Thursday, October 6, 2011

"The Girls"- our laying hens

My husband’s grandpa has chickens for eggs on his farm and we always bring some home with us when we go to visit.  It was always a treat to get his eggs.  Then one day I happened to learn that a friend of mine had chickens in her backyard and she lives in a neighboring large city.  I had never heard of someone having chickens in town!  So, I researched the laws and sure enough, we could have chickens in our suburban back yard.  That’s all I needed to know!  I convinced my husband by telling him I would feed them, love them, clean up after them and everything.  So, we started building the coop.  It was winter time and snowing…not really a good time to build a coop but once I get my mind on something there is no stopping me!  We started off with three chickens and after two tragedies and a series of other events we now have six.  We have three Black Australorps (Helen, Thelma Lou and Aunt Bee), two Rhode Island Reds (Omelet and Elvis) and one Cinnamon Queen (Big Mama).  They sure make the backyard lively!  We used to let them roam the yard in the evenings but then we decided we didn’t like stepping in chicken stuff all over the yard.  So, now, their pen has sand in the bottom so it can easily be cleaned with a litter box scooper.  My sweet husband also fenced in a small area of the yard where we let them out to eat grass, bugs, etc. 
The first time we walked outside and found breakfast right there in the laying box was a miracle.  How fascinating!  Now, I enjoy gathering about four eggs a day.  What I also enjoy about the eggs is the added health benefits as opposed to store bought eggs.  Most of the eggs sold in stores are from chickens that spend their life in a small cage.  All they do is eat antibiotic feed and lay eggs.  They don’t get to move, be social or see the outdoors.  Do you really want to eat that?  Some “free range” varieties allow the chickens to be loose in the house but they don’t actually go outside.  Our chickens get exercise, eat bugs they dig up as well as non-antibiotic feed, have fresh water each day, etc.  If you ever crack a store bought egg into a skillet next to a farm fresh egg you will notice a difference.  A farm fresh egg has a deep, rich colored yolk.  That is because it’s packed with more nutrients! 
Keeping laying hens isn’t hard.  You should check your city laws to see if they allow you to have them.  If you can’t or don’t want to keep your own hens, support a local farmer and buy his eggs.  You can buy several dozen at a time.  They will keep for weeks since they are fresh.
Note:  We purchased our hens young but full grown and already laying.  We didn’t have to raise them from chicks.  You can if you want but this is always a great option.

Our first eggs

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