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Posts Tagged ‘eggs’

HOMEGROWN Life: 5 Reasons Why You Want Chickens

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

By Rachel, Dog Island Farm

One of my girls enjoying some grass and bugs

At one point I was definitely a chicken hoarder. I’ve now been able to rein myself in to keep it at a respectable 12 hens. Well, right now we have 11 hens, but we’re hoping to get some new chicks here next month.

I remember when we got our first three girls. I would sit out with them totally mesmerized by their chicken-ness. As the pecked and scratched and bathed in the dirt I would just watch in amazement. Bringing in our first chicks wasn’t any less magical. I was intrigued by how mama would let the chicks hang off her waddle without even a flinch. She protected them like they were part of her (even though we had brought them home from the feed store). We’ve had many chicks since then, the majority we raised rather than having a hen do it, but I still really enjoy having them around. When Spring comes they squat in front of you (to them you are the rooster) and let you pick them up.

I love chickens. Who knew? I want to share the chicken keeping experience with everyone and have ended up turning into The Chicken Pusher. Unlike being a meth or crack pusher, I’m here to better your life. So here are some reasons why you should get chickens.

1. They make you breakfast (and lunch and dinner if you so choose and let’s not forget dessert). Well cared for hens make you a better breakfast at that. Chickens that have access to grass and bugs have shown to give you healthier eggs than their factory counterparts. The yolks are so dark they are almost orange and they taste so much better. Now when I see a commercial egg I get kind of grossed out. Not to mention they are much happier than the poor hens that live their lives like this:

Commercial "Free Range Organic" hens

2. They take care of pests and weeds. The photo of the hen at the beginning of this post was taken when they were first moved into that area about a month ago. Now the weeds are all trimmed short and there isn’t any sign of the real problem weeds we have going on. They have a particular penchant for Bermuda grass, which is awesome for us. Of course they also love bugs. Chickens are omnivores. Don’t let the “All Vegetarian Diet” on a carton of eggs fool you. They need animal protein to be healthy, especially during their seasonal molt which can really tax them. And did I mention that they also kill rodents? Yeah, chickens are pretty awesome.

3. They are super easy keepers. With an automatic waterer and large feeder you don’t have to tend to their basic needs that much. Even less if you allow them to free range. The only daily chore for our chickens is collecting eggs. When free ranging they also don’t require as much coop cleaning. We like to utilize deep litter here anyways, which really cuts down on cleaning while also keeping them healthy. You don’t need a rooster to have hens that lay (roosters can sometimes stress hens out too much so they lay less). Plus hens are pretty quiet only making noise for less than 10 min. a day right after laying an egg. This usually occurs late morning and early afternoon. They make no noise between sunset and sunrise. I wish I could say the same about some dogs in our neighborhood.

4. They make your compost. And they make enough of it that you will probably never have to bring offsite compost home again depending on how many chickens you have and how big your garden is. They really are great for low-input gardening.

5. They are entertaining and make great pets. Even though we don’t handle ours much they are still pretty friendly. They let us pick them up and handle them if we need to. If you do handle yours a lot from the very beginning they easily bond with you and can be great for kids.

There are of course many more reasons why you should consider having chickens. This is just a good list to get you started on thinking about why you should get some chickens of your own.

My friends in college used to call me a Renaissance woman. I was always doing something crafty, creative, or utilitarian. I still am. My focus these days, instead of arts and crafts, has been farming as much of my urban quarter acre as humanly possible. With my husband, we run Dog Island Farm in the SF Bay Area. We raise chickens, goats, rabbits, dogs, cats, and a kid. We’re always keeping busy. If I’m not out in the yard I’m in the kitchen making something from scratch. Homemade always tastes better!

Raising Chickens At Home

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Instead of a carton of marshmallow Peeps, my siblings and I were given a flock of newly-hatched New Hampshire Red chicks for Easter.  Unfortunately for me, my shoebox apartment has no room to raise my hen, so continue to pay for my local, organic eggs, while my parents play surrogates to Henny-Penny in my absence, keeping me abreast of her every development.

What's up, Peeps?

What's up, Peeps?

Even though I have had many flocks of chickens nesting in the coop in our backyard since I was a child, I have a newfound sense of propriety over Henny and her sisters.   Perhaps raising this flock from hatchlings to hens has instilled in me a motherly instinct that has lain dormant with the other birds.  Or maybe it’s the current backyard chicken movement that has me so keen on keeping my own flock.  In any case, I am excited for all of the frittatas, omelets, and meringues that these fresh eggs will provide, and the joy that these hens are bringing to my family.

My family has definitely spoiled these eggs rotten.  The hens and roosters we raised as kids typically kept to themselves in the yard, and we merrily collected the eggs in the mornings.  Our chickens were not pets.  But this flock is something special.  They have enjoyed roosting next to our air ducts for warmth, being watched over by our lab, Mick, and being doted on with attention and affection as they have grown.

Mother Hen

Mother Hen

They’re now more than triple the size that they were in April, and are living outdoors, like good eggs ought.  Yet, I have been receiving reports that Henny and her crew are not ready to leave the comforts of home.  They are posting themselves outside the door to the house and scurrying in whenever they can.   My mother has even found them settling down to nest on pillows and in blankets, sitting on the dog’s back like a scene from Peanuts, and even hiding in the corners to avoid being shooed out. You can safely say we have failed at raising backyard chickens.

It will be interesting to see how these hens grow and develop as a result of their environmental conditions.  Maybe there is something to be said for the psychology of raising chickens as housepets –  fresher, tastier eggs? A deeper connection to your food? Do happy hens come from happy homes?  What do you think?

What experiences have you had with raising chickens – I’m sure there are many funny anecdotes to be shared, and we want to hear from you!  Country and city folks alike have taken up the backyard chicken movement – how are you raising your flock?

Share your stories with us in our group Backyard Chickens

If you’re just getting started in raising hens, our informational HG101 has all of the tips and tricks you’ll need to gather the fresh eggs in no time!

The House of Hens

The House of Hens

Announcing The HOMEGROWN Bookshelf

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Today we’re thrilled to announce a new series, called The HOMEGROWN Bookshelf, in partnership with venerated publisher Mother Earth News . The series will pair a practical and informative article on MotherEarthNews.com with an ongoing discussion on HOMEGROWN.org.

The first installment in the HOMEGROWN Bookshelf series comes from Storey Publishing author and beloved blogger (and farmer!) Jenna Woginrich. Jenna’s new book, “Chick Days” is a charming and comprehensive primer for anyone interested in keeping chickens (that’s a lot of us).

HOMEGROWN Bookshelf

Read “Getting Started With Chickens”, then pipe in with your thoughts and questions in the Backyard Chickens Group on HOMEGROWN.org. Jenna will be answering your questions for the rest of April – ask her anything chicken-related!

EXCLUSIVE OFFER TO HOMEGROWNers AND FARM AID FRIENDS AND SUPPORTERS: Get 10% off of your very own copy of “Chick Days” by buying at the Mother Earth News Bookstore and Farm Aid will receive 5% of the proceeds of each sale. Use promotional code: MMEENB3S. Yay! Another way to help Farm Aid!

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