Keeping farm animals in the city can be a real hoot. Follow freelance writer Audrey Pavia’s adventures in Southern California with a yard full of urban livestock, including horses, chickens, a Corgi and an urban barn cat. She somehow manages all these silly critters by herself while working full-time. And you thought “The Simple Life” was out there?
Photo by Audrey Pavia
When I was a kid, I dreamed about having my own farm someday. I saw myself walking through the aisles of my barn feeding my sheep and goats and horses, with a loyal dog following behind me, all keeping me company as I did my chores.
As it turns out, I don’t have a barn, or sheep or goats. I do have a dog, but when I’m toiling around the yard taking care of the horses, he is off sunning himself on the patio. I’m not lonely, though. I do have a loyal following — in the form of my six chickens.
On Saturday mornings, when I go outside to do my weekly chores, I am quickly greeted by my flock. My orange rooster, Mr. Mabel, is at the head of the group, which dutifully follows me around the property. When I’m cleaning stalls, they’re hovering around. When I’m picking out the horses’ feet, they’re standing by. When I’m carrying sacks of stall absorbent from the garage to the horse area, they are in tow. Wherever I walk, I hear the pitter patter of little chicken feet behind me.
I like to pretend that my chickens follow me around because they love me, but that’s not the reason. The truth is that they are shameless beggars, always looking for a handout. Long ago, I started tossing them scratch on days when I was outside working, and it didn’t take them long to figure it out. If they make their presence known when I’m out there, I might just notice them and grab a handful of scratch from the garage.
Despite the less-than-altruistic reasons for my popularity with these birds, I still get a huge kick out of the fact that they are always trailing behind me. If I stop short, they stop short. If I start walking, they start walking. If I run, they run. It really is hilarious, and makes me feel like the Pied Piper of Norco.
Of course, there is a downside to all this avian attention —, at least for the birds. At times, they get so close to my feet that, they almost get stepped on when I have to suddenly change directions. They then squawk anxiously, wings flapping and feet scurrying to get out of my way. After such an incident, they stand at attention, staring at me curiously, trying to figure out what just happened. Did I do that on purpose? Was I trying to catch one of them? Has that fine line between pet chicken and soup stock suddenly been crossed?
It’s none of the above, and they soon figure that out. Once I start walking again, they quickly fall in line behind me, hoping I’ll make my way to that big bag of scratch.