BRISTOL, Tenn. - As more and more people get involved in the local food movement, more are getting involved in taking it a step further by growing their own food and even raising their own chickens for eggs.
It's even stimulated local business in making chicken coops for those who want to get started.
The relaxing of local rules about keeping chickens in the city has a lot of folks looking at ready made chicken coops. They come complete with everything you need to get started: nesting boxes, roosts, and everything but the chickens themselves. "We've had more and more city folks that want five or six, maybe a dozen chickens. They're allowed to have them in the city again, so they build a little lot, just need a little chicken coop to keep them in," Richard Blessing with Southern States Co-op in Bristol.
And you'll find them in backyards in towns and cities across the region.
Paul and Annie Robinette have been urban chicken owners for about a year and a half. Even when they moved, their chickens went with them. "I don't know if it was just the love of animals, or we wanted to supplement our food sources, or just really for fun. We love eggs, that's true," Paul said.
So when they thought about having chickens, they thought about what kind of rules concerning them there were. "We called everybody that we could possibly get in trouble with except the neighbors. It was OK, [the rules say] you just can't have goats or tigers. So we had to get rid of the tiger," Annie joked.
All kidding aside, the payoff is fresh eggs every day, and just as in years past a means of currency. "I've got some friends at work that have gardens, so we do a little barter. They'll give us berries and fruits, things like that. We give them eggs so it's a pretty good little currency for barter," Paul explained.
Both are song writers and performers, so have they considered writing a song about their feathered friends? "No, 'Chicken Train' has already been written," they laughed.
But they do have advice for those thinking about raising chickens in the city. "If you're going to do it, make a commitment to stick with it. They live about 12 years, 15 years. They lay eggs for about 3 years, so after the laying time you've just got pets," they say.
Some might say they could go in the pot, but how could you do that to someone you know personally?