They made the FRONT PAGE!!
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'Coop cam' offers a live look at Marblehead family's hensBy Alan Burke
MARBLEHEAD — Want to see four young Marblehead chicks strutting through their daily routines on the Internet? There's plenty of drama, including watching statuesque Zoe establish her dominance over the shy Henrietta.
Imagine the emotion. Imagine the feathers flying. Imagine the eggs.
On second thought, you don't have to imagine. The whole feathered soap opera is available on Joe Selby's Web site, http://marbleheadhens.blogspot.com/. In fact, a webcam monitors his backyard chicken coop and four stars, including Juliet and Penny Henny. It's "The Real World" with chickens, and none of the fowl language is censored. There is no sound, but lip readers — make that beak readers — will have a field day.
Accompanying these glimpses of chicken life is a blog that covers the history of the birds since their arrival at the Selby home (by mail) as tiny chicks in September.
Joe and his wife, Ariana, have three children, Jackson, Talia and Nathan, ages 5 months to 5 years, who are also featured on the blog. The family hopes to reap a nutritious harvest of eggs — up to half a dozen per day. The excess will be given to friends and neighbors.
"They'll start to lay eggs when they're 20 weeks old," Joe says.
Yet, with their online claw print potentially attracting viewers from all over the world, you get the feeling there's more involved here than subsidizing the family budget.
Joe Selby, 35, is a tax lawyer who grew up in Swampscott. He rejects the stereotype of the staid attorney consumed by numbers and legalisms.
"There's a whole generation of young lawyers where some of us aspire to do fun stuff with our families," he says.
The kids love the hens, agrees Ariana, a Marblehead native — although they loved them a little less when they realized you can't play with them. Instead, Mom sees the backyard coop as a chance to teach them a no-nonsense lesson about where food comes from before the packaging.
In addition to his passion for poultry, Joe is a bit of an electronics enthusiast, which led to setting up the camera, taking it online and even arranging some advertising with Google.
Of course, his ad earnings will amount to chicken feed — at least that's what he's hoping.
"Joe is doing all the work," Ariana says, "because I am busy with the three kids."
Having chickens was something the pair had long discussed, and she believes their little coop harkens back to a time not so long ago when Marblehead still had small farmers.
"I imagine my grandparents had chickens," she says.
Meanwhile, the birds, two Plymouth Rocks, a Rhode Island Red and an Orpington, are developing personalities and establishing a pecking order.
"Zoe is the biggest bird, and she certainly appears to be the head hen," Joe says. "Henrietta is not the smallest, but she appears to be last in the pecking order."
The Selbys won permission to put the chicken coop in the backyard of their Clipper Way home by explaining things to the Board of Health. Neighbors raised no objections.
"We promised no rooster," Joe said. "We live on a quiet street."
The ultimate fate of the four chickens remains in doubt. Joe Selby explains that once you name an animal you can't eat it. Ariana isn't so sure. After all, there's no telling how hungry a growing family can get.
"We're tough," she adds.