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Chicken Paradise
By Adolfo Pesquera, Express-News Business Writer
Web Posted : 12/09/2005 12:00 AM CST

anne barfield
(Robert McLeroy/Express-News)
Anne Barfield holds Lily at Chicken Paradise,
the bed and breakfast she and her husband
run. It features menus for people with special
dietary needs and is an urban refuge for
exotic chickens.

Right in the heart of the city, the surviving 1 1/2 acres of an old farm is making its debut as the city's latest bed-and-breakfast inn.

No fancy Victorian mansion here- this isn't King William. It's a jog up Jackson-Keller Road from the San Pedro Drive Range and a rooster's crow north of Olmos Creek.

In fact, it's called Chicken Paradise.

As Anne Barfield tells it, she and her husband, Joe, were sitting in front of the television last year, trying to think up a name for the establishment they were planning to open. They were watching the claymation film "Chicken Run" when it hit them.

Their home was a real-life version of the chicken Shangri-La those wretched hens suffering in the gulag that was Tweedy's Egg Farm were inspired to escape to. Anne Barfield's feathered pets- 15 at last count- include such exotics as Charlie, a Chinese Cochin rooster, and Lily, a Bardrock hen. She also has Polish chickens with their distinctive topknots and South American Araucana hens.

Most bed-and-breakfasts have a theme. Chicken Paradise has two, as it will also cater to people with special dietary needs, and specifically people with celiac disease. Barfield has celiac disease and is a spokeswoman for such sufferers.

Gluten- as it is produced in wheat, rye, oats and barley- cannot be digested by people with celiac disease. Foods containing that type of protein cause the intestinal celia, a key part of the digestive system, to shut down. Because nutrients can't be absorbed, starvation and diarrhea are common symptoms.

"One of 133 people have this," Barfield said, "but the average time it takes to discover it is 11 years. Doctors think it's rare, so they don't test for it."

Chicken Paradise has a lot of land for a bed-and-breakfast, but there isn't a lot of room. Separated by a garage from the main house, there is only a one-room cottage to rent. For this size operation, Barfield thinks the procedure to get a certificate of occupancy was too cumbersome.

"We thought it would be a simple process," Barfield said. "We had to change the zoning, so we had to send out notices to the neighbors, have a hearing, go before City Council. After all that, we had to have seven inspectors come out and inspect in their area of expertise."

Barfield is joining a relatively elite group. There are 20 bed-and-breakfasts in town that are members of the San Antonio Bed & Breakfast Association. Most are in King William or Monte Vista, gentrified neighborhoods near downtown.

"The average bed-and-breakfast has about five rooms," said Art Link, association president and operator of Columns on South Alamo Street, an 1892 Greek Revival home in King William that has 13 guest rooms.

Chicken Paradise's charm, Link said, is offering a slice of country so close to town.

Barfield's success is pegged to good food and happy chickens.

"We don't butcher our chickens if they don't lay eggs," Barfield said.

Portions 2005 KENS 5 and the San Antonio Express-News. All rights reserved.