Susan Munkres moved to Burlington’s Five Sisters neighborhood with her family six years ago and decided it was the perfect place to raise chickens. She had been gardening for years and became interested in urban homesteading long before planting roots in Vermont’s largest city.
On her 0.16-acre lot is a 10-by-10 chicken coop built out of scrap cedar and a large fenced-in area, as well as an open backyard where her chickens – Buff Orpingtons and Black Australorps, to be precise – can roam free.
Five Sisters is a family-friendly, urban neighborhood that has become an increasingly popular spot to raise chickens. The historic neighborhood, which has about 300 houses, is located in the city’s South End. Its five primary streets are named Caroline, Charlotte, Catherine, Margaret, and Marian.
Chickens on Every Street
When Dave and I moved to Five Sisters last year, it didn’t take long before we heard chickens clucking in our neighbor’s backyard or saw them strutting down the sidewalk. The more people we met, the more chickens we came across.
“Five Sisters draws very community-minded, non-profit oriented folks who are generally interested in food systems,” says Susan, an avid gardener who lives on Caroline Street with her husband, Jason Van Driesche, and their 7-year-old daughter, Amelia. “There are lots of families here, and chickens are an accessible way to connect with local food.”
It’s hard to say exactly how many households in Five Sisters have chickens, but some of my neighbors estimate there are two to three houses with chickens on each street.
A Family Affair
Sara and Ethan Brown live on Charlotte Street with their three children. The Browns began raising chickens four years ago and currently have four hens (the city ordinance does not allow roosters).
Neither Sara nor Ethan had any prior experience raising chickens. “But we like to grow our own food, and we have an apple tree, raspberries, and blueberries in our yard,” Sara says. “I kind of have this farmer daydream, and I like the idea of having chickens and giving my kids the opportunity to raise chickens, too.”
Why is Five Sisters such a popular place to raise chickens in Burlington? “We have a good sized yard, it’s fairly quiet, and there’s enough space that you feel like you can do it,” Sara says, adding that her children have learned so much from the experience. “My kids feel like they have a closer connection to their food. They go out to get the eggs, and they’re learning responsibility.”
Dave and I have a tiny yard, so I’m not sure if raising chickens is in the cards for us. But I love our neighborhood, and I enjoy living in a place where it’s no big deal to walk down the street and pass a few roaming chickens along the way.