by Eileen Weber
Some say it’s because of the recession. Others say it’s an increased interest in organic food. Others look at it as a way to help the environment. Either way, there are a growing number of homeowners that have a backyard chicken coop.
For chicken enthusiasts, these birds are not just dinner. They say they make great pets and their waste can be used as fertilizer for any vegetable garden. Kind of like killing two birds with one stone, so to speak.
According to an article dated July 15th in The Wall Street Journal, homeowners are increasingly turning to raising chickens as a way to economically benefit from the free eggs. But those opposed to backyard coops say it draws unwanted pests like raccoons and coyotes. Barbara Palermo, a chicken owner and resident of Salem, Ore., said that in her opinion the pros outweigh the cons. "In 24 hours, it will be an egg and fertilizer," she said.
For some, having a fresh egg with a vivid orange yolk for breakfast seems to be a great motivator. But the economy is on everyone’s mind and people are looking to find ways to ease their financial burdens.
In a New York Times article dated August 9th, Lloyd Romriell of Annis, Idaho recently received seven grown chickens and a coop from a relative. He sees it as a way to beat the tough economy. “It’s because times are tough. You never know what’s going to happen,” he said. “If you lose your job tomorrow, you’ve still got food.”
On April 15th, The U.S. News and World Report quoted Rob Ludlow of Pleasant Hill, Calif., owner of BackyardChickens.com, on the increased interest in raising chickens. He said they are relatively easy to care for as pets, lots of people are interested in getting food from humane, local sources, and, as with Romriell, they provide a food source in tough economic times.
"With the way the economy is going, people like the idea they can have access to quality eggs and meat right from their backyard, if they need to," Ludlow said.
The Los Angeles Times reported on June 15th that homeowners in the region were building their own backyard coops. But not everyone sees the benefits of a backyard coop. Evan Feinberg, a technology consultant in Madison who said he grew up on a Midwest farm, is less than thrilled with that particular choice of pet in his neighborhood.
"I moved to the city for a reason," he said. "I never wanted to see another chicken, unless it's wrapped in plastic."
Despite that, hatcheries across the nation have seen a spike in their net proceeds, especially for smaller, individual orders. The baby chicks, which typically run about $1 to $5 each depending on the breed, are air mailed to the consumer. Talk about precious cargo.
But while the chicks are relatively inexpensive, there are still the coops, the fencing, and the feed to think about. In the August 9th New York Times article, Jasmin Middlebos, who lives with her family outside Spokane, Wash., began raising chickens last year with 26 birds laying up to two dozen eggs a day. Last fall, she started selling some of the eggs and tracked the income. Middlebos said she earned $457 from egg sales but spent $428, mostly on feed. The $29 profit puts the economic claim in perspective.
But that apparently isn’t stopping a lot of homeowners from trying it out, anyway. With places like My Pet Chicken in Norwalk as well as Mt. Healthy Hatchery in Ohio and Murray McMurray Hatchery in Iowa, there are a number of options to choose from. Order your baby chicks and their accoutrements online and within a matter of days you have yourself a little farm.
But farm or no farm, many people don’t appreciate the noise factor. Hens cackle when they lay an egg. Add a rooster and you’ve got yourself a ruckus. Roosters don’t just cockle-doodle-doo first thing in the morning. They do it all day long. Afternoon. Evening. Or just because the mood strikes. For chicken lovers, there is a saying: If it lays, it stays. If it crows, it goes.
The choice to raise chickens is a personal preference just like having any other pet. And like any other choice you make in life, you are responsible for it. Whether it’s cost, food, or just having a different kind of pet, a chicken can be a positive addition to any family.
Photo courtesy of My Pet Chicken.