Oh chicken poop!
I just recently acquired two laying hens and. . .so far so good! The kids immediately took to them, with my daughter naming her chicken Lilly and my son naming his Tractor Pants. Of course my bird dog is wondering why she’s not allowed to flush them like she would normally do while grouse hunting in the nearby woods. Instead she’s decided to intimidate the heck out of them by staring at them through the fence while they try to enjoy their free range time. Likewise my son has been trying to figure out how to pet them, which basically results in him chasing them around their yard until he tires of this activity.
Even with all of this going on, they have been pretty consistent in terms of laying eggs for the family. Sure, I guess it probably would have made more financial sense to purchase fresh eggs from the local farmers at around $3.00/dozen, especially since the eggs we are getting at the house are probably costing closer to $100.00/dozen when you look at the cost and time associated with building the coop! However, for those of you out there with kids (or not), raising a small flock of chickens in the backyard is a great educational experience and a fresh source of backyard protein to boot.
As for time commitments associated with raising laying hens, once the coop and pen are established you are looking at about a half hour per day at a maximum. At a minimum, depending on the type of facility you have for them, you need to make sure they have water and you will want to get the eggs at the end of the day (5 minutes maybe). Better yet (and back to the kid thing) if you have kids, let them help out and eventually take over the daily responsibilities. Yeah, they’ll learn quickly that eggs do not come from the grocery store!
For those of you out there that have been thinking about jumping on the backyard poultry wagon there are plenty of informative books at the Buncombe County Libraries. Also, if you do not have the time and know how to construct a coop there are plenty of places here in town selling pre-fabricated chicken coops. One final but very important note to consider prior to running out and getting some chickens is to first check for any restrictions or ordinances that may apply to where you plan on establishing your poultry venture.
-Win Taylor, Certified Fisheries Biologist, Backyard Gardener