CLINTON, Iowa —
There’s one more reason to cluck these days.
For those who have admired chickens from afar and have longed to raise them from day-old baby chicks, backyard chicken farming is becoming a reality in big cities and rural communities across the country.
The popularity of chickens can’t be disputed — they can be found everywhere from chicken-chat lines and forums on the Internet to poultry magazines, such as “Backyard Poultry” and “Chickens”, lining end caps in agriculture-based stores.
According to Theresa Loe, one of the producers of "Growing and Greener World" and a chicken expert herself, "chicken keeping is hot right now."
Alicia Rheal, one of the co-founders of Mad City Chickens in Madison, Wis., agrees chickens are here to stay.
Rheal, who helped spearhead legalizing backyard chicken keeping in Madison, said more and more people want to get closer to their food source. They want to have a connection with the land and become more self-sufficient. Even though there isn’t a lot of cost savings that goes into raising chickens, it does, however, “strike a chord with something (people) have been missing.”
Rheal adds that raising chickens makes people more aware of animal conditions and can be used as an educational tool for children, in addition to providing feathery buddies.
“(Chickens are) delightful companions in the backyard,” Rheal said.
As more and more city dwellers become urban chicken farmers, Rheal offers key pieces of advice to keep the peace with the neighbors.
“It can wreak a lot of havoc if you don’t follow the rules. We tend to give away eggs to make neighbors happy,” she said.
Rheal also suggests letting the neighbors help name the chickens and letting them become involved in their chickens’ lives by allowing them to give the hens their food scraps. This way, they can get on board the “chicken campaign.” By allowing neighbor involvement, “they are invested in them.”
For those just starting out, Rheal suggests talking to others who have chickens so they can check out their coop set ups and learn from their mistakes.
Before chickens arrive, Rheal stresses that the coop should be ready or almost ready for them to move into. Coops also should be predator-proof.
Dr. Darrell Trampel, extension poultry veterinarian and poultry diagnostician at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, said some universities that still have a poultry science department have a wealth of information on their websites.
“The University of California at Davis and Pennsylvania State University are examples. Also, there are a number of books available including 'Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens', 'Backyard Poultry' and similar publications provide information to their subscribers on a monthly basis.”
Trempel warns beginners that cute baby chicks grow up to become adult birds.
“Do not buy baby chicks unless you are prepared to provide proper feed and shelter for them as they grow and reach adulthood," Trempel said. "Feed commercial rations purchased from a feed store or grain elevator to ensure that your chickens receive adequate nutrition. Provide clean water and change it daily. Avoid wet conditions or dry, dusty conditions in the chicken house, both contribute to disease. Be aware that in northern climates, heat must be provided during cold months of the year to avoid frost bite of chickens’ combs and toes and to ensure that the water supply does not freeze. Protect your chickens from wild and domestic predators such as raccoons and cats.
"Roosters crowing early in the morning lead to poor relationships with neighbors. Roosters are not needed for hens to lay eggs and should be avoided in urban settings. If all possible, all chickens in a flock should be from the same source flock, be of the same age, and arrive on a premises at the same time.”
As chickens become more and more commonplace and are allowed in major cities such as Seattle and Brooklyn, their appeal also has settled in small towns as well. The city of Camanche, Iowa, recently passed an ordinance giving the green flag to residents who would like to keep chickens in their backyard.
This news was music to Camanche resident Debby McCormick’s ears. McCormick, who recently started raising chickens in her backyard, was glad she didn’t have to part with her flock. Her flock includes Della, a blue-laced wyandotte; Deidra, an Americana; Little Dove, a bantam; Ruby and Tuesday, red star sexlinks; and Izzy and Zoe, brown leghorns. McCormick’s lucky girls are housed in a coop made by the Amish from Pennsylvania.
As McCormick greets her girls in the backyard, you can tell the mutual love and admiration they have for one another. McCormick loves to pick them up and talk directly to them — making each chicken feel special.
In a world where people maintain busy lives, McCormick says this is one way to get back to a “simpler life.”
“Life is simple. We make life so complicated. They are just a joy,” she said.
As a nutritionist, part of the appeal of raising chickens was knowing where her food came from. This way, she knew what the animals were eating and the conditions they lived in. In her mind, chickens crammed into cages is no way to live.
“(It’s) inhumane to God’s creatures; disrespectful to nature,” said McCormick.
McCormick loves giving her girls cucumbers, cantaloupe rinds and even pineapple.
“They eat everything. Nothing gets wasted.”
As McCormick’s love for her chickens has grown, she indulges them in homemade chicken treats. Her blend, which differs all the time, can include wheat berries, peanuts, raisins, lentils, oats, millet, sunflower seed and flax seed.
For McCormick, raising chickens in her backyard has evolved into a labor of love and one that she enjoys sharing with others including her granddaughters.
Angie Bicker has been the lifestyle editor with the Clinton Herald in Clinton, Iowa, since 2001 and started raising chickens 3 1/2 years ago. Bicker’s weekly column, which is published on Wednesday, has centered around her hobby and the growing love she has for her pearl white leghorns at Klucker Farms. Since raising her flock from day-old baby chicks she received in the mail from the Murray McMurray Hatchery in Webster City, Iowa, Angie has learned a lot along the way and has shared those lessons with her readers. Angie is fondly called “the chicken lady” by Herald readers and jokes that she never thought chickens would be her claim to fame. She can be reached at email@example.com.
CLINTON, Iowa —
There’s one more reason to cluck these days.
AS I SEE IT: Impatiently waiting for spring
Snow is sheeting off my neighbor’s roof as I sit at the desk thumbing through Soft Surroundings’ spring catalog. I can’t find a thing I want, and that’s never a good sign. What’s the use of thumb shopping when it looks like there might not even be a spring this year? But then comes the rolling thunder, and I half expect the snow to rearrange itself into a swirling spring funnel. Hamlet would say the time is out of joint, and I’d have to agree for a number of reasons.
In addition to this ongoing abominable weather, I personally have been plagued by a number of both literal and figurative out-of-joint events including a near-fatal trip to Bed Bath & Beyond.
Most deadly fraternity scraps initiation for new members
Sigma Alpha Epsilon, one of the largest U.S. fraternities and the deadliest, said Friday it will ban the initiation of recruits, citing the toll that hazing has taken on its newest members.
ProCure encourages Oklahomans to screen for cancer
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, cancer is the second-leading cause of death in Oklahoma. ProCure Proton Therapy Center in Oklahoma City, a treatment facility that uses proton therapy to help patients fight cancer, is encouraging Oklahomans to understand the importance of regular screening and early detection for various types of cancers.
Don’t let pond issues become major problems
Managing ponds is a lot like doing laundry in the sense that if you do not keep up with it, you could be overwhelmed.
Stay the course with potty training
Q: I’ve been using the method described in your toilet-training book with my 18-month-old daughter and she’s been doing great during the day. She rarely has an accident. However, I’m still using a diaper at nap-time and during the night (waiting for some consistency in dryness before taking that away). Is that correct? The only problem is she’s figured out the routine and now only poops in her diaper when I put her down to sleep. She has not gone poop on the potty during the day for several weeks. Is that cause for concern? Should I take away the diapers totally? I don’t want to create a bad habit. Thanks!
Iris Lochner remains young at heart
It was a hot humid afternoon in August when my 9-year-old grand daughter had asked me to drive her to the Fine Arts Institute of Edmond to find out about the Edmond Youth Chorus. I didn’t want to go. I was tired, my energy depleted from the 100-degree heat. But I took her, mentally griping the whole way.
How to maintain a home throughout the years
According to the National Association of Home Builders, the average cost of maintaining a home is $558 per year. Across the board, experts advise homeowners set aside 1 to 2 percent of the cost of their home for home repairs. Maintenance and repairs can’t always be avoided but some steps can be taken to decrease the frequency and cost, especially regarding heating and air.
Changing your brain keeps it sharp as you age
After she retired from her job as a medical transcriptionist, Elaine Savage grew isolated. She rarely went out or talked to friends on the phone. She relied on her family to do her grocery shopping.
Brownville: Where retirees go to work
I firmly believe that if retirees don’t find meaningful activities, they do not flourish. It’s the same with little towns — stay active or die. Brownville, Neb., could have done that. Thanks to some brilliant and committed folks creating second careers, Brownville now is making a comeback.
INTEGRIS James L. Hall Jr. Center for Mind, Body and Spirit Celebration
The INTEGRIS James L. Hall Jr. Center for Mind, Body and Spirit will celebrate the bi-annual Patricia Price Browne Lecture Series Luncheon this month. The event is a celebration in memory of Patricia Price Browne and Gene Barth. It is set for 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 27 at the Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club.
- More Features Headlines
- AS I SEE IT: Impatiently waiting for spring