Eggs are one of the most compact, economical, low-calorie, high quality foods on the planet. One study found that more than 90 percent of people who raise or keep chickens do so for fresh eggs. Farm fresh eggs, like most farm fresh edibles, are both richer in nutrients and tastier than store-bought. Additionally, chickens are:
• fairly inexpensive
• easy to keep
• produce wonderful fertilizer
• help control bugs and weeds
• have personality and beauty
• taste delicious
• eggs are large, medium or small
• eggs can be brown, white, blue,
speckled and other colors.
It is advisable to raise chicks all together as once a flock is formed, it can be tricky to introduce new hens. While they cluck, cluck, cluck around the clock, the ones who grow up together bond in one tight clique. They can peck at newcomers, assuring that the recent additions are lowest on that proverbial pecking order.
Backyard chickens are not permitted in many residential neighborhoods in the New River Valley, though they are permitted on some land in all counties. Zoning generally controls agricultural designations where one can keep chickens ~ or horses, cows, pigs, sheep or goats. Chickens are not permitted, for example, in the Town of Pulaski, but as of last November, they are allowed throughout Pulaski County. Several municipalities which allow backyard chickens have restrictions on number of hens, no roosters, enclosures and so on. Check the rules before buying property if you are inclined to want chickens, a pet goat, pony or other livestock.
You can easily retrofit an outbuilding or buy or build a chicken enclosure. Half the fun is letting them out during the day to go bug-hunting and fertilize your lawn and garden areas, though free range is not permitted in every locality. The cool thing about chickens is that you don’t have to round them up at dusk. They will naturally find their way back to the coop and fly up to a roosting bar for the night.
Since chickens do not require large blocks of time or big money, they are wonderful to teach responsibility to children. Many 4-H groups and farm shows have a chicken category. From getting chicks at a farm store or through the mail to watching them grow up and produce that first egg (around 5 or 6 months old), it’s fun for all ages. The more they are handled as chicks, the easier it will be to handle them later. Once chickens are producing, one can let nature make more by adding a rooster to the flock, if permitted in your area. Downsides might include some noisy clucking, odor if their space is not cleaned often and the occasional escapee, which will come back at dusk to get inside, if not attacked while on the lam.
If you don’t want chicken droppings on your porch or in the driveway or your municipality does not allow free range, they can be perfectly content and more safe in a large fenced area adjacent to the coop. It’s wise to either enclose this over the top with chicken wire or latch the door to their coop every night, safe from predators. Seems foxes, coyotes, cats and other critters enjoy chicken as much as humans. Whether you raise chickens for meat, eggs, profit, show or some combination of objectives, you’ll find them interesting. Cluck, cluck, cluck.
Text by Joanne M. Anderson