Bye Bye, Birdie.

Our apologies for taking so long to make this follow-up post. We are so grateful for all of the supportive comments we received in response to our chicken dilemma. We did not respond to most of them individually because we were embroiled in the rapidly evolving events, but we read and appreciated them all.

Since our last post, we have relocated the hens. We were fortunate to be able to bring them to a lovely new chicken yard and coop where they will be well cared for and their personalities and eggs enjoyed.

In answer to several comments, and to the thoughts that may be leaping into folks’ heads as they read, we were not forced to get rid of the chickens. And there was no legal basis for anyone forcing us to get rid of them. We were well within all applicable laws and ordinances. We elected to relocate our birds as a way to defuse an increasingly charged situation.

In addition to the complaints mentioned in our last post, on the following Friday, we received another incredibly long letter from our neighbor, wherein he made a number of unpleasant characterizations upon our motives and persons, and ended by threatening legal action for things he has read on, or via, this blog. On the heels of receiving and reading this letter, we saw a police car drive up. The officer visited next door, then came to our house to talk to us about his presence, which he said was due to concerns our neighbors had, apparently as a result of things they felt were threatening, written here or elsewhere in the blogosphere. The officer did not indicate that we were in violation of any laws. He came over to see what our story was, and see if there was anything that could be done to calm things down. We then received, in the mail, another anonymous form letter about the noise the chickens were making.

From a distance, the day has an almost laughable absurdity, one that would be difficult to believe in a work of fiction. But there you are. Or, there we were, and we were not laughing.

At this point, we felt we had to change something to take the pressure off ourselves. It was the best decision we could make in a bad situation.

Some time has passed. Our chickens are reportedly quite happy in their new home. We recently received some photos

In yo face!

and a report that they are happily bossing around some younger pullets who live in their new home. Oh, the stories they could tell.

We have also had an opportunity to talk to a number of other neighborhood residents who were sorry to hear that we’d gotten rid of our chickens, and who had no idea that they were bothering anyone. We were really pleased to know that the dissatisfaction expressed by a few was by no means universal. On the one hand, we wish we’d known how many people were positively interested in the chickens before we’d relocated them. On the other, we think that de-escalation was the best thing to do at the time. We will have birds again, here or elsewhere, sooner or later.

So, as they say on South Park, we learned something today. Many somethings, some hard, but others really strengthening. We have learned so much from the thoughts and ideas of our family, friends, readers, and fellow explorers. We have also had a lot to think about regarding this blog. What is Hen Waller without the hens? (For a couple days there, Holly considered re-naming it Self-Pity Waller, but fortunately that emotion and impulse have passed!) What does it mean that a neighbor has read/is reading our blog? We know there are people who read Hen Waller who disagree with us, but this is, literally, pretty close to home. These are issues that we’ll think about going forward. But in the end, we started Letter from Hen Waller because of our interests in home food production, preservation, and local foodways, and for the chance to ponder questions of sustainability and resource usage. These topics do not start or end with backyard chickens. So, on we go.

We are so thankful to everyone who offered words of support, and to the neighbors and Portlanders-at-large who support and encourage our efforts. May your gardens be green, and your hens be healthy.

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13 Responses to Bye Bye, Birdie.

  1. Brad K. says:

    Sorry to hear about the continued animosity, so close to home.

    I confess to a contrary nature. The impulse to obtain 4 or 6 guinea fowl ‘just keeping over the weekend for a friend’, for a couple of weeks just shot right to the front of my thoughts!

    Perhaps someone could mention for you that abuse of the legal system to harass someone, like a neighbor, is a criminal offense. I am sure that will occur to someone.

    I can appreciate the concern raised, that brought the police to your door. Domestic violence between feuding neighbors can get violent.

    Blessed be,

    Brad K.
    Ponca City, OK

  2. Matt says:

    I can’t think of anything to say except, that sucks. I’m sorry.

  3. vj says:

    I hope the tension is diffused. I’ve been thinking ’bout you guys.

  4. mary mcguire says:

    thanks for posting the picture or your hens and for letting us know how they are. I visit henwaller because it feels like a neighborhood to me where good things happen and I learn about urban farming and eating local and the merits and personalities of chickens. so keep going. I expect soon to hear about one of your fruit or nut crops and then to read the recipe. mary

  5. Rian Murnen says:

    It sounds like you made the best of an unpleasent situation and di your due dilligence to resolve it with constructive dialogue.

    Some relations just don’t come around to bear fruit as fast as others. And I suppose some relations fail to ever bear healthy fruit.

    On the bright side, it sounds like you met a few more of your neighbors, and found more smiling faces. That is great news and hopefully something worth while will come of the process.

    Best wishes to your ladies.

  6. Omniwhore says:

    I was just asking Dairy Queen if she’d seen anything on Hen Waller about “the girls.” Aw well, like others here, I’m sorry to hear they have relocated. It’s no fun to argue with neighbors — I heard the Hatfields and McCoys started their epic battle with an argument over a pig…

    However, it sounds like you handled the situation with careful consideration and grace. Kudos to you, for that!

  7. Liz says:

    I feel so saddened by this. Not just that you had to give your hens away, but that some people find nothing wrong with bullying their neighbors. It’s really a shame, but the two of you are to be commended for how you handled this unfortunate situation.

  8. anonymous says:

    Robert Frost, “Mending Wall”

    Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
    That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
    And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
    And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
    The work of hunters is another thing:
    I have come after them and made repair
    Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
    But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
    To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
    No one has seen them made or heard them made,
    But at spring mending-time we find them there.
    I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
    And on a day we meet to walk the line
    And set the wall between us once again.
    We keep the wall between us as we go.
    To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
    And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
    We have to use a spell to make them balance:
    ‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’
    We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
    Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
    One on a side. It comes to little more:
    There where it is we do not need the wall:
    He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
    My apple trees will never get across
    And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
    He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors’.
    Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
    If I could put a notion in his head:
    ‘Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
    Where there are cows?
    But here there are no cows.
    Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
    What I was walling in or walling out,
    And to whom I was like to give offence.
    Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
    That wants it down.’ I could say ‘Elves’ to him,
    But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
    He said it for himself. I see him there
    Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
    In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
    He moves in darkness as it seems to me —
    Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
    He will not go behind his father’s saying,
    And he likes having thought of it so well
    He says again, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’

  9. Jamie says:

    I am so sorry it all went down like this. I can’t understand people like your neighbors who seem to live for making trouble.

    You tried, and for a good cause. Good on ya.

  10. toraji says:

    I am so sorry to hear about this…I can’t believe that people would be offended by chickens. Geez, chickens! Sure, they can cluck loudly, but it’s a lot more pleasant than those big televisions that our neighbors have that they watch at high decibel levels.

  11. Jes says:

    Oh, Im so sorry! Your poor ladies. Its too bad you coudlnt have snuck them inside! I have 2 hens and a rooster living in my place, wonderful pets. I have 9 outside, also. I hope that you DO have hens again soon! You both seem like such good folks. Very nice Hen parents, I think!

  12. oh! says:

    sorry about all that. i got ducks. never thought to inform the neighbors. got rid of the loud one (females sometimes are but you don’t know until they are adults) and everyong seems happy. it helps that I live in NE where all sorts of weird stuff goes down and my duck seem quite normal in comparison.

  13. Rian says:

    Sorry to comment on such an old post, but I thought you might find this interesting.

    Are you aware of the current legislation in process know as National Animal ID System (NAIS).

    The links below explain it further but in my reading I couldn’t help but think of your chickens. Government mandated RFID tags (electronic transmitters) and satellites tracking every baby chick, cow, lamb — possibly even fish.

    A small farmer reaction including several links:
    http://smallfarms.typepad.com/small_farms/2007/04/nais_hide_your_.html

    Official U.S. Department of Agriculture website:
    http://animalid.aphis.usda.gov/nais/index.shtml

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