With Easter landing on April Fool's Day it brought to mind that old joke, what came first, the chicken or the egg? Chickens have caught on with folks interested in getting back to the earth and many back yards are being transformed with chicken houses. The Suburban farm is catching on even here in Morro Bay.
Backyard chickens are relatively easy to raise and care for and a family can reap a supply of fresh eggs every morning. All of this began with the Hobby Farm movement that sprang up about ten years ago. People were searching for ways to live "green" and raise families more closely aligned with sustainable practices in supplying their own food. Gardens suddenly became small scale plots and when turning to raising animals many hobbyists began with chickens.
This is becoming so popular that Hollywood stars are getting into the act. A recent short article in Modern Farmer magazine carried an interview with Isabella Rossellini, daughter of Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini. Rossellini recently wrote a book entitled "My Chickens and I" published by Abrams Books telling the story of the 100 heritage chickens she raises. Oddly enough her parents at one time collaborated on a short film called "The Chicken." One of Rossellini's desires was to be sure of obtaining good food from farmers she knew. Out of that came a 28-acre farm on Long Island, New York where she grows her own veggies along with raising chickens.
It doesn't take much to begin with chickens. One can start by purchasing baby chicks or get nearly grown hens that are ready to lay. Coops are available in all sizes either at a farm supply outlet or online. If you are handy you can get instructions online and build your own coop. You want to obtain enough hens that your space will accommodate easily and not overrun it. Since chickens are social animals it is necessary to have at least four to make a flock.
Maintenance daily involves letting the chickens out into a fenced yard every morning and doing whatever clean-up is required. Collect the eggs and top off the water. Chickens must be returned to the coop every evening and not left out at night. Here in Morro Bay we deal with a certain amount of wildlife such as coyotes, raccoons, and opossum.
Breed choices for chickens are many but lately there is a big interest in heritage breeds, ones that were once common at the beginning of our country but have nearly disappeared. It's rewarding to raise heritage chickens to keep these breeds alive. You can research heritage breeds online and study the different needs. Based on that you can make an intelligent decision as to what breeds will work for you.
You do not need a rooster to obtain eggs from hens. Roosters crow, as we all well know, and they can do this at any hour of the day or night. Most towns have laws prohibiting people from having roosters so check with your local officials.
Good sources for information on raising chickens are your local farm supply store, and online at www.backyardchickens.com. There are a variety of publications available, among them Hobby Farms published by EG Media that puts out a publication entitled "Chickens" devoted entirely to all aspects of caring for chickens. They also have an annual poultry issue in their main publication.
Chicken farming is fun and can be a great educational tool for your children and grandkids! With this trend catching on perhaps we'll eventually find out which did come first, the chicken or the egg.