Raising chickens is the natural next step for anyone growing her own fruit and vegetables. And the popularity of “homesteading” like this has a lot to do with the economy: Raising your own food is almost always cheaper than buying it at the store.
Plus, chickens make great pets, says Patricia Foreman, author of City Chicks and co-host of the Chicken Whisperer Talk Show on blogtalkradio.com. “They’re not the dirty, stupid, prickly birds they’re reputed to be.” To work on their image, Foreman has what she calls “chicken ambassadors” (named Oprah Henfrey and Attila the Hen, by the way), which she brings to schools and nursing homes to spread the good word about chicken rearing.
Here are some of her tips:
Get six to eight hens.
At their peak, each chicken will produce an egg a day. After just a couple of years, production will decrease, but they’re still useful: They act as insect regulators, eating ticks and fleas. They also can help keep waste out of landfills, as they will eat (and enjoy) your kitchen scraps.
Have a good coop.
Be sure they have a coop structure in which they will be protected from nocturnal predators. The design can vary, but it should have a roof, a branch or 2-by-4 for roosting, and a “run,” where the chickens have space to roam.
Local poultry club members can tell you good breeds for your area.
Check the laws.
In many municipalities, hens are OK, but roosters are not; in others, no chickens are allowed.