There was a chicken coop on Plymouth Drive, down the street from where I lived in upstate New York. I walked past it every day on my way to grade school. A large Williamsburg house faced James Street. The garage behind it was on Plymouth. Behind all of that was the chicken coop tucked inside a huge wooded piece of property.
Often the chickens were quiet, but time and again they would squawk and carry on, running up and down their pen. I never saw anyone gathering eggs or caring for the birds, but then again, I didn’t pay attention. The chicken coop was always there. It was a part of my geography, one of those things I took for granted.
Eventually the house and property sold. My father and two business partners purchased the land and cleared the woods, chickens and all. I was sad. I’d gotten used to those little critters. Dad offered the neighbors a patch of land to grow vegetables. There were rows of zucchini, yellow and butternut squash, cucumbers, peppers and greens of all kinds. Each neighbor had their specialty including Dad’s tomato plants.
About five years ago my husband and I built a new house in Cornelius. In the backyard was a sun-filled patch of land big enough for a vegetable garden. I asked my neighbor if she wanted to grow one with me. Since she’d grown a vegetable garden on our property before we’d purchased it, my neighbor was thrilled to be back growing vegetables.
Now in our fourth year, we have lettuces, spinach, turnip greens, radishes, carrots, collards, broccoli and snap peas. We are sitting pretty with onions, parsley, fennel and rosemary. We have summer vegetables that have blossomed from seeds ready to be planted.
Despite our flourishing patch of land, there is still something missing. I kept my disappointment to myself until one day, I blurted out to my husband, “I wish I could have some chickens.”
“Chickens,” he squawked, an urbanite at heart. “There’s an ordinance against those.”
“Not in Mecklenburg County,” I replied.
“But I think there’s one in the Town of Cornelius,” he said relieved.
I pushed aside my thoughts about any chickens and went back to the garden, weeding and picking vegetables. I told my neighbor about the chickens down the street from where I lived, and how I wish we could have some. Lo and behold my neighbor loved the idea, too. So one morning, when my husband wasn’t around, I called Town Hall.
Guess what. There are no ordinances against chickens.
Now I’m thinking about what I can do with all those fresh eggs.
Gilda Morina Syverson, artist, writer, poet and teacher, has had her commentaries aired on WFAE. www.gildasyverson.net