Just when you think you know someone as well as you possibly could, they manage to surprise you with a bolt out of the blue! Imagine my surprise when I returned home one cold February afternoon to find that Andre had a new hobby… raising chickens!!! Was this a joke? Had he lost his mind?
According to this article in the Washington Post (excerpted here for space), Andre is right in line with movers and shakers in California. And guess what? Our chickens are now producing about between five- and six-dozen eggs per week. Let’s just say that our clients, neighbors and friends are eggstatic!!!
The Silicon Valley Elite’s Latest Status Symbol: Chickens
Their pampered birds wear diapers and have personal chefs — but lay the finest eggs tech money can buy
Story by Peter Holley March 2, 2018 San Francisco
In America’s rural and working-class areas, keeping chickens has long been a thrifty way to provide fresh eggs. In recent years, the practice has emerged as an unlikely badge of urban modishness. But in the Bay Area — where the nation’s preeminent local food movement overlaps with the nation’s tech elite — egg-laying chickens are now a trendy, eco-conscious humblebrag on par with driving a Tesla.
In true Silicon Valley fashion, chicken owners approach their birds as any savvy venture capitalist might: By throwing lots of money at a promising flock (spending as much as $20,000 for high-tech coops). By charting their productivity (number and color of eggs). And by finding new ways to optimize their birds’ happiness — as well as their own.
While the rest of the nation spends $15 on an ordinary chicken at their local feed store, Silicon Valley residents might spend more than $350 for one heritage breed, a designation for rare, nonindustrial birds with genetic lines that can be traced back generations. They are selecting for desirable personality traits (such as being affectionate and calm — the lap chickens that are gentle enough for a child to cuddle), rarity, beauty and the ability to produce highly coveted, colored eggs.
New owners might start off with a standard breed like a Leghorn, a Barred Rock or Rhode Island Red before upgrading to something more exotic and ornamental like a Silkie, a Jersey Giant, golden laced bearded Polish chicken or a Dorking, an endangered British breed with a sweet disposition and roots that stretch back to the Roman empire.
Also popular are Easter Eggers, a type of chicken with a gene that allows it to produce pale blue eggs.
A typical flock is around four or five birds, but those who “go crazy” can end up with 15 or 20. In pampered Silicon Valley conditions, owners say their birds can live more than a decade.
Instead of cobbling together a plywood coop with materials from the local hardware store, the rare birds of Silicon Valley are hiring contractors to build $20,000 coops using reclaimed materials or pricey redwood that matches their human homes. Others opt for a Williams-Sonoma coop — chemical free and made from sustainable red pine — that has been called the “Range Rover of chicken cribs.” Coops are also outfitted with solar panels, automated doors and electrical lighting — as well as video cameras that allow owners to check on their beloved birds remotely.
Silicon Valley chickens are often considered “members of the family,” explained Moira Hanes, noting that she refuses to eat baked chicken from Whole Foods in front of her three birds. A Berkeley professor registered her one-eyed special needs rooster, Gwennie, as an emotional support animal. Because of his cross beak disability, she feeds him baby food mixed with grain. He also gets a weekly bath and a blow dry — “which he LOVES,” she said in an email.
It’s not uncommon here to see chickens roaming in their owners’ homes or even roosting in bedrooms, often with diapers on, according to Leslie Citroen, 54, one of the Bay Area’s most sought after “chicken whisperers,” who does everything from selling upscale chickens and building coops to providing consultation to backyard bird owners. Her services cost $225 an hour. Want a coop and walk-in pen (known as a run)? You can expect to pay $4,000 to $5,000 for a standard setup.
At least one of Citroen’s clients has a personal chef who cooks for her chickens. Because they eat their birds’ eggs — if not the birds — chicken health is a top priority, Citroen said. Her clients spend “thousands” for surgeries and X-rays to keep them alive after predator attacks and illnesses.
Citroen’s clients are usually men in their 30s and 40s, with young families. After spending their days in front of computers, they long for a connection to nature. What they want most of all, she said, is a “rainbow assortment” of beautiful, colored eggs in various shades of blue, olive green and speckled brown.
“Because it shouts out, ‘These eggs did not come from Whole Foods or Walmart — these eggs came from my back yard,’” Citroen said. “It’s a total status symbol.”