Food & Drink Week
6:52 am
Thu November 21, 2013

Gabe Eggs on Louisville's Urban Chicken Keepers

Credit Gabe Bullard / WFPL News

Five years ago, urban chickens were something for explorers, pioneers, homesteaders (hippies). Backyard chickens were a novelty. Because even if they were a major household food source, they weren't exactly necessary. The idea of having a personal stake in your private food chain was admirable, but seemed a bit hard.

Today chickens are a fairly average home accessory. So let us now praise famous hens, and the eggs that begat them (and they beget).

"Why do this now?" asked Hallie Lyninger when I showed up at her Louisville home to talk to her about her flock. "Aren't urban chickens pretty much four years ago?"

When I put out a call on social media for urban chicken-keepers, I got too many responses than I could reasonably handle. I chose a handful of them and did a chicken tour of Louisville one Saturday. I stayed mostly in the urban core, only venturing outside the Watterson Expressway once. I talked to people like Joe Franzen, a true urban homesteader who sees his chickens as livestock that feed him and fertilize his garden. I also talked to people like Hallie Lyninger and Cristal Fox, who just like having chickens for the eggs and entertainment.

It's 2013. Urban chicken keepers aren't odd, they're your neighbors (if you live in Old Louisville, this is a true statement). And by 2017, I expect to be writing about the quotidian aspects of city goats.

Here are two slideshows, one audio, one the old-fashioned (but not that old-fashioned) kind. Enjoy.

"A chicken has gotten out and run through the neighborhood. Somebody brought her back. They know we're the chicken people," says Rachel Hurd Anger.

"What's surprising is how soft they are," says Cristal Fox.
Credit Gabe Bullard / WFPL News

"They're as easy to take care of as a cat, and they make food," says Hallie Lyninger, pictured here with JP Lyninger.
Credit Gabe Bullard / WFPL News
“Do you see them as livestock or pets?" I ask. "Yes," says Janie Christine Faith.
Credit Gabe Bullard / WFPL News

“I grew up in Chicago, and when I told my dad I had chickens, he said, ‘You’ve been in Kentucky too long,'" says Kim Hales.
Credit Gabe Bullard / WFPL News

"Once you have a good coop, the birds themselves are as easy as feeding and watering them," says Claude Stephens.
Credit Gabe Bullard / WFPL News

"I think [eating a chicken] would do them justice. It's like, 'You've lived a good life. I respect you. Now you get to be part of me.' End their life with respect and dignity," says Kara Hancock.
Credit Gabe Bullard / WFPL News

J.P. Lyninger herds his chickens
Credit Gabe Bullard / WFPL News

"I see these as livestock. I don’t really get all that connected to them. And if they start being a resources suck, I’m probably going to have to butcher them," says Joe Franzen.
Rachel Hurd Anger and her most difficult chicken.

This story is part of WFPL's Food & Drink Week. We'll be exploring dining and libations in the Louisville area ahead of Thanksgiving. You'll find new stories here everyday through the holiday.