The chickens have left home to roost

Bogland: Where hipsters meet their natural enemies

Bogland: Where hipsters meet their natural enemies

According to Tumblr, the blog-cum-social networking platform, “hipsters” belong to a “subculture of men and women typically in their 20s and 30s” who “value independent thinking, counter-culture” and “progressive politics.”

To others, including Toronto Star staff reporter Alex Ballingall, the (mostly) “city dwellers” are “urbane” and “non-conformist. . .yet people seem reluctant  to identify themselves” as hipsters, per se. (Something about the uncoolness of being seen to be a member of a visible demographic, I suppose).

Still, says one Kayla Rocca – an urban people gazer in downtown TO – you really can’t miss ‘em. “You can spot a hipster from a mile away,” she told Mr. Ballingall for his piece this week. In fact, the reporter noted, she listed the “telltale signs from her bench in Trinity Bellwoods Park: tattoos, cut-off shirts, skinny jeans, vintage apparel, beards, bicycles, thick-rimmed glasses (prescription optional) and an affinity for obscure music and independent movies. . .’They strive to be different, and yet they’re a cohesive group,’ added Rocca’s friend, Angie Ruffilli. ‘And they’re never athletic,’ she laughed.”

That, alone, may explain a strange, but gathering phenomenon, underway in major and minor American and Canadian cities from Santa Fe to Montreal. Hipsters are abandoning their live chickens by the hundreds, maybe even the thousands.

Naturally, at this point, some background will be in order.

The hipster practice of keeping egg-laying hens in their urban backyards (at least among those who own backyards; though that does seem counterintuitively establishmentarian of them) has been gathering steam for some time. They’ve loved the message it sends to the world: See how environmentally sensitive, whole-earthy and animal friendly I am?

Meanwhile, increasingly, jurisdictions across the continent have either relaxed or clarified their rules for maintaining livestock (actually, just fowl) within their city limits. (In fact, Moncton ran a pilot program a couple a years ago; a permanent decision is expected sometime this year).

But a funny thing happened on their way to the chicken coup: The whole business got to be just too damn arduous for the aforementioned, athletically disinclined sub-group. “It’s a lot of work,” writes Globe and Mail reporter Amber Daugherty, who was presumably tipped off to the story by an item on NBC’s website. “Before you know it, you’re sweating tying to clean and feed those animals and you really didn’t consider that if you want to go away someone else has to take care of them.”

Ms. Daugherty notes that in Minneapolis last year, people deposited 500 birds at the doorsteps of various animal shelters. That was up from 50 in 2001. What’s more, she writes, “The trend is being seen in Canada. . .Sayara Thurston of the Humane Society International Canada, who is based in Montreal, said chickens are being dropped off at the SPCA in Montreal every week. . .’A chicken is a pet like any other and they need to be cared for throughout their lives, which people need to take into consideration if they’re thinking of adopting some chickens into their home,’ she said.”

That people are not taking such matters into consideration has got other people, like Mary Britton Clouse, clucking mad, especially at “hipster farmers”. The proprietor of the Minneapolis-based Chicken Run Rescue let it rip in an interview with NBC: “It’s the stupid foodies. . .We’re just sick to death of it. . .People don’t know what they’re doing. And you’ve got this whole culture of people who don’t know what the hell they’re doing teaching every other idiot out there.”

Never a truer word was spoken about. . .well, really, anything these days.

We generally don’t know what the hell we’re doing about politics, energy, the environment, climate change, banks, income inequality and, now, animal husbandry. But, in the words of Ms. Britton Clouse, that doesn’t stop us from “teaching every other idiot out there.”

About a month ago, Saint John became the first city in the Maritimes to legalize the keeping of backyard chickens (under strict conditions). As for the keeping of hipsters there, the jury remains sequestered.


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