Extended Family

Anaïs and Jordanne Dervaes give a video tour of the Pasadena homestead where they keep chickens, ducks, and goats

If you’ve ever looked at your pet dog (especially after “cleaning up” the lawn) and wondered when he was going to start pulling his own weight, perhaps it’s time to introduce a new member to the household: a barnyard animal. Chickens and quail, for instance, provide delicious fresh eggs, while rabbits produce nutrient-rich droppings that can be dumped right into your garden’s soil for fertilizer.

The Dervaes family’s homestead in Pasadena  is the gold standard for how to keep farm animals in an urban space, so we returned with our video camera to take one more peek. Just behind the bountiful vegetable beds there’s a pen that holds 15 animals (with various coops and interior spaces for sleeping), but there’s no smell and hardly a peep.

The flock certainly seems to contribute more than most urban pets, but these particular birds may be a bit smarter than your average barnyard banties. Consider some of the names. For the ducks: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy (from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women). For the chickens: Estella, Sissy, Lucie, Bella, Dora, Lizzie, and Sairey (literary kudos to you if you guessed Charles Dickens).

If you’re already measuring your backyard for a chicken coop, make sure to consult local codes online before demanding that Fido share his space with a fluffy new friend—most cities allow chickens and ducks, for example, but they vary on the number. And if you find you’re up to code, you might get a pet that adds a little more to the household than just some sloppy kisses (but those are good, too).