If you eat eggs, you should be thinking very, very carefully about what you’re putting into your grocery cart. The news surrounding poultry these days is downright terrifying.
Consider the events of recent months: Workers at a contract farm for Tyson in Delaware captured on video clubbing chickens, depriving them of food and water, and forcing them into extreme confinement. The worst outbreak of avian flu (or bird flu) in U.S. history, which has more than doubled egg prices nationwide. Recall after recall after recall of possibly disease-tainted poultry.
The list goes on.
Switching to sustainable, non-factory farmed chicken and egg products is a no-brainer. But many people are looking beyond supermarket brands—to their own backyards.
You should know that becoming a suburban or urban farmer—that’s what you become when you raise chickens—is hard work, and not for everyone. A few years back, NBC News reported on the trend of folks dumping their chickens at animal shelters and sanctuaries when they discover how difficult raising them can be.
“Many areas with legalized hen-keeping are experiencing more and more of these birds coming in when they’re no longer wanted,” Paul Shapiro, spokesman for the Humane Society of the United States, told NBC. “You get some chicks and they’re very cute, but it’s not as though you can throw them out in the yard and not care for them.”
Thankfully, if you’re still interested in keeping chickens, there may be resources nearby that can show you the ropes and get you set up to start collecting yard-fresh eggs this season.
Here are just a few of the many examples:
– Green City Growers, a Boston company that specializes in urban and rooftop agriculture, has just this year gotten into the chicken coop business. Not only will GCG install your new coop and run, they’ll train you in the ways of chicken-keeping and follow up with visits to check on the health of your birds.
– Would-be backyard chicken farmers who live in California can call Cherie, who is a chicken consultant. You read that right: Cherie, who has for years raised chickens “for fresh eggs, for show, and for the dinner table,” blogs her expertise at www.chickensforeggs.com and is available to help you choose the right coop, rear healthy chicks, feed your chickens correctly, and even “chicken sit” when you are on vacation. Clucking serious.
– In the Chicagoland area, Jennifer Murtoff provides similar services to urban and suburban households keeping chickens.
– Finally, maybe you should go back to chicken college. Seriously, the University of Minnesota Extension School offers courses in food and agriculture, including backyard chicken basics. The course goes over chicken keeping from every angle, from purchasing the birds to managing manure to harvesting eggs.
There’s no doubt the most reliable source for clean, healthy food—from produce to chickens—is your yard. To be sure, not every family or yard is cut out for chickens. But for those who are, these resources may make getting into raising your own poultry easier than ever.
Photo credit: Sarah Sammis via Flickr
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