I have talked a bit about fruit trees and vegetable gardens in yards, but chickens and ducks are kept at some houses in Berkeley. How many home chickens and ducks exist in Berkeley is not a question I will be able to answer from my walks, because for the most part their owners keep them in the backyard. However, there have been several cases where I have heard chicken and duck sounds, and I’ve had a few glimpses of the animals themselves. One cooperative household I’ve walked by in central Berkeley lets their chickens wander in the front yard, and ducks swim in a bathtub next to the Ecohouse near the Ohlone Greenway. One of the stranger sightings of chickens was a year or so ago on University Avenue next to the now-open trail at the Santa Fe Right-of-Way. Kenney Cottage, a historic prefab cottage, sits on a raised site there, with the sign “Kenney Cottage Needs a Home.” (The photo at the bottom of the linked page shows what it looks like right now.) A couple of times I walked by there to find chickens pecking around underneath the cottage. A good setting for a Werner Herzog film.
Out of curiousity, I checked the Berkeley Municipal Code to see what it had to say about these sorts of animals. It looks like the main rules have to do with keeping domestic fowl from disturbing neighbors. You can have goats, but only two female goats over one year old. Herding is not allowed. And two cows are allowed in most areas as well. Most homes in Berkeley do not have much land for the keeping of livestock, so I would have been surprised by this code if I had not visited a house on a permaculture tour I took back when I first moved to Berkeley. This household, located just off of San Pablo Avenue, had chickens, rabbit, pigeons, and goats, and a huge food garden, in a 6,000-square-foot yard. It was really one of those experiences that makes me wonder what other interesting things happen in people’s backyards here in Berkeley.