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Origins of Village Chickens Revealed

The man many thought to be responsible for introducing the Fair Oaks chickens speaks up about his inspiration and what he thinks of the current population of chickens in The Village.

Many have come to associate Fair Oaks' chickens with the community, though that hasn't always been the case. To understand how and why chickens came to Fair Oaks, one must first travel back in time and meet another of Fair Oaks' notables: A man named Hugh Gorman.

Though for years many speculated how the chickens actually arrived in Fair Oaks, there is a strong contingency that credit Gorman with being the one who officially introduced chickens to The Village.

Gorman moved to Fair Oaks in 1945; he was 3-years-old. He and his family raised a number of different farm animals, including rabbits, goats and, of course, chickens. Gorman explained he became quite fond of the chickens during the time he spent on that farm.

"I was an only-child till I was 8-years-old, so they were my friends when I didn't have to feed them," Gorman recalled. "I hated getting mash on my hands."

Eventually Gorman left that farm, headed for the University of California, Berkeley where he would earn a degree in landscape architecture. He would return though.

The year was 1977 and Gorman, after a stint in Auburn, Gorman returned to Fair Oaks where he would establish himself in the home he still lives in. He didn't return alone, though. With him, Gorman brought three hens and a rooster from his parents' ranch. That ratio (three hens to one rooster), Gorman believes, was the key to maintaining population control. It wouldn't last forever.

"That was the start of this batch and then someone else started dropping off these roosters," Gorman said. "These roosters were so mean I eventually had to get rid of them, but not before they had left their mark on some of these hens."

After awhile the small population of chickens grew larger till they wouldn't stay in Gorman's or his neighbor's backyards. Gorman had no problem with growing his small population of chickens. He admitted his population grew, but "my four became six, and it took about a year," he said.

It took about five years before Gorman's clucking congregation grew less recognizable. More strays were being dropped off, mainly roosters, he explained. His preferred ratio started to reverse. The roosters started to outnumber the hens until finally he couldn't identify any that belonged to him.

"I don't know if there is even one hen for every four roosters anymore," he said.

Gorman will unabashedly take credit for introducing chickens to Fair Oaks and many would corroborate his story while others were slightly surprised by the news. Sacramento County Neighborhood Services area manager Keri Blaskoski could only guess.

"I don't have a clue!" she said. "Maybe some of them were leftovers that were released when an old chicken farm closed."

Fair Oaks Historical Society member James Pearce can't recall a time before Gorman when so many chickens wandered the streets of The Village.

Karen Denzler just relocated to Fair Oaks from Auburn and was intrigued when friends told her about the chickens.

"I was just thinking chickens in a park, like a petting zoo or something," she said. "It's funny and different; it's not something you see very often."

Today Gorman still enjoys having the chickens around. He's grown so used to them; he hardly even notices the crowing anymore. Though he admits the population of chickens has grown beyond what he originally wanted or could even have imagined, they're still his buddies even if that coveted ratio has disappeared.

"I've never heard anyone complain about a hen," Gorman said. "It's not a chicken problem; it's a rooster problem. There ought to be more hens than roosters."

For more on the history of Fair Oaks, . For even more, check out the Fair Oaks: Then & Now topic page.

Joshua Staab May 31, 2012 at 03:35 PM
The answer to that question, Victor, we may never know, but I invite all to share their best guesses.
Karen Husted May 31, 2012 at 04:27 PM
As I remember it, Mr. Gorman lived on the hill above Up-Front Foods before moving to his present home.
Joshua Staab May 31, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Your memory serves you well, Karen! For a short time he did. Mr. Gorman and I covered a lot of ground in our conversation. Before moving into his home in '77, for a brief time he lived in what he described as a "log cabin"-style home in that area you described. I believe it was from '74 till the time he moved into his current place in '77.
Karen Husted May 31, 2012 at 08:09 PM
Thank you, Mr. Staab, for this article.
hugh gorman June 07, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Karen brings an interresting place and time to the picture: Up Front Foods, whose roof served as the front "yard" of the log house,built by Pop Wilson around 1932. The surprise of the home grown organic foods were the the exposed mellons of many of the sweet young proprietors. It was a short lived and unforgettable time.Those who were there will also recall that there were chickens wandering about- Harmony Hill chickens. they lived there untill Bansemer evicted all of us, between "76 and "77, when I bought and moved next door. The Rhode Island Reds, that lived in an actual fenced coop, were retrieved by the Hunt brothers.The free range Banties were scooped up as best as possible, and taken back to the Roseville Auction, from whence they came. The clever ones remained. Bansrmer put up a fence between his portion of Harmony Hill and my newly acquired half acre,where my little flock lived. Within a couple years, my flock had expanded, and the bulldozers had scared the remnant chickens to join mine. At that time there was no fence between my place and Plaza Park, so the migration went that way. From the other side of the park, Jim Racy"s new feed and foul store was not entirely secure, and chicks from the other side of the park began migrating in. It was the chickens in the public town square that led to the Town"s notoriety. Of course, chickens have often been a part of a first settlers" foot print, Hawaii, Orange Vale, and Fair Oaks, among them.

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