MARTA - 35th Anniversary

For the love of chickens: Everything intowners need to know about keeping chickens focus of workshop

Leghorn, Barred Rocks and Buffington are a few of the breeds of chickens that roost at the Wylde Center.

 

Hidden behind the picturesque homes and landscaping that Decatur is known for is a surprising population generally not found in cities—chickens.

These pets, food sources, pest controllers and contributors to soil nutrition are being kept in the backyards of many Decaturites.

“Once you get chickens, you don’t go back,” said Andrea Zoppo, public programs manager at the Wylde Center, an environmental stewardship organization based in Decatur. “They are less work than keeping a cat or a dog.”

At the Wylde Center in Decatur there’s a waiting list to be part of the volunteer team to care for the center’s chickens, according to Andrea Zoppo (pictured here). Photo by Gale Horton Gay

At the Wylde Center in Decatur there’s a waiting list to be part of the volunteer team to care for the center’s chickens, according to Andrea Zoppo (pictured here). Photo by Gale Horton Gay

 

Fans of chicken (the live kind, not the fried kind) may want to take advantage of the upcoming Chicks in the City symposium from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 1 at the Decatur Recreation Center, 231 Sycamore St., Decatur. Sponsored by the Wylde Center and hosted by the city of Decatur, the event will include workshops on breeds of chickens, coop design, baby chickens (incubation and care) and the health and wellness of chickens. Two other topics that are expected to be covered are: “Chickens 102 and What They Do for You” and “Little Farm in a Big City: Chickens, Goats, Turkeys Love Life Together.”

Zoppo described this sixth annual event as a crash course in backyard chickens.

Cost for the symposium is $50 for Wylde Center members and $60 for the public. A combo ticket for the symposium and the Urban Coop Tour is $65 for members and $75 for the public. For more information and tickets, go to www.wyldecenter.org. Registration is limited to the first 100 persons who sign up.

Chicken health and wellness will be the focus of veterinarian Carol Tobias’ talk during the Chicks in the City Symposium. Photo courtesy of the Wylde Center.

Chicken health and wellness will be the focus of veterinarian Carol Tobias’ talk during the Chicks in the City Symposium. Photo courtesy of the Wylde Center.

The coop tour is a self-guided tour of 12 chicken coops in neighborhoods surrounding Decatur and Grant Park. It takes place March 29-30 from noon to 5 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 on the weekend of the tour.

Interest in keeping chickens in residential areas has increased in recent years.

“The rapid growth of urban farming and the desire for healthy eating led the Wylde Center to offer this full plate of classes that engage and inspire both the curious and committed audience,” states the center’s website.

Local laws concerning chickens are a mixed bag in DeKalb County. No chickens or livestock are allowed in Doraville, but in Pine Lake it’s legal to have up to 30 of the birds if the resident has sufficient space. Decatur appears to have the most liberal laws allowing roosters and chickens in the city limits. The law specifies that owners must supply housing with a solid floor and at least 4 square feet of space per bird and the coop must be at least 75 feet away from a neighbor’s house. Birds have to be confined to a fenced area.

 

Garden expert Walter Reeves will present a session on baby chickens during the upcoming Chicks in the City Symposium on March 1 in Decatur. Photo courtesy of the Wylde Center

Garden expert Walter Reeves will present a session on baby chickens during the upcoming Chicks in the City Symposium on March 1 in Decatur. Photo courtesy of the Wylde Center

Zoppo explained that the center has eight to 14 chickens at any one time—Leghorn, Barred Rocks and Buffington among the breeds. Some lay eggs, some don’t. She described some as “refugees” that are aged or have challenges such as one bird with a crooked beak. In addition to the chickens being a source of entertainment, the chickens’ eggs are a highly coveted food and their manure is used for composting and fertilizer.

At the Wylde Center, the chickens are cared for twice a day by volunteers who are part of Team Chicken. They feed the birds, check on their health, clean their coop. As a reward, they take home freshly laid eggs. Zoppo said there’s a waiting list of families who want to be part of Team Chicken.

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