The Newnan Times-Herald

Opinion

Cooped up


  • By The Newnan Times-Herald
  • |
  • Mar. 11, 2018 - 6:07 AM

Cooped up

The Newnan Times-Herald

The high-tech titans of Silicon Valley had hit a snag.

The people who were smart enough to invent smartphones, smart cars, smart houses, smart watches and even smart vacuum cleaners couldn’t create a smart way to relax. 

Yoga, meditation and hot rock therapy had lost their luster. Aromatherapy was hit or miss. The high priests of high tech were desperate for even a small dose of peace and tranquility. 

They found it in an unexpected place. According to a recent story in the Washington Post, the hippest, happiest people in Silicon Valley are raising chickens.

Johan Land runs Waymo, Google's self-driving car division. It’s a big job that carries a big load of work and worry.  

Land told the Post that as his family grew bigger and job stress soared he was desperate for a way to detach and relax.

On the advice of a friend he started raising chickens in his backyard.

“It’s very different from the abstract work that I do,” Land said. “It’s a fascinating thing to sit and watch the animals because instead of looking at a screen, you’re looking at the life cycle.”

Or at least that part of the chicken life cycle that doesn’t include being the star attraction at Sunday dinner. But I digress.

The Post article said raising chickens is now considered as hip and hot as driving a Tesla. 

According to Silicon Valley resident Leslie Citroen, “Being able to say you have chickens says, ‘I have a backyard,’ and having space means you have money, especially when it comes to Silicon Valley real estate.”

Ms. Citroen is very familiar with Silicon Valley spending habits. She is a chicken “consultant” who can tell you the ins and outs of chicken raising, right down to selecting a breed and designing and building a coop. She charges $225 per hour.

As you’d expect, high-tech poultry farmers approach things a bit differently than grandma and grandpa back on the farm.

High-priced birds clearly deserve top-flight food, and it is common for the chickens to gobble grilled salmon, steak, fresh lettuce and organic watermelon.

Well-bred, well-fed birds deserve deluxe housing, and Silicon Valley coops are no exception.

Designer chicken coops costing as much as $20 thousand are common. These poultry palaces are outfitted with solar panels, automated doors and electrical lighting. They also have video cameras that allow owners to check on the flock from afar.

Even though the birds are being raised in “nice” neighborhoods, unwelcome guests drop by from time to time, including hawks, coyotes and bobcats, all of which love to chomp a chicken.

Coop owners can purchase a “predator motion detection” feature that activities a security light and sends owners a text when danger appears. Let’s hope the device also sends owners a weapon capable of ending the predator problem.

Normal chicken farmers value hens according to how many eggs they lay. In Silicon Valley, the goal is different. The breeds that produce eggs in a rainbow of colors ranging from pale blue to olive green to speckled brown are the most coveted.

Why is having colored eggs important? Leslie Citroen knows.

“Because it shouts out, ‘These eggs did not come from Whole Foods or Walmart,’” she says. “These eggs came from my backyard. It’s a total status symbol.”

Colored chicken eggs are now status symbols? I wish my grandmother were alive to hear it. She’d be tickled pink. 

Alex McRae is the author of “There Ain’t No Gentle Cycle on the Washing Machine of Love.” He can be reached at alexmmcrae@gmail.com .