Chick­ens, bees and ev­ery­thing in-be­tween

At­lanta City Coun­cil Mem­ber Alex Wan’s unique Midtown fam­ily

GA Voice - - Pets -

By PA­TRICK SAUN­DERS

If At­lanta City Coun­cil Mem­ber Alex Wan had those car­toon stick­ers on the back win­dow of his car show­ing how many par­ents, kids and an­i­mals are in his fam­ily, they would look like this: Wan. His fi­ancé, Joe Bechely. Two dogs. Four chick­ens. And 20,000 bees.

The cou­ple’s unique pet own­er­ship sit­u­a­tion be­gan in 2009, when Wan was read­ing about colony col­lapse dis­or­der. Dras­tic num­bers of western hon­ey­bee colonies have been dis­ap­pear­ing all over North Amer­ica in re­cent years, which is im­por­tant be­cause bees are re­spon­si­ble for pol­li­nat­ing nu­mer­ous agri­cul­tural crops.

“I went to a [bee­keep­ing] class at the Botan­i­cal Gar­dens in Jan­uary of that year and I de­cided I’m go­ing to do this,” Wan says.

Un­for­tu­nately, ow­ing to the in­sects’ del­i­cate na­ture, the cou­ple have only been able to keep the bees through the win­ter twice in six years. And it’s a sight to be­hold when they swarm off for good.

“You can hear it be­cause they just start roar­ing, and then the whole backyard is cov­ered with bees,” Wan says. “I’d see a big clump of them in the neigh­bor’s tree and at that point they’re gone. There’s noth­ing you can do to get them back.”

Then it’s back to buy­ing more bees and start­ing the year’s process over again. But Wan says it’s worth it. Bechely’s par­ents are com­ing to town this month to harvest this year’s honey, which will be shared among var­i­ous friends and fam­ily.

Four feathered friends added to the mix

Wan and Bechely added chick­ens to the fam­ily in 2013, but dis­agree­ment en­sued Above: At­lanta City Coun­cil Mem­ber Alex Wan holds Karen, “the drinker” of the group. Be­low: Wan, Bechely and their fam­i­lies are go­ing to get the yearly harvest of honey any day now. (Photos by Pa­trick Saun­ders) over what to name them.

Bechely wanted to name them Dorothy, Blanche, Rose and Sophia af­ter “The Golden Girls.” Wan wanted to name them Ju­lia, Suzanne, Mary Jo and Char­lene in honor of “De­sign­ing Women.” They set­tled on Will, Grace, Jack and Karen from “Will and Grace.” The unique per­son­al­i­ties of each chicken made it a per­fect fit.

“When they were chicks, Karen would al­ways go to the wa­ter trough so she was al­ways drink­ing, kind of like Karen,” Wan says. “Jack when he was young would stretch and pose, just like Jack would. Grace was the timid one, they would al­ways pick on her. And then Will’s al­ways been the smart one.”

As far as up­keep, Wan or Bechely close up the coop at night to keep the chick­ens safe from preda­tors, then open it back up in the morn­ing. Dur­ing the day it’s keep­ing them fed and wa­tered, check­ing for eggs and of course, clean­ing the poop.

All the an­i­mals in the Wan-Bechely fam­ily have learned their roles and made their spa­ces, with the dogs scared of the chick­ens and the chick­ens scared of the bees.

“So ev­ery­body just lives hap­pily to­gether.”

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