By Nancy Varekamp | CNews Editor
When Julie Olsen house hunted last year, she had two criteria – a long driveway and a basement to transform into an auxiliary dwelling unit.
She found them on Ainsworth Street, along with the Shangri-La of chicken coops and five hens.
The chicken coop serves as part of the fence separating her back yard from the alley between 23rd and 24th avenues, north of Ainsworth. Although the sellers gave her permission to rehome the hens, Julie researched the care and feeding of hens, and she wanted to apply her knowledge as an animal behaviorist.
She found the care is relatively easy, with countless rewards. “As it turns out they’re like goldfish with feathers,” Julie said. “I sit and watch them, and it brings me a lot of calm and peace.”
As it turned out, drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians in the alley enjoy the hens too.
“People were stopping to say hello to them. But, if you didn’t have food, the chickens saw you as an intruder and retreated,” Julie said. “I wanted this to be like an interactive community petting zoo.
“I cut a slot in the fence so people could feed them, and I provided the food. Now the chickens run up to people at the fence excitedly, hoping for something to eat.”
Foot traffic increased when the pandemic hit. Hand drawn pictures of the hens – compete with their names – was the first of several signs. Some signs share the results of Julie’s research, and those have become part of neighbor children’s home schooling.
One sign offers directions for hand feeding the hens. “Sometimes kids get really scared, so I warn them that the touching is going to be weird. When a chicken pecks the food out of your hand, it’s pleasurable – but it tickles.
“I used to wake up to hearing the chickens making their little trilling sounds,” she said. “Now I hear people saying ‘Good morning, chickens’ from cars and bikes.”
For visitors on foot, she’s provided a bench for taking in the same calm and peacefulness she enjoys from her side of the coop.
Julie’s glad to see – and often meet – the visitors.
“Since the chickens have brought me so much joy, it felt only right to share it,” she explained. “It’s a way to be a part of my new community and to enrich people’s lives.
“I learned as a child that – when you empower people with kindness – good things will happen.”
Concordia Curiosities is CNews’ newest ongoing feature. You’re invited to submit your own high-resolution photo. Point your lens at an object, scene, event, etc. in/near Concordia that you think is unusual or special – and that contributes to the neighborhood’s distinction.
Send submissions to CNewsEditor@ConcordiaPDX.org.
This month’s curiosity is intended to complement the story above about hens. Do you know where this rooster lives? Can you find it? Not to fear: CNews will publish the address next month. Photo by Nancy Varekamp
Nancy Varekamp is semiretired from her career in journalism, public releations and – her favorite work engagement – writing and editing targeted newsletters.