(This segment originally aired in our Dec. 30, 2011 broadcast)
If you are headed out of town this weekend, you might have to call up the dog or the cat sitter. But what if you keep chickens in your backyard? Well, then you call up Anna Goeser, professional chicken sitter. Reporter Sanden Totten has a profile of this L.A. woman who's made a business out of tending to other people's flocks.
In a backyard in Eagle Rock, Anna Goeser climbs into a caged-off area the size of a large closet and opens the door to a little wooden hen house.
“Here they come. Hello girls," she calls out as some chickens start strutting around her feet.
“They are kind of like really fun old women," Goeser remarks. "There is this certain breed of woman and certain breed of chicken and they are kind of the same to me and it’s a good thing... I just hope I become like that!” she laughs.
For around 40 dollars a day, Goeser feeds, waters and hangs out with people’s poultry. Goeser understands chickens. She’s tended her own flock for 16 years and she is able to interpret a bird's bocks and clucks.
“I mean you can tell the different sounds. There is 'feed us', 'let us out'. There are warning signals. My own chickens let off warning signals. It’s a real frantic sound that comes out of them.”
It was her ease with fowl that led her to chicken sitting.
“Many people are a little frightened or uneasy around them," Goeser says. "A lot of people, when they were children may have been chased by a rooster, an aggressive rooster. And I started think about a lot of pet sitters being in that situation, thinking, ‘Yeah, I am going to take that on.’ But if you are not experienced with them and know how to handle them, they are a little squirrely.”
A year ago, Anna Goeser printed up business cards for Easy Acres Chicken Sitting. She figured if other chicken enthusiasts were like her, they’d want a friend of the fowl looking after their birds when they’re away. She was right.
“I’ve gotten calls from Malibu, Venice, Beverly Hills, El Segundo, Santa Monica, Culver City, a lot of the Valley, a lot of Altadena,” Goeser rattles off.
Goeser now sometimes has three or four jobs a day. And while there are other sitters in cities like Seattle and Portland, Oregon, Goeser seems to have a lock on the LA market.
She says for the most part her clients are couples in their 30’s who’ve turned their land into mini-farms. They’ve got gardens, they compost the chicken poop, they enjoy the organic, home grown eggs.
A lot of her clients are new to the chicken raising lifestyle. Maybe it was the best seller, The Omnivores Dilemma – or documentaries like Food Inc., or the rise of farmers markets. Whatever the reason, Goeser says a few years ago urban chickens became trendy.
“I find it completely heart-warming that people are doing this instead of running to the grocery story and not thinking about it.”
But there’s a down side according to Madeline Bernstein, president of the LA chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
“These trendy things, whether it is having a chicken or a teacup pig... very often they end up abandoned in public places or turned in," Bernstein says. "They are cute as a novelty but they still require years and years of commitment and special care and people are not always up for that.”
Bernstein says some parks around Los Angeles are filled with abandoned fowl.
In Culver City, Anna Goeser is on her last stop of the morning.
She opens the door to another chicken run. This one is decorated with fake road signs that say “Big Chicken Drive” and “Caution: Chicken with an Attitude.” She looks over the hens.
“They look good. Everybody looks healthy and happy,” she says.
She lets the chickens out and watches as they start rolling around in a fresh patch of dirt.
“If you are not familiar with it, you might think that the chicken is having some kind of convulsion," Goeser explains. "But she is actually really enjoying a dust bath. That’s a happy chicken moment.”