Chicken Mania: The Highlights


The trend of raising backyard chickens is well-documented at this point. The Washington Post, USA Today, and New York Times have all run articles in the past year about how more Americans are raising birds in an attempt to save money and opt out of the industrial food system.

The fad got so much coverage earlier this year that Slate's Jack Shafer wrote an article decrying it as a "bogus trend"--which inspired our chicken expert Carol Ann Sayle to write a defense of backyard chickens and the people who raise them.

Chicken-mania reached a fever pitch in the past few weeks, with poultry-raising making an appearance everywhere from the New Yorker to Martha Stewart's blog. The highlights:

    • The New Yorker's Susan Orlean describes her experience raising chickens in both an article in the magazine and a video on its Web site. She says her flock produces so many eggs she doesn't know what to do with them: "Not quite sure what I'll do except make a lot of angel food cake."

    • Martha Stewart--whom Orlean mentions as a pioneer in the backyard chicken movement--documents the arrival of new chicks for her flock in a blog post today.

    • Slate Double X's Jennifer Reese explains how it feels to kill a chicken for the first time:

I didn't "go 'ick,' " so I guess I get a gold star. On the other hand, I didn't feel especially humble as I contemplated Arlene's dressed carcass. I've eaten a lot of chickens in my life, and they were all dead. There are good people who might need to kill a chicken to understand the link between a living bird and a McNugget, but apparently I had grasped and accepted the concept from the get-go.

    • Sunday's episode of Extreme Makeover:Home Edition focused on a Wisconsin family that needed not only its house but its chicken coop remodeled. (Warning: keep a box of tissues by your side as you watch this clip--the show's producers have managed to make even a chicken homecoming heart-wrenching):

Perhaps the greatest sign that chickens have hit the big time? People are getting chicken fatigue. "If I read another story about backyard chickens I'll go insane," New York Magazine's Adam Platt complained on his Twitter feed last week.

If you've managed to weather the chicken media storm and are still interested in learning more about raising your own, be sure to browse Carol Ann's archive--she has stories about everything from movie-star hens to potentially invasive government regulations.

And if you'd rather eat chickens than raise them, read Frank Bruni's post from last week where he describes eating roast chicken four nights in a row after filing his final New York Times restaurant review.

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Eleanor Barkhorn is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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