I am new to BackYardChickens.com but my family members have been here for a long time. My son, Eric, is IncredibleMeh. We have a flock of chickens in Baltimore City and recently we had a tragic event and lost all our beloved birds to animal control over an exaggerated mess of trumped up offenses. The rules in our town are pretty onerous.
We're hoping to start again this spring, and join (or maybe create) an organization to help advocate and assist other backyard chicken raising families in Baltimore City who might be facing similar circumstances. I'd love to know if such a group already exists locally.
Those interested in our story can seek us out on the chirpy-chat using the hash-tag #hampdenhens. If you read our story here and have questions that you'd like to ask, please reply to this thread or send me private mail and I will do my best to answer you when I have time after work.
For today, I would like to share the story from over this past summer in which the Hampden Hens became the heroes of our local neighborhood, leading to the arrest of a drug dealer who was on the run from the cops.
It was about 3 or 4 in the afternoon on what I recall was a pretty hot summer day. I was working like I usually do in my office that's in the renovated back-half of my garage. I heard the sounds of someone running across my roof, assumed it was the usual kids or neighbor chasing a cat. I opened the garage door to give them a yell - can't have people falling off the roof and suing me after all. I stepped out, tilted my head up, and started to shout "Hey, who the **** is up on my roof?" That's when I realized that my street was absolutely crawling with Baltimore City police. Straightened out my head and in a calmer tone I recovered, "Officer, somebody is on my roof." I pointed upwards, then deciding that discretion is the better part of valor I turned back inside and shut the door.
That's about when the cops entered my yard and my neighbor's yard by the dozen. I'd had no idea what was going on. The next half an hour was spent with the garage door tightly secured as I decided to lay low. I was communicating by Skype chat with my family who were all in the house. (Our garage is detached.) What they told me was that someone had fled from police a couple blocks up the hill, and they'd chased this person down into our block, and that they might be armed and dangerous.
So, for a bit, I'm mostly chatting with my wife Alara, who's inside the house, telling her to stay inside. I figured she could see to making sure everyone in the house was informed about what was going on. But, y'all don't want to hear about Alara and me hunkering down in our house. You want to know how the chickens figure into this.
We've had these chickens in our back yard since like 3+ years ago. (Side yard really, we're a corner lot.) My son Eric and my very good friend Seth do most of the bird tending and raising. I'm up for the building projects and I like to play with the birds, feed 'em my leftover fries, that sort of thing.
Their names are Boo, Susan, Attila (the Hen), Irena, Tribblemaker, Scootaloo, and Vulture. Boo, Susan and Attila are the old guard we've had the longest. Scoot thinks she's in charge, but she's just a tiny bantam. Vulture is Scoot's half-sister with some fancy turkin in her so her neck is bare (hence the name) and her feathers turned inside out. All these birds are very fine: an orpington, windot, a cochin, a silkie, and a couple muts. Sorry if my spelling on the breeds isn't accurate.
So anyway, their coop is situated in a little fenced in pen right between my garage and my house. You have to walk around it to get from the parking pad to the side porch door.
Okay then, let's fast forward just a bit to the police deciding that they'd lost the guy and sort of fanning out around the neighborhood to see if they could find him.
Of course, I'd assumed everyone inside knew what was going on, but to my mistake Seth wasn't in the loop. And here's how the chickens figure into this story and the part I wasn't witness to but have heard told a hundred times.
See, with all the police in and out, the chickens kept escaping that day. We're always getting in trouble when they get loose, so Seth came outside to try and round them up and get them back into their pen. So here's Seth, running around our yard, totally oblivious to what's going on, chasing one of our birds who's a great escape artist, and just walking up to open up the pen and toss the bird inside.
This is when a neighbor friend of ours walks up and says basically "hey, you know the cops are looking for someone in the area and its dangerous. You should really get inside." And Seth says something like "Yeah, as soon as I get these ***d birds back in their pen I'll do that."
Then a sort of pause as neighbor and friend have a moment to process this. And the neighbor friend walks up close to the gate and motions Seth to come over so he can say something quiet-like.
"You don't think he's in there? Do you?" He points at the coop.
Seth stops dead. Then he takes two slow steps over and leans down really carefully to get a good look through the small door on the front of the coop. Another pregnant pause.
Then slowly back up, and Seth nods vigorously.
Without a word, the neighbor runs one way up the street and Seth the other way. They're both looking for the first officer they can find. Not a long time later they come back with plenty of backup.
Officer says "C'mon out. We got ya." Nothing.
"Look, If I have to come in there, I'm gonna have to taze you."
From the coop, the reply, "Yeah OK, you got me." and out comes the man in hiding.
He'd been contorting his body hands and feet in the chicken's sand bedding and back up against the ceiling of their tiny 4x4x3' coop. There was a huge hole in the netting we keep over the pen that (mostly) stops our more adventurous birds from escaping over the 7' fence. He'd apparently jumped from either the roof of the garage or my deck, through the net vine covered canopy, and then got himself into the coop before being spotted. How he managed it I still don't understand, but I bet he was hoping the guys in lockup with him don't hear about this story. They'd probably nickname him Chicken S*** or something.
So anyway they dragged the guy off. From what we've been able to piece together, his gun was found elsewhere. He had two phones that eventually turned up the following weeks when Eric was cleaning the bedding. He'd buried them in the sand, probably hoping he could retrieve them later.
So, that's how our chickens became neighborhood famous and the heroes of the day for the Baltimore City Police Dept.
Which makes what happened the other day just that much more sad. :-(
In any case I hope you liked my story and feel free to share your experiences with chickens, AC, and the popo in this thread. I would welcome your opinions on this - whether they're of the tree-hugging or tricorn-hat variety.