Chickens remind local family of a distant past

By Spenser Easterbrook and Matt Rabb

Students walking into school at sunrise need not worry. No, you are not going crazy. You did just hear a rooster crow. Look no farther than the Pham residence, a home on Gainsborough Road across from CHS with four egg-producing hens and a rooster.

An unusual sight in the middle of Potomac, the chickens joined Dung Pham, Jessica Tran and their three children, Richard, Hieu and Anphu last Father’s Day.

“The kids’ uncle came over with five chickens and told us to take care of them,” Dung said. “I had no materials and had to go to Home Depot to pick up supplies.”

To understand the meaning of the gift, it is essential to reflect on Jessica and Dung’s past.

Dung and Jessica were born in Vietnam. Dung’s father was imprisoned for working for an American company. In 1975, after the fall of Saigon, Dung was forced to move to the countryside by communist forces. There, he spent time with chickens while his family worked a farm. Now they remind him of his childhood.

“How many times in the city do you hear a rooster crow?” Dung said. “I think it’s nicer than a dog’s bark.”

The family initially was unsure whether owning the young chicks was legal in suburban Potomac. As the chicks grew up, it became apparent that one of them was a rooster, adding to their concerns about noise and neighbors.

“The law allows only six chickens,” Dung said. “I don’t think the neighbors around here mind.”

Senior Gabe Snider, who also parks in the Pham’s driveway, was surprised when he first heard the rooster.

According to Snider, when he first the rooster he was confused. He asked the people around him: “Is that a rooster? Is that your phone?”

In addition to five chickens, the Pham’s have a parakeet, a cockatoo and a turtle. The two youngest boys, Hieu and Anphu, learn responsibility from looking after their pets.

“I have to clean their cages,” Hieu said. “I get to be with pets; it’s nice.”

After a few accidents when chickens escaped and a visit by the police for a rooster crossing the road, county inspectors came by to check on the chickens’ environment. While they used to roam around the backyard, they are now fenced into a pen.

Jessica and Dung found each other through total coincidence relating to their shared heritage.

“I’m originally from the same neighborhood as my husband in Vietnam,” Jessica said. “I played piano for the church on New Hampshire Avenue. I went to a church in Philadelphia to play and met my husband there.”

After meeting, the couple moved to Michigan, then to Chicago before settling back in Potomac, where most of Jessica’s family lives.

The family rents out parking spaces to CHS students with cars and also has a salon business in the basement.

“I love the family,” junior Kristen Miller said. “They always wave to me when I see them and ask how my day was, and they are very helpful with the parking.”

Dung, Jessica and their kids have roots in the region, and are attached to
Montgomery County and CHS beyond just owning a rooster.

“I graduated from UMD and had a job in computer information systems,” Jessica said. “I started the salon at home so I could work and spend time with the kids.”

Hieu and Anphu, although now only in elementary school, plan on attending CHS.

“We moved here because we know how great Churchill is,” Jessica said.