Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Backyard Chickens: An Old Tradition Made New in Nashville

Posted by on Wed, Apr 4, 2012 at 6:21 AM

1920 newspaper clipping encourages Nashvillians to raise backyard chickens.
  • 1920 newspaper clipping encourages Nashvillians to raise backyard chickens.
I grew up in Green Hills, in a home with a good-size yard that had included a chicken coop until the mid-1960s.

Green Hills was clearly a different place 40-something years ago, but then again, maybe not. The benefits of keeping chickens, including a supply of perfectly fresh, delicious eggs from your own backyard, have always held an attraction, most recently leading chicken advocates to press the city council to legalize hens in some neighborhoods.

As this 1920 article from the Tennessean demonstrates, Nashville urbanites needed as much advice for raising backyard chickens in the '20s as they do in the '10s, almost 90 years later.

Post-World War I inflation was driving up the cost of everything. The newspaper's correspondent (who lived off 12th Avenue across from what is now Frothy Monkey) recommended that readers raise their own chickens to supply inexpensive eggs and meat.

What's interesting here is how basic the information is. Obviously directed at city folks, the article begins with the encouraging statement that "there is hardly a home anywhere without sufficient space on which a few fowls can be accommodated" and continues with advice on selecting a breed and constructing a coop.

Once it passed the settlement/fortress stage, Nashville was never a small town, really. By 1949, there were around 250,000 residents. Still, you'd think that a 1920 resident would be near enough to farm living (geographically and chronologically) that keeping hens would be a commonly held skill.

Apparently not, and not much has changed. We could all take a lesson from Mr. Oden's 1920 advice: Select a large breed that's a prolific layer; offer it about 20 square feet of yard; grow some green stuff for the ladies to nibble; and fence them securely against predators.

Update: Click here for a larger image of the article.

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