Most of North Shearer Hills looks like something out of a 1970s sitcom – rows of ranch style homes, big yards (as in actual acreage), and beautifully manicured gardens. And the best part: it’s right in the heart of San Antonio.

Hidden within North Shearer Hills is the “paradise” that I call home. Chicken Paradise, as it was lovingly named by previous owners Joe and Anne Barfield, sits on almost two acres. And, yes, the name is not a misleading one. I share my property, located within Loop 410, with quirky and curious hens. I inherited them along with one peacock and one peahen (Theo and Cleo, obviously) when I purchased the property in 2015 from “Papa Joe” Barfield.

The Barfields called this little slice of heaven home for thirty years. In 2005, they opened their home as a bed and breakfast where they welcomed guests from near and far who wanted to experience a little peace and conversation with some truly great locals.

When Anne was diagnosed with celiac disease, Chicken Paradise became gluten-free. They welcomed other guests with celiac disease, hosting dinners and retreats, making this place extra accommodating for everyone who visited and an educational resource for those who shared the condition.

Weddings, family reunions, and many a backyard pool party were hosted here. And, each and every day, just like us, guests were greeted in the morning by the hens and peacocks who call this place home.

Down the road is North Star Mall, the airport, and a few of my favorite taco joints. But inside these gates, the creatures and critters, unfazed by the hustle that is indicative of city life, go about their daily routines – foraging, flying, and living the dream.

I’ve tried to carry on the legacy of warmth and solace that Papa Joe nurtured here. The Barfields had this little city sanctuary certified as a Certified Wildlife Habitat. Like them, I have remained committed to using only organic means to nurture and maintain the plants and wildlife. I think Papa Joe would be proud of the attempts we have made to ensure the place carries forward with very little change – attempts that were not without stumble, loss, and lessons.

This year, Chicken Paradise became a Certified Monarch Waystation with the help of the San Antonio Botanical Garden’s plant sale. My dog Winston, girlfriend Lynzee, and I look forward to offering refuge to our friends flying south for winter, who will find a safe place in the milkweed, mistflower, and the variety of wildflowers that we’ve planted.

Our other flying friends – our own honeybee colony – swarm in the sun over the home that I’ve only harvested honey from once. They too have found a quiet place, within city limits, to reside.

It’s a real treat to live in the city and to have space to have a garden, honeybees, and free range chickens. It’s a little Texas legacy that the Barfields left for me to carry on. Chicken Paradise still shares its local fare with friends, chefs, and neighbors.

We’ve supplied Meyer lemons to Maybelle’s Donuts for meringue-filled donuts and South Alamode for their lemon sorbet, borage flowers for curated drinks and dill and lemons for marmalades at Cured, and many fresh eggs to friends and family.

Lynzee Villafranca holds a fresh egg from one of the many residents of Chicken Paradise.

North Shearer Hills also boasts some fantastic cuisine from Thai Dee, Loncheria El Popo, Chicago’s Pizza (my mom calls it the “best pizza she has ever had”), and Las Sabrosas de Guanajuato. 

This neighborhood will soon become where I live and work. I’ve decided to move my law office to the south edge of the neighborhood. I’m looking forward to walking or biking to my office and meeting more neighbors in the process.

Chicken Paradise, and the larger neighborhood that it’s situated within, reminds me why I love our city every day. North Shearer Hills is a community nestled within the heart of our beautiful city. When people tell me that you have to leave the city to find quiet, I tell them to spend a little time exploring outside their bubble.

Justin Hill is a personal injury attorney and owner of the San Antonio based Hill Law Firm. In his spare time, he attempts to care for his flock of chickens and peafowl, likes to discover new restaurants...

Lynzee Villafranca works as the Development Director for Restore Education, a local nonprofit focused on helping young adults obtain their GED and college degrees while earning skills for today's workforce....