Kelli Wefenstette and Jimmy Thomas's urban chickens
Kelli Wefenstette and Jimmy Thomas's urban chickens Credit: Eileen Meslar

Kelli Wefenstette and her husband, Jimmy Thomas, try their best to live sustainably, to “close the loop,” as she puts it. They compost their trash, they grow their own vegetables in their garden, and since March 2012, they’ve gotten extremely fresh eggs from the three urban chickens that live in the backyard of their Portage Park home.

Well, there were four chickens, but when one started crowing at about five weeks old, they discovered Polly—named for the Nirvana song—was a he. Apparently it’s hard to identify a bird’s sex when it’s just a tiny puff of pale yellow feathers. So they took him back back to the pet store from whence he came.

Besides providing eggs for breakfast and poop to fertilize the garden, the remaining chickens, Marigold, Mrs. Butterworth, and Frances Farmer—also named after Nirvana songs—have been a great “community development tool,” says Wefenstette. “We’ve been in our house for about three and a half years, but since we got the chickens, we’ve met all our neighbors. All our neighbors love them.”

When the birds turned one in March, the couple threw a party and invited everyone on their block. She says the majority showed up to celebrate.

A crafter and community development coordinator for the 45th Ward, Wefenstette insists the chickens are pretty low maintenance: you just let them out of their coop and into the run in the morning, make sure they have food and water, collect their eggs, and clean out the coop once a week. “They’re way less work than a dog,” she says. “Maybe just a little more than a cat.” But cats don’t lay eggs.