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Families get new feathered friends, and future of better eggs, at chicken swap

Katie Fader and her son Oliver, 3, admire their new week-old chick, bought at a chicken swap Saturday in St. Petersburg.

LARA CERRI | Times

Katie Fader and her son Oliver, 3, admire their new week-old chick, bought at a chicken swap Saturday in St. Petersburg.

ST. PETERSBURG — Liz Cleckner has been trying to get chickens in her house for years.

"I've told my husband for 11 years that I wanted a chicken," Cleckner said. "I think it's important for the kids to get to know where their food comes from."

Cleckner, 29, saw her chance to press the issue again about a week ago, when she came across a post on Craigslist about a "Chicken Swap" in St. Petersburg.

The event, hosted by Tyra Humphrey, brings poultry lovers together to buy and sell chicks, eggs and other types of poultry.

Cleckner's husband, a St. Petersburg police officer, tried to talk her out of it.

"He looked up the ordinance to try to prove that we couldn't have them," Cleckner said. "And he found out we can."

So on Saturday morning, Cleckner got up with her two young kids and her neighbor (who recently got some chickens of her own), and drove from her house on the city's west side to Humphrey's, in the Five Points neighborhood. Within an hour, Cleckner had collected one small cardboard box and three chicks.

They don't have names yet.

"I can't wait," said Cleckner, a nurse who works at a pediatrician's office.

Humphrey knows the feeling. Last spring, she got her first four backyard chickens. Now she's got nine.

"I had 'em as a kid," Humphrey said. "They're just fun — and they're great-tasting eggs."

This isn't the first time Humphrey has hosted a chicken swap. She had one back in November. It went well, but Humphrey immediately noticed a problem.

"There weren't enough people selling chicks," said Humphrey, 36. "I had a ton of people looking to buy them."

Indeed, if the large crowd of people streaming to and from Humphrey's back yard on Saturday is any indication, the backyard chicken trend seems to be booming in Tampa Bay. More than 100 people stopped by, and questions about chickens were flying as quick as the feathers.

How big will my chicken get? Where do I get its food? Are those the ones that lay Easter eggs?

"I've been doing this for 30 years," said Clarence Pauley of Largo, adding that his grandmother used to raise and sell bobwhite quail to the Belleview Biltmore decades ago. "I've never seen it like this in Pinellas County. I'm just glad to see it's catching on."

It's unclear how many households in St. Petersburg have backyard chickens. The city allows residents to keep hens but not roosters.

Most of the people who showed up at Humphrey's house on Saturday had similar reasons for wanting a chicken. It teaches the kids responsibility. They're good pets. And, yes, the eggs.

"It's like a night and day difference in taste," said Randy Hoedt, 42, of Wesley Chapel, whose son Sean, 11, already has a chicken at home. "Plus you save money."

Marine Capt. Duane Stamm, 33, and his wife Selena, 32, who is expecting the couple's first child later this month, drove from Riverview to pick out three hens. They already have one at home named "Mustang Sally."

"Eggs are the benefit, but we all really fell in love with our pet," Selena Stamm said.

Scott and Katie Faber like the idea of sustainable living and say there are already lots of people in their Magnolia Heights neighborhood who have chickens.

The St. Petersburg couple has been debating chicken ownership for about a year but haven't been ready to commit.

Still, they came on Saturday, mostly to see how their children — Della, 2, and Oliver, 3 — reacted to the birds.

"Being able to grow your own food has a certain appeal," said Scott Fader, a 32-year-old financial analyst. "We're having trouble just doing it."

At the end of the day, the Faders went home with a cardboard box too.

Inside were two baby chicks.

Kameel Stanley can be reached at kstanley@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8643.

Families get new feathered friends, and future of better eggs, at chicken swap 04/02/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 2, 2011 10:07pm]
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