Photography by Danny Fulgencio
Oak Cliff native Stephen Betzen and his wife, Rachel, have a guard llama.

“For the most part, I would say the llama just notices things,” he says. “I used to lose chickens to foxes sometimes, and since we’ve had a llama, we haven’t lost a chicken.”

The Betzens own an Oak Cliff business, Dallas Reading & Language Services, which offers speech therapy and reading tutoring. And they live near the Oak Cliff YMCA, next door to Betzen’s mother. The two homes sit on a combined three acres.

Besides the llama, they have four goats, about a dozen turkeys and “a ton of chickens.”

These aren’t laying hens. The Betzens raise chickens and turkeys for meat. Not only that, but they slaughter, process and butcher the birds themselves.

“We were vegetarian for 17 years,” he says. Now they only eat meat if they raise it or hunt it themselves.

“It makes me a little more grateful,” he says.

“I have a lot of gratitude for what I have in my life. There’s a grounding quality to it.”

The whole thing started with an organic garden.

Because they have so much land, they needed goats to clear the privet. Then they wanted a better source of eggs, so they got chickens. Eventually, they started raising chickens for meat, and they got a turkey for Thanksgiving.

“It’s been a long journey,” Betzen says. “We got our first chickens in 2006, and we started processing the animals in 2014.”

Betzen is very familiar with Dallas city ordinances on animals, and he has dealt with code enforcement on a number of occasions, he says.

“I’ve been reported for a rooster three times, but I’ve never had a rooster,” he says. “People make the assumption.”

He says it’s important that their animals don’t cause a nuisance, and it’s a lot of work to keep it that way. The urban farmer cannot allow excrement to accumulate, for example.

The Betzens would like to add more animals to their stock.

“I’ve been looking for Muscovy ducks because they don’t quack,” Betzen says. “If you have two male turkeys, they will sit there and try to out-gobble each other. Some of our neighbors say they like the sound of it.”