Most of us don't have to grapple with whether we'll ever eat our pets. Govanni McCall doesn't have that luxury. "I would like to one day get to the point where I could eat my own, but if I raise them as pets, I don't think I could do that," she says, referring to the four chickens she's raising in her backyard in Bucktown.
McCall's three Barred Rocks are named after phrases in the east African language of Kiswahili. The Golden Laced Wyandotte got its name from a Game of Thrones character (Khalessi). Both breeds are cold hardy, meaning they'll make it through the winter with a bit of weatherproofing.
McCall got her hens in April from Belmont Feed & Seed when they were a day old; one laid its first egg on Sunday. There used to be five, but the neighbors didn't take too kindly to McCall's rooster once it learned to crow so she gave it away.
Besides her aviary, this year McCall also started a beehive, which just produced 60 pounds of honey, and she wants to get a goat. It helps that McCall works at the Brookfield Zoo, but she also has a network of others who are into urban farming, including the online community Chicago Chicken Enthusiasts (or Chi Chick-Ens), a group that formed when legislation in the City Council threatened to criminalize backyard chickens in 2007. Members worked with their aldermen and scratched out a victory; since then, the network has promoted pro-poultry policy elsewhere and puts on workshops on how to raise flocks in the city.
The Chick-Ens are offering a kind of chicken run this weekend by opening the backyard coops of 20 or so members on Saturday and Sunday from 10 AM to 2 PM. A list of participating houses is available at chicagochickens.org.