To my knowledge there has always been chicken and urban gardening in West Oakland.
So what the story here? Back in the day, we didn’t need a designer, carpenter or architect to build a chicken coop. We found scrap wood and wire, and then nailed it together.
Oh, now I get it, the lesson here is self-sufficiency. Check it out!
Not far from the corner of 16th and Peralta streets in West Oakland, where houses lie quiet, the sounds of hammers pounding, power saws whirling and handsaws cutting through wood echo down the street.
Chatter and power tools fill the outdoor classroom located in a parking lot, but this is not your basic high school wood-shop class — residents are learning how to build chicken tractors, which are mobile chicken coops.
It may seem odd for urban Oakland residents to want to build chicken tractors and own chickens, but the point of the class not only is to learn how to build but also to instill self-sufficiency. The class is a means of providing a set of skills in West Oakland residents.
The group of seven students turned carpenters and designers have come together through City Slicker Farms in West Oakland.
The nonprofit organization came up with idea to teach residents how to design and construct chicken tractors early last year. By October, City Slicker Farms, with the help of Rock, Paper, Scissors Collective, had secured a design builder, an architect and funding to construct eight tractors.
"The class was designed to follow the mission of City Slicker, which is food security, sustainability, helping people grow their own food and becoming more self-sufficient," said Matt Wolpe, lead designer for the Chicken Project.
The eight-session class, which ran from October to December, taught a variety of skills from designing and reading a schematic to the use of hand and power tools and picking the correct materials for the specific structure.
"This project helps the community "...," said Fatimah Guienze, assistant lead designer, who has a background in architecture. "You're bringing components that are pretty high-level, either from landscaping or design build, to people who don't necessarily have the background."
Apart from learning construction and design skills, the participants eventually will have their own chickens to help control insects, aerate and fertilize gardens and lay fresh eggs.
There is no limit to how many chickens a resident may own. The city, however, only allows hens, no roosters, and the hens must be kept in an enclosure at least 20 feet away from the residence.
Tamika Anderson, a participant in the project, worked alongside her 12-year-old son, Ar'mon Marks, to construct a tractor. Anderson has a backyard garden and signed up for the class because she wants to have fresh eggs every day, but she knows the class also has helped her and her son gain valuable skills.
"My dad is a carpenter, so I have a little bit of experience "...," Anderson said. "I didn't know how to design or how to even put it together, so that was something that I learned that was new."
Anderson, who now has her tractor in her backyard, said even her neighbors are excited about the coming chickens. They pass by and ask, "When are your chickens coming?"
Anderson and the rest of the participants have to wait for spring, when the chicks hatch. Everyone wants to bond with their chickens, so it's best to raise them from chicks — not only will the hens lay eggs, they also will become pets.
Guienze believes Oakland residents are heading toward a new trend — a trend toward the past.
"People 50 years ago kept chickens, that's not a big deal "...," Guienze said. "A lot of people built with their hands or were able to feed themselves from their home."
Guienze said classes like the Chicken Project "engage the community in (skills) they can walk away with, which is something really powerful."
Residents get ready to raise chickens in West Oakland; By Giovanna Borgna, Oakland Tribune