Home NEWS Local Scene Moraga’s Undercover Semi-Ruralism; Where Goats And Chickens Still Roam – Quietly

Moraga’s Undercover Semi-Ruralism; Where Goats And Chickens Still Roam – Quietly

Photo: Wikipedia

Old Timers, that is, those residents who have lived in Moraga more than 20 years or so, fondly remember times when local kids rode their horses to school, cattle roamed the hills, and uninterrupted ranch lands were for wandering.

Progress, and the press of new arrivals hungering for a taste of that lifestyle, have increasingly driven it away – with batting cages replacing chicken coops, and sports courts replacing grazing land formerly used to graze the family goat or cow.

Those who liked their eggs fresh and didn’t mind the company of goats were pressured over the years to quiet their roosters and disperse their herds as prickly neighbors from Big Cities unfamiliar with the sounds and smell of a barnyard began to complain, eventually getting the ear of civic leaders and ensuring the sounds of The City won out over those of a semi-rural farm.

That’s when Moragans, many of them captains of industry, doctors, and even law-abiding lawyers started going underground, flaunting town restrictions on the keeping of livestock and secretly building clandestine chicken coops and goat pens.

Living the semi-rural dream in Moraga in 2015 has not always easy for the suburban farmers who found themselves trying to come up with innovative ways to shield their animals from the prying eyes of neighbors and the intermittent town inspector.

“We’re lucky, we have a little buffer of land around us,” said one local recently, her husband wading through a contented herd of grazing short-legged goats to access their backyard chicken coop. “If the neighbors know, they haven’t said a word.”

But other neighbors have complained in other instances, however, and the town has stepped in on occasion and ordered backyard farmers to give up their flocks. Current winds seemed weighted against the livestock fanciers – until Lafayette adopted new guidelines for the keeping of farm animals within its city limits last year.

“Several of us here gave a silent hurray,” said our closeted farmer, who declined our request to describe her backyard layout in this story for fear of being cited by the town. “It just makes so much sense…”

Moraga has drafted updated guidelines for the keeping of small farm animals and has calendared the topic for review and discussion later this month. Patterned after Lafayette’s ordinance, Moraga’s proposal would allow the keeping of chickens, pigeons and rabbits in single-family homes without a permit. People living in duplexes and triplexes could also keep animals with prior approval from the town. Apartment residents would not be allowed to sample the semi-rural farming experience due to density.

Like Lafayette, Moraga is expected to continue its ban on noisemaking birds like roosters and peacocks should the newly proposed guidelines pass muster. Animal fanciers we spoke with shrugged at that, pointing out that there are far noisier implements in use on a daily basis in Lamorinda – which their owners operate with apparent impunity.

“It’s a choice you make in your lifestyle,” offered another Moragan, who along with his chickens keeps bee hives on his property. “You buy your eggs at the store, I get mine from the coop in my yard. For me it just makes more sense.”

If Moraga adopts a new approach to backyard farming, several of the undercover “semi-ruralists” we spoke with promised a return visit for (more) eggs and honey and pictures of their herds and flocks.

“It will be good to come out of hiding,” one said.


  1. On a completely unrelated subject, after living here a while I thought I had seem most things, but last night I finally saw my first wild pig! Mention of this to a friend in a more remote area of Lamorinda, led me to Google up “contra costa county wild pig” with results showing they first came here in the 1700’s. This neighbor also claims they can be dangerous so are to be avoided. Well, thats only partly true. Instead of avoided, he thought they should be shot and served on a bed of rice, but I won’t mention that for fear of outrage from animal rights supporters.

    • Along with a prickly temperament and a history of charging its enemies, the feral pig is not particularly tasty – factors which have contributed to its survival and longevity. We have, in fact, considered adopting it as this site’s mascot…

  2. I think this is a bit of a rose-colored glasses look at things. We’ve been here 15 years, and I don’t think there have been more than 150 homes built in that time, and the new ones (e.g., Sonsara) didn’t displace any farms or the like. I’m open to allowing some of this kind of activity, but the Town should be protective of people who don’t think the neighbor’s goats, chickens, and so forth are as endearing as the neighbor does. And those who are breaking the rules aren’t sheltering Chinese dissidents during the Cultural Revolution, so maybe tone down the drama about being in hiding.

  3. We had a coop and rabbits for six years and the neighbors never were the wiser. Both Lafayette and Moraga have gone after people who keep animals on their property (we no longer do) and we believe a former mayor of Moraga had to give up her chickens so I’m not sure the drama you mention is entirely unwarranted as sometimes it seems what the town doesn’t know is best because it can’t come back to haunt you. We agree your neighbor should not have to bear with the presence of your animals but if you have the room and can keep them on the property – we never had a single escapee – its a great thing.

  4. Our silence has been bought and paid for with a steady supply of farm fresh eggs for about two years now. Snitches don’t get omelettes.

  5. I was out walking the dog about two months ago and saw an egg payoff like that. Very bold of them. The handoff was literally in the middle of the street, and was over quickly. There were no police around and I was the only witness. Since I learned who the supplier is and yet said nothing, I just can no longer bear to watch Hawaii 5-0.

  6. Lived in Moraga from 1968 to 2001.
    I just saw cows on the hills and dear in the pear orchard. Everyone should have hens if they want the scrub jays make more noise.
    I am not sure what the concern is dogs make more noise than goats.

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