Backyard Chickens & Ducks

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.



  1. I have heard roosters crowing, early in the morning, in Fort Bragg. Having grown up in Nebraska, it is a sound I like. Also there are places where doves are kept and do that soft, “coo coo” sound.

  2. Gary said

    Great post, Jen. I’ve also heard roosters crowing several times here in Brooklyn, but have only seen any actual chickens running around once. And while I’ve spotted the wild parrots that live here a few times, I can’t recall ever seeing any livestock (though I spied some goats once, through the open front door of a halal butcher). As you pointed out, though, you’ve got to figure that there are larger critters lurking in backyards somewhere…

  3. Georgia said

    There is a farm of sorts on Parker between Fulton and Ellsworth. Geese are the most vocal of the farm animals. It was one of the stops on the Bicycle-Friendly Bicycle Coalition’s “Hidden Gems of Berkeley” ride in 2003. I missed the ride but I have seen a map of the sites on the ride.

    P.S Thanks for mentioning the local ecologist blog!

  4. Spike said

    I’ve seen in Woy Woy two goats (or possibly long-eared sheep) in someone’s front garden and some guard-geese roosting under another house. There’s a house on Orange Grove Road with a bit of a fruit & veg garden but nothing like those guys.

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