Home Zone 1 Scratching the surface: Chickens among permitted farm critters in SA’s urban...

[WEB EXCLUSIVE] Scratching the surface: Chickens among permitted farm critters in SA’s urban setting

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It’s happy hour Friday in Southtown, and resident Jenn Smith is enjoying a pint at Kunstler Brewing Co. with her pet chicken, Georgette.

Or Georgie for short.

Although a rare sight in a metropolis such as San Antonio, there are still handfuls of folks who own farmyard animals or more exotic critters where it’s permissible by law.

Some people such as Smith even revel in it.

Smith recalled chicken-sitting for a former employer who kept chickens as part of his child’s 4-H activities.

“I thought they were cute, They were kind of nice,” Smith said of the avians. “There was one in particular that was extra charming, so I asked if I could have her.”

That was Georgette. Initially, the former boss thought he could sell Georgette, but there were no takers. Smith’s boyfriend, Rod Wallace, stepped in and suggested he and Smith take her.

“We can’t do that, where are we going to put a chicken?” Smith recalled responding to Wallace.

But Georgette won over the couple. Today, she lives with five other chickens, one rooster and two ducks in a backyard tool shed at Wallace’s home. Born about nine months ago, Georgette just started laying eggs before Halloween.

Smith said the fowl friends have the run of Smith’s yard during the day.

“It’s really super easy,” said Smith while holding Georgette, who was decked out in a leash-capable harness.

Smith is part of San Antonio Area Backyard Chickens, or SAABC, a Facebook group where members exchange tips and share personal anecdotes about owning chickens locally.

Laws pertaining to ownership and handling of cats, dogs, fowl, livestock, rabbits and non-venomous snakes vary city to city.

San Antonians can have up to eight fowl, including one rooster, without a permit. A permit is needed for more than that. Other cities such as Castle Hills also allow chickens.

In San Antonio, a chicken coop must be at least 50 feet from the nearest neighboring dwelling. Chickens must be kept, for the most part, in a coop at least 24 square feet in size, or 6 square feet per bird.

Some people who have chickens, ducks, livestock and other unique animals at their urban homes describe them as ideal alternative pets, in a sense, to dogs and cats.

Ashley Fears, who lives on the Northwest Side, is a fellow SAABC member. Her 7-month-old chicken, Jessica,  lives in a coop in the washer and dryer room of her family’s home.

Before moving to San Antonio, Fears and her family resided in Illinois. There, they were interested in owning a chicken and joined a group to learn more.

“Having a chicken sounded fun, but I didn’t know how to take care of them and I didn’t want to accidentally kill it or anything,” Fears recalled.

She researched chicken breeds, and how to raise one indoors. She then bought Jessica from a teenager raising chickens, goats, ducks, pigs and other farmyard animals for sale to finance college tuition.

Although they have spent recent years moving around as a military family, Fears said raising a chicken helps to provide a semblance of rural life in their otherwise suburban setting.

Jessica began laying eggs a little more than a month ago.

“I think there’s something really beautiful about raising chickens,” Fears said. “It’s like a cycle. You feed the chicken and then the chicken feeds you. It’s really beautiful because we get so disconnected from our food and how it gets to us, so I thought it’d be neat for me and my kids to be able to see that actual cycle.”

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