I feel rebellious today. I have felt rather rebellious all day. Maybe it’s something in the wind. Maybe it was the newest article in Mother Earth News, "Backyard Chicken Basics" that inspired the rebellious nature within me.
We have been raising chickens on our humble suburban homestead for about a year now. Ask me two years ago if I would be raising chickens and I would have probably said "Ah, NO!" However, two things changed my mind on that idea. 1. We started keeping bees. Yes, we have had up to three hives on our humble suburban homestead. 2. I discovered that in the factory chicken farms the poor hens are injected with arsenic to induce more egg laying. That arsenic is then passed onto into the eggs. YUCK!
Having the bees on the property has been a delight and fun. However, the use of any insecticide, even organic, to kill; the summer pesky ants, biting fleas and ticks, abundant earwigs (pincher bugs) and numerous sow bugs (pill bugs) that seem to become rather plentiful during the spring and summer became problematic. I feared that anything we use would harm the bees.
Last summer’s salmonella scare from a chronic chicken factory abuser didn't build my confidence in store bought eggs. We had converted to local and “free ranged” eggs already. But, I found that the interpretation of “free range” was rather open ended. Chickens are supposed to be free to walk and eat grass, bugs, scratch in dirt and play in compost. Not all chickens are raised equally apparently.
Being the Choleric Hippy Mommy that I am I did my research using Mother Earth News http://www.motherearthnews.com/ and Back Yard Chicken http://www.backyardchickens.com/ as my resources. A very patient Bill from City Farms Nursery http://www.cityfarmersnursery.com/ answered my 1001 question regarding raising chickens. His motto, “They are chickens” finally gave me the confidence to start out with five. We decided to have fun with variety and get a chicken to represent a variety of different colored eggs. Let’s have fun! Our original five were Araucana (green-blue eggs), Road Island Red (brown eggs) and a Leghorn (white eggs). I discovered rather quickly that once you become a chicken owner one becomes a member of a rather eclectic and fun club. By the end of Spring of last year our five became fourteen with an addition of three beautiful Australorps and four dingy Leghorn Standards. We also inherited a re-purposed playhouse turned coop. Taking plans from Mother Earth News Viking Dad also built a Chicken Tractor.We soon discovered how easy it was to raise chickens. They are very self managing. The best part and huge benefit; they loved sow bugs and earwigs. Problem solved! Another surprise benefit they are great weeders. They will eat just about anything green and pull it up for you. The added benefit is that there poop is great for the garden.
Soon we began getting eggs. The eggs these lovely ladies gave us were yummy, rich tasting and had a golden yoke that can’t be found from store bought eggs.By January 2011, we inherited four more chickens. A tragic accident during the summer brought our count to ten and these four newest ladies brought the count back to fourteen.
In the old tales, myths and legends of our Viking Ancestors, January is called the Starving Times. This is the dead of winter, no matter if it is San Diego County or Sweden, and brings out the primal nature of the wild beasts (yup, coyotes.) Tragically, one January morning as our free range girls were walking to greet us for their breakfast scratch the coyotes dined on ten of our fourteen chickens. The four that survived had been housed, originally as quarantine, in the armored chicken tractor. This was a tragic blow to our family since many of the ladies had become more like pets and partners then just chickens. It also became a teaching moment for our children. (cue Circle of Life theme). Viking Dad has explained to the children that when a pet dies “they drop their physical body and their spirit rises to heaven.”
By the end of the week the family had what we called “Chicken Therapy.” We went and bought seven more chicks. These included: 1 Road Island Red, 1 Production Red, 2 Araucana, 2 Bard Rocks and 1 Mix (we know it is a chicken and not a monkey.) After a month in the living room, the chicks were relocated to a coyote proofed pen. I had to restrain myself from electrifying the fence.
We know have in addition to our “Girls” and “Ladies” we have also an “Organic Alarm Clock” aka a rooster named Royalty. The chickens are still free ranged but under closer supervision when we are home.
Let me start the rebellion!
Top Ten Reasons to Own Chickens…. And join the rebellion!
Eggs from hens raised on seeds, grass and bugs aka truly free ranged are far more nutritious……
- 1/3 less cholesterol
- ¼ less saturated fat
- 2/3 more vitamin A
- 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
- 3 times more vitamin E
- 7 times more beta carotene
- 4 to 6 times more vitamin D
- NO ARSENIC
- You can control the feed and raising of the chickens and know exactly what they eat.
- Stress management! The humor of chickens. After a stressful day one can not take a chicken seriously. Chicken Butt! Just look at a chicken butt. It’s funny!