Yard Birds: The Lives and Times of America's Urban Chickens
University of Virginia Press, 2023 - Nature - 264 pages
In 2009, the New Yorker declared chickens the "it bird" and heralded "the return of the backyard chicken." This honor occurred as, a host of American cities were changing their laws to allow chickens in residents' backyards. Philip Levy, a sometime chicken keeper himself, mixes cultural history with husbandry to chronicle the weird and wonderful story of Americans' urban chickens. From the streets of Brooklyn to council chambers in Albany to the beat of Key West's Chicken Nuisance Patrol, yard birds are an important and growing part of American city life.
Part history, part travelogue, and part reportage, Yard Birds takes the reader on a tour-de-force journey across America, past and present, to profile its urban chickens housed in luxury coops or dying at yearly rituals. What emerges is a compelling picture of city chickens that can both serve as hipster status symbols and guarantee that the families keeping them have at least something to eat. Levy's smart and entertaining investigation of the contemporary urban chicken craze reveals that poultry flocks were historically an integral part of America's urban spaces; chickens have simply returned home now, some to very fancy roosts.