I have to admit that when Oakhurst Community Garden director Stephanie Van Parys first uttered the words “Chicken Symposium” to me a few months ago, the image that popped into my brain was a gathering of chickens wearing little togas across their breasts and wreaths of laurel around their combs, sitting around an elegant Hellenic room reclined on pillows and sofas and wildly gesticulating with their wings, beaks open in passionate debate.
This is what a liberal arts education does for you (thank you, Professor Behan of intro philosophy). At least I keep myself amused.
I was even more amused when I arrived at the Decatur Recreation Center the morning of February 6 to discover that, in fact, the chickens were right there in the mix. There were two bins of four-day-old chicks, plus Linda Hamilton’s array of fancy breeds (silkies, silver-laced wyandottes, and a few adorable little bantams that I wanted to steal!). And believe me, all of them had plenty to say.
And so did the speakers. It was a strong line-up. Jonathan Watts-Hull (who, I am proud to say, got his start after taking the first Chicks in the City class we ever offered and was our “star pupil”) led a session on “chicken chores,” Linda (who once took the class because she just wanted to meet some other folks interested in chickens) talked about breed selection, Andy “The Chicken Whisperer” Schneider was there to teach on illnesses and diseases, Veronique Perrot (also a class alumna) talked about how her chickens work for her in her garden. Greg Haney was there to talk about coop design. And I taught a session I called “Chicks Rule,” which was a crash course introduction to keeping chickens.
After two parallel tracks in the morning, we all gathered for some Q&A from the 50 or so folks who had signed up for the half-day symposium, eager to launch their flockkeeping careers. As you can see (below, center), I gesticulated wildly with my wings, beak open. And then the big excitement: a dozen folks went home with baby chicks to get them started!
So the first ever Chicken Symposium went off without a hitch, but with plenty of cackles, skwawks (hey! a palindrome!), and peeps. Can’t wait to hear what they have to say next year.