A 2014 Oakland mayoral candidate has claimed ownership of a chicken that tried to cross the Bay Bridge on Wednesday and became the subject of countless jokes on social media.
Ken Houston, a local contractor and chairman of the East Oakland Beautification Council said he was planning on bringing two chickens to the Stonehurst Edible Schoolyard on behalf of the council after hearing that several of the schoolyard's chicks had died. The schoolyard is adjacent to the Esperanza Elementary School and Fred T. Korematsu Discovery Academy in East Oakland.
Houston said he already donated two chickens on behalf of the council and he was planning on delivering two others on Wednesday, when he stopped by the old Army base in Oakland near the Bay Bridge toll plaza to check on a contracting job.
He said he had both chickens with him, but when he came back to his car, they were missing.
"I came back to my vehicle and I saw the box had been tipped over and (the chickens) had escaped," Houston said. "Somebody called me and told me the chicken was on the bridge."
California Highway Patrol officers began receiving calls around 8:30 a.m. of multiple chickens running loose on the bridge.
Officers eventually found one of the two chickens, which they named "Chip." The other chicken has not been found, Houston said. CHP officers transported Chip to Oakland Animal Services, where director Rebecca Katz said they received at least three calls within 36 hours from people claiming the fowl was theirs and other offers to adopt the hen.
Houston said he was able to produce documentation and photographs verifying the chicken was his. Although he said he has already confirmed with Oakland Animal Services that he is the true owner of the chicken, he said he plans to pick up the hen later this week to bring it to the Stonehurst Edible Schoolyard.
Attempts to reach a representative at Oakland Animal Services Monday were unsuccessful.
Suzanne Ludlum, the education coordinator at the edible schoolyard, said she's excited to begin caring for the hen.
The garden was built approximately five years ago on land owned by Oakland Parks and Recreation, Houston said. Ludlum said they installed chicken coops six months ago and already have five chickens.
"One of the ideas behind having the chickens is to teach children about taking care of animals and how to respect all life forms," Ludlum said. "The other is to help with the composting system."
The edible schoolyard collects around 14 gallons of composting from the school's cafeteria, most of which they are able to reuse, she said. The garden hosts dozens of fruit trees, berries, vegetable plants and native herbs.
"This garden is really geared to be a living lab for the school," Ludlum said. "But, as it grows, the produce is going into the cafeteria and it's all organic, non-GMO fruits and vegetables."
Already this year, she said they have used tomatoes and chard grown in the garden for school lunches.
"We thought the chickens would be a great addition to the garden," Ludlum said. "It gets the children excited about the garden, creates a connection to the land and teaches them about animal husbandry."
All of the chickens at the edible schoolyard are so far named after female "freedom fighters," including Ella Baker, an American Civil Rights advocate, Rigoberta Menchu, a Guatemalan indigenous peoples' advocate and Wangari Maathai, an Kenyan environmental and political activist, Ludlum said.
Ludlum said Chip will likely also receive a similar moniker.
People interested in volunteering at the school or donating other chickens or supplies to the garden can contact Ludlum at Suzanne.Ludlum@ousd.org.