Date: July 9, 2009
Byline: Mariel Waloff
Getting rural in the urban wilds.
Andy Warhol once said that he preferred the city to the country because while you can find patches of countryside in the city, you can’t find a patch of city in the countryside.
This could be West Philadelphia’s motto.
On one of the neighborhood’s tree-lined streets, two friends, Ben and Lee, decided to embark upon a project. It started as a carton of eggs from a farmer’s market — the same kind so many of us purchase and make into Sunday morning omelets — and has evolved into nine squeaking, pecking and flying (kind of) creatures named Ephigenia, Isis, Maroosh, Steve, Rosamund, Marzipan, Gerard, Chupe and Little Ugly.
The chickens began their journey inside of an incubator in the hallway of the West Philadelphia apartment that Ben shares with his roommate Zach, who grew up in upstate New York raising chickens and selling their eggs to earn money.
The chicks spent their early days under a heating lamp in a cardboard fort on the floor in Zach’s room and have since moved to Lee’s backyard, a few blocks away. Though keeping chickens outside is technically illegal in Philadelphia, the law is usually only enforced when neighbors complain about noise or smell. Since roosters are the cock-a-doodle-doers, these are the ones that Ben and Lee plan on slaughtering for meat. Which means that Steve, Gerard, Chupe and Little Ugly’s days are numbered, if, in fact, they actually are the roosters. There’s no way of really telling yet. For the past several weeks Lee has been taking care of the chicks’ every need, trying not to get too emotionally attached to the ones she might eventually have to kill.
Ben and Lee have already reaped a bounty of returns from the chicks, and they haven’t even begun to lay eggs. Rather, they’ve had the opportunity to foster a connection to the natural world, right here in an urban backyard.