Edible Gardens: Animal Rites

In the spirit of re-creating country life—we haven’t felt this down-to-earth since the ’60s—urbanites are acquiring chickens, ducks, and quail for their eggs; rabbits for their nutrient-rich droppings that, unlike horse manure, can be put right into the s

Photograph by Lisa Romerein


Chickens, ducks, and rabbits have one thing in common: They need protection at night from predators, and forgetting to shut them in will cost them their lives. For chickens and ducks, a coop made primarily of wood, such as the $1,300 model below, can be purchased from mypetchicken.com. The site also offers building plans for do-it-yourselfers for less than $100. Traditional chicken wire is inadequate; even a squirrel can break through it. During the day, the fowl need a dirt-floored run for sunbathing and scratching and general entertainment, with a fence that’s strong enough to prevent neighborhood dogs from getting in. Quail should be kept in aviaries with roofs of soft netting, as they are known for jumping straight up when frightened. Goats want elevated seating areas, such as a bench or large chairs, and a place to get out of the rain: They will usually adapt to large doghouses, including the igloo model. Rabbits should also have a run, but the wire must be sunk a foot deep so they won’t dig out. A rabbit confined in a tiny hutch all day is like you being locked in your office—with no Internet.

Where it was once believed sufficient to dole out any old chicken scratch and keep rabbits solely on pellets, modern thinking has evolved to where it’s now understood that all animals need quality grain mixtures combined with fresh greens. The Valley’s many Red Barn locations stock all manner of foodstuff s, but for organic chicken feed you’ll need to go to DaMoor’s in Glendale (818- 242-2841) or the Malibu Feed Bin (310-456-2043). Our rabbits are hooked—and have lived longer than normal—on Kaytee’s sumptuous and expensive rabbit diet, which includes pumpkin seeds and banana chips and is available at Centinela feed stores.

Unless you’re interacting frequently with your animal, it will need companions. Two male rabbits will fight, but putting males and females together means neutering one; the operation for the males is less expensive and recovery time is easier. Birds need to be in flocks, but if they are kept in constant close confinement or face stressful conditions, they will pick off one another’s feathers.

Before adding to your animal population, check the municipal codes online. Some cities are quite detailed about the condition of housing and the required setback from neighbors’ homes. Most cities allow chickens and ducks, although they vary on the number; Hermosa Beach, for example, caps the total of fowl at five, while Monterey Park allows up to 15 adult chickens or ducks and five rabbits. Glendale bans roosters and has strictures for rabbits and fowl that include the use of fly-proof pens. Pasadena, which also bans roosters, permits up to two goats but stipulates that no other dwelling be within 200 feet of where the animals are housed. Arcadia is generous with what’s permitted to live in private yards but warns that herding or staking a goat in any public space is verboten. Quail are considered aviary birds and are not subject to restrictions, although keeping wild species such as the Gambel’s requires state permits.