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Wednesday, August 25,2010

The Screening Room

Coming soon to a backyard theater near you

by James Sanford

(Follow James on Twitter: twitter.com/jamessanford)


Matthew Jason would like to invite you to explore what he calls the “chicken underground.”


No, our feathered friends have not formed a resistance movement to protect their precious eggs from omelet lovers or to save their drumsticks from the Thanksgiving table. Jason is one of the Lansing residents who’s been practicing “urban agriculture” by raising chickens in his backyard. He’ll be showcasing both fowl and film Thursday evening when he screens the documentary “Mad City Chickens” at his home; it’s a fund-raiser for the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council and Allen Neighborhood Center.


The event begins at 7 p.m. Thursday at 1406 Prospect St. in Lansing; tickets are $35, and Jason plans to provide “some Michigan wines and beers and some snacks.”


Jason, his wife, Cori, and their three sons were raising chickens even before Ingham County passed the ordinance last fall allowing chickens in non-agricultural areas. He has also hosted an informational session at Hunter Park Garden House to share his insights.


“We can talk a little bit after the screening about Chickens 101,” he said. “You can see our henhouse. Raising chickens in the city is a different circumstance. You want to do it right. You don’t want to annoy people, or wind up with unhealthy chickens. For us, it’s been a fun hobby.”


Co-directed by Tashai Lovington and Robert Lughai, “Mad City Chickens” chronicles the experiences of a group of chicken farmers in Madison, Wis., which became “chicken-friendly” in 2004.


Much of the movie is lighthearted. The opening credits include a “2001: A Space Odyssey” parody, and one storyline is devoted to a wellmeaning but undereducated family who struggle with the demands of henhouse housekeeping (note: rabbit hutches are not a suitable substitute for a chicken coop). We get to meet the musically inclined Beanie, who pecks out a sort of chicken concerto on the keys of a toy piano.


There’s also a poignant side: Like other pets, chickens are sometimes abandoned, and Liz Perry — who operates a pet supply store called Nutzy Mutz and Crazy Catz in Madison — introduces Consuela, the castoff White Leghorn hen she rescued from a landfill. Happily, not only did Consuela recover from her brush with death, she has since become a celebrity, with her own line of t-shirts and potholders.


'Mad City Chickens'


Fund-raiser screening 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 26. 1406 Prospect St., Lansing $35 suggested donation www.midmeac.org

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