Photography by Danny Fulgencio
Bill Dougherty kept chickens in the yard of his Oak Lawn duplex after he first moved to Dallas in the early ’80s. “People thought I was crazy then,” he says.

Now 69, he’s been keeping hens since he was 12. He parlayed that lifetime of expertise into Trinity Haymarket, which has become the go-to place to buy chickens in Dallas.

He and his husband, Fred Owen, who live in Elmwood, opened their urban farm store after Owen took early retirement in 2012.

“It was so difficult to find good, clean feed at the time,” Dougherty says.

Customers come to their store in a former Buster Brown shoe factory in the Design District from as far away as Waxahachie and East Texas because typical country feed stores don’t carry organic feed.

Chickens are great for controlling bugs in your yard.

Dougherty and Owen started in an un-air conditioned second-floor space that’s shared with furniture and lighting businesses, where they still keep prefabricated chicken coops and sacks of feed, along with gardening and bee- keeping supplies.

They also renovated the factory’s first-story former boiler room into a space that is more like a boutique that sells local honey, pickles, jams and cookies, along with gifts and copies of the current Farmer’s Almanac.

In one corner of the store is a pen with about a dozen 2-day old chicks under a heat lamp. They’re all spoken for.

Above: Dougherty and Owen renovated a former boiler room to make room for their shop in the Dallas Design District.

Chicks are in high demand, Dougherty says.

Chickens are great for controlling bugs in your yard, and their poop can be used as fertilizer for organic gardens. Trinity Haymarket rests on the “three-legged stool” of chickens and organic feed, organic gardening and beekeeping. They offer classes on those three topics.

Here are Dougherty’s tips for first-timers interested in hen keeping.

Take one of his classes. They cost $10 and offer all of the basics. Find details at trinityhaymarket.com.

“Chickens are not widgets,” Dougherty says. “They’re living, sentient little beings.” Consider your laying hens as pets, and don’t be surprised when they show personality.

Chickens can live up to 10 years, with about six of them being laying years, and they require a minimum of 15 minutes of work a day. If you leave town, you’ll need a chicken sitter, so make sure you know what you’re getting in to.

Buy all of your chickens at once. That ensures that they’ve all been immunized similarly, so you won’t introduce new pathogens. Also, it can be very difficult to introduce outside birds into an established flock.

Chicks are cute, and it’s fun to buy them for kids, but they require heating lamps until their feathers come in. A pullet, which is a 12-week old teenager, is less trouble. Pullets can pretty much take care of themselves in the coop.

It’s best to have a minimum of three chickens because they’re flock animals. One or two does not make a flock, and your hennies won’t be happy. Dougherty recommends four to six. That number will produce about two dozen eggs a week and cost about $40 a month in organic feed.