CLUCK: From Jungle Fowl to City Chicks

By Susan Troller (signed) with artwork by S.V. Medaris. Susan is the proprietor of CLUCK the Chicken Store. Additional stories by Jane Hamilton, Michael Perry and Ben Logan.

For animal lovers, pet owners and art enthusiasts who enjoy tales well told, CLUCK is a charming collection of essays and stories chronicling the joys and hardships of chicken keeping. It's not about how to keep chickens, it's all about why we keep chickens and the charming and challenging steps along the road from chicken innocence to experience. Read about Big Tiny, the rooster that made the hens swoon; Buff Orpingtons and Welsummers named for poets and writers; and scary creatures of the night that strike terror into many a feathered breast. Dozens of paintings by S.V. Medaris capture the beauty, personality and inner life of chickens. CLUCK makes a beautiful gift for chicken-keepers new or old.

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(Read an excerpt below)

Why Chickens?
From barnyard to backyard, lowly hens have fluffed up their feathers and flown the country coop. Newly welcome in cities from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon, they've become pets with a purpose, supplying eggs for the table, fertilizer for the garden and laughs - lots of laughs - for their city slicker friends.

In recent years, chicken fans have successfully sought zoning changes to allow hen housekeeping in many urban and suburban areas. The result is a boom in backyard poultry, quite a journey from jungle fowl to city chicks.

Few would argue that keeping a tiny flock of chickens for home-raised eggs is a moneymaking proposition for urban or suburban dwellers. Instead, keeping chickens is primarily a labor of love, as well as a very direct way to connect with the food we eat.

The current craze for chickens at home coincides with the trend toward wanting to know more about the sources of our food. Like planting a garden or buying from a farmers' market, keeping chickens gives us a sense that we have some control over that most basic of needs: providing nourishing food for the table.

But keeping chickens isn't just about being virtuous or nostalgic, it's also surprisingly fun. With their variety of vocalizations, their fundamentally whimsical behaviors, and their interesting interactions with each other and the natural world - bugs, breezes, anything that looks like food, or a real or imagined enemy - chickens are undeniably entertaining.

And although they've been part of human life and civilization for almost ten thousand years, part of the charm of chickens is that they remain essentially and relentlessly themselves, little affected by human rules of fair play, morality or etiquette. As we raise fragile little chicks, gather eggs, clean the coop, feed and water our flock, protect our birds from predators, and even butcher our chickens, we become both actors and observers in their chicken-ish lives.

When we keep chickens in any setting, rural or urban, we too become part of the cycles of life, death and everything in between that's always helped dignify the dirt and work, hardship and uncertainty, of farm life. Plus, there's that other side of the coin of living with animals . . . the funny and the ribald, the brave, the bizarre, the tender and the beautiful.

In a world where much seems plastic, fantastic and phony, chicken keeping is the very definition of down-to-earth. There's a surprising amount going on, and it's a reminder that we, too, are part of the big wheel of life.
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Images copyright S.V. Medaris