a few inquires have led to my connecting with, or hearing about, at least a dozen area chicken keepers. The most surprising thing is that all of them, except one man, said they loved their chickens like pets: pets that turn kitchen scraps into delicious eggs.
And while chicken owners gush about what they love about keeping chickens, they also want people to understand the commitment and work involved. Chickens live about 10 years – some even longer – so chicken keepers warn against getting a few chicks in the spring (Scituate’s Fitts Mill has them) without thinking it through.
“It’s like a marriage or getting a dog, you have to make sure you’re going to keep them,” said Norwell’s Candy Clark, who has about 50 chickens.
And there is the problem of the poor roosters, who sometimes bother neighbors with their crowing. Most people report solving that issue, though, by keeping them inside their coops until a decent hour of the morning.
Letting chickens out in the morning and putting them inside their coops at night are among the daily roster of chores that chicken keeping requires. Feeding is daily, too, of course: most people use chicken feed and kitchen scraps. And, depending on your coop arrangement (a friend of a friend moves his coop around his yard so the manure can fertilize his lawn), and how particular you are, you have to clean the coop periodically.
Then, too, no matter how simply or elaborately you house your flock — Hingham’s Bill Marshall is keeping his new birds in his greenhouse for now – it’s essential to protect them from predators, from above and below.
Most people have their coop attached to an outside run that has to be covered with, you guessed it, chicken wire or netting. And, to prevent raccoons, possums, skunk, and other woodland creatures from burrowing under your coop, it’s best to install more wire deep into the ground along its foundation.
And what you get from all this are very fresh, cruelty-free eggs — a phenomenally healthy food that is a complete protein. You also get a great source of garden manure that feeds your vegetables.
But those are just the tangible benefits.
Talking with people who have chickens, it’s clear that the intangibles are at least as important to chicken keepers.
“We just love chickens, they’re wonderful little animals, loyal and friendly. It’s not cost-effective, you just have to enjoy it,” said Clark, who still misses one of her favorite chickens, who died in 2001.
“She followed me everywhere and did tricks.”

But it isn’t just their pet qualities that make chickens so popular. Part of what people seem to love about them stems from a reassuring sense of inclusion in a cycle of life that living with chickens imparts. Keepers see their edible kitchen waste turned into eggs they can eat, and compost that feeds their garden vegetables, by these happy little creatures that demand very little.
The following is an inexact recipe (play with amounts) for a very easy egg dish that Clark makes Christmas mornings. The whole thing can be assembled in a baking dish the night before then cooked in the morning. It’s a strata – a kind of very delicious crustless quiche with bread in it, although Clark doesn’t call it that.
1-2 lbs. sausage, preferably pork
6-8 slices of bread, torn
8-10 eggs
about 3/4 c. milk
about 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
about 1-2 cups grated cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Saute sausage and drain it
  2. Lightly spray a 13 x 9 casserole pan
  3. Line the pan with the bread
  4. Sprinkle sausage on top of the bread
  5. Beat eggs with milk, salt, pepper, and mustard
  6. Pour the egg mixture over bread and sausage
  7. Top with shredded cheese

Clark assembles the whole dish the night before Christmas, covers it with plastic wrap, and refrigerates it. In the morning, she preheats the oven to 350, and bakes for about 45 minutes.