The Birds and the Bees

Virginia Beach hen controversy sparks discussions about backyard husbandry in Hampton Roads

Unless you’ve been cooped up for the past nine months with no local media access, you’ve probably heard of Tracy Gugal-Okroy. She’s the spirited Virginia Beach chicken outlaw who has been persistently lobbying Virginia Beach City Council to legalize the keeping of hens in non-agriculturally zoned backyards. Just hens … no roosters. Tracy wants Virginia Beach to join a growing list of forwardthinking, progressive cities throughout

America whose residents no longer have to keep their hens on the down-low. And honeybees are quickly becoming a part of the national discussion as well. For many hen and beekeeping advocates across Hampton Roads, backyard hives and coops have existed for years on the DL in a sort of “Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell” universe, where bees and sub-micro flocks of hens (six or less hens depending upon space) have been flying and buzzing harmlessly under the radar for years. Largely dependant upon neighbors who don’t know, or who mind their own business and who enjoy the surplus eggs, honey and pollination boost to which backyard bees contribute, these intrepid citizens carry on a proud tradition of self-sufficiency and food-sustainability that harkens back to the days of the WW I & II Victory Gardens.

When in wartime, E.B. White penned the excerpted preface to a volume entitled: A Basic Chicken Guide For The Small Flock Owner, the U.S. government was, as in WWI, promoting the keeping of backyard hens. Such small-scale husbandry was seen as a thrifty, self-sufficient and patriotic way for the home front to contribute to the war effort. Aren’t we currently fighting a sort of economic war?