Talk of the Town - Fowl Play January 22 2003

Four-bedroom, one-bath bungalow in Forrest Hills

Fifty years ago, Forrest Hills was one of countless neighborhoods around the country built to house post-World War II families. True to form, the homes mirror one another, with their cookie-cutter brick facades and swaths of grassy lawn. But the neighborhood has changed over the years. Now, aging hippies, hipsters and homosexuals populate the decades-old bungalows, bringing an entirely different mindset to the area. One such newcomer is Hal Jacobs, who — along with his wife and two sons — isn't attracted to the usual bourgeois subdivision trappings. And while they do use their front yard for baseball, their back yard is the site of a working experiment in intown farming, with its chicken coops, sagging aboveground pool, treehouse, trenches, fortifications — even a hutch for pigeons.

Creative Loafing: We're not in Decatur or Oakhurst, but it still has that quaint quality.

Jacobs: We're right outside the city of Decatur and Avondale Estates. We're unincorporated, but we're triangulated by their values and a little less gentrified.

Most of the homes look the same — the same WWII brick bungalow — but yours does stand out. It has all the stuff in the front yard.

Yeah, there's this redneck thing that I really like.

The place looks small from the street, but there's four of you living here.

Yeah, with one bathroom. When I think how they raised families at the time these places were built, I can't believe it. Most single people I know have more space than we have with four of us. I think culture has gotten weird about human contact. I think kids get weird with too much space. It's appealing having to come into contact with one another like this.

You mentioned the chickens and turkey.

We have homing pigeons, laying hens. The new addition is Peepers, the turkey.

I can't believe you can get away with all of this in town.

We have understanding, tolerant neighbors. They're also offbeat, and they don't complain about chicken manure smell in the summer. One guy nearby has beehives and another has over 40 homing pigeons.

Homing pigeons. You mean they actually come back? If you took them way out, they'd find their way back?

Well, we've never tried it like that, but they do stick around.

It seems like a strange hobby.

It kinda evolved. We had a child who got interested in pigeons. He had this whole 4-H mentality — he wanted to get pigs and everything. It was his identity at school; he was the kid with the pigeons. He's now 15 and grown out of it mostly.

What made you decide to get a turkey?

We already had the hens, and we like having our own eggs. When most people think of turkeys, they think turkey sandwiches. But we thought it'd be fun to raise one. He got his name from the loud peeping sound he makes. Recently, when someone tried to break in, we heard him making that sound. He's like a guard turkey.

So you'd recommend having a turkey to others?

It's been a challenge. It's fun, but he comes up to the back porch to roost and takes these great, enormous dumps. You'd be amazed.