CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As neighbor Pies & Pints serves up a chicken gouda pizza and Ellen's Homemade Ice Cream churns out chicken salad, Ann Saville of Taylor Books has gone even closer to the source.
Atop Taylor Books sits a chicken coop that is home to three hens: blonde Norma Jean, all-black Morticia and red Rosie.
"Just everybody is doing it in the cities - Brooklyn, all kinds of people have chickens," Saville, 78, said. "It's enormously popular in other parts of the country like the northwest - Seattle especially."
Saville ordered three baby chicks from an organization in Seattle that mailed them to her at just two days old.
"They come in the mail!" Saville said. "We didn't know this; a day or two old, these babies arrive at the post office. They call you: 'Your chicks are here.' And there were just 'cheep, cheep, cheep.' "
In the beginning, Saville said, she would get eggs every day - more than she could eat. She couldn't sell them to the public because of health department regulations, but she would give them to friends.
"It's fun; you'd be surprised how nice it is when they get to be five months on the dot, they start laying the eggs," Saville said. "You got out and lift the lid and say 'not yet, not yet, not yet.' Then, 'there's an egg.' Here I am, 80 years old, excited to lift up the box and see an egg laying there."
Now that the hens are 2 years old - on March 28 to be exact - the "lazy devils" don't produce as many eggs as they used to, she said. Saville sees about one every three days.
"I made the mistake of naming them, and now the egg laying has slowed down - I didn't know that would happen," Saville said. "After two years, you're supposed to move them off - have them processed and get new ones. But having named them, you can't do that. Now we got these characters that stomp around the garden and eat the pansies."
Saville said the animals are easy to take care of - "just slightly more trouble than an aquarium." As long as the animals are kept clean and out of the weather, they're not messy.
"They only smell if you ignore them. If they're open to the air and don't have a place to hide, when it rains, they'd run around in it, and then you'll have a problem," she said.
The building that houses Taylor Books is not the same height all the way across. The portion facing Capitol Street is two stories tall, but the back of the bookstore is only one. So upstairs in her apartment, her son turned the windows in the kitchen into a door and put a deck out on the roof above the rear of the store, where Saville has a garden and, most recently, the chicken coop.
Saville designed her chicken coop and had her son, who works in construction, build it for her. Designing fancy or unique chicken coops is an industry all in its own, she said. While the coop suits Saville's needs, she said, "now that I know more about the chickens, I would have designed it a bit differently."
It takes about 26 hours for an egg to develop, at least in the beginning, and she said the hens trot into a small square box to lay the egg.