I'm almost ready for the next phase of FarmTina: Raising chickens in my backyard.
Keeping chickens in the city is becoming pretty popular, and I actually think it's less work than having a pet dog! Chickens don't mind the cold in winter, and as long as they have protection from snow and rain, they'll lay eggs for me all year round. I would raise them as pets who supply eggs, not for their meat.
The chicken eggs that we eat are unfertilized eggs that the hen's body is getting rid of, usually laying an egg once every 24-27 hours. As long as there is no cock around to fertilize the hen's eggs, there is no chance that the egg could contain a fetus. When she lays these unfertilized eggs, the hen doesn't mind that we steal them out of her nest. In fact, if you don't regularly remove the eggs, the hen could become broody: this means she is confused into thinking the eggs in her nest contain babies. She'll sit on them and protect them for up to 3 weeks, the time in which it usually takes a fertilized egg to hatch.
The first step would be to create a home for my chickens. They need an enclosed space in which to safely lay their eggs and sleep, and they also need an outdoor area for exercise. I am obsessed with the Omlet Eglu chicken coop, pictured left. It's made for people who want to raise 2-4 chickens in a small space. I swear, the fact that it comes in pink has nothing to do with why I want it. Really. I promise. It's true. Really.
The next step is to pick out my chickens! It is illegal in New York City to keep roosters (think of the 5am cock-a-doodle-doos!) but I can legally keep an unlimited number of hens as long as I don't sell their eggs or meat. The breed I choose will affect the quantity and color of the eggs (white? brown?), their personality (calm? social?), and the conditions in which they thrive (wet weather? running space?). Because of my limitations on space and available manpower, I'll probably keep 2 chickens. I'll need to clip their wings so they don't fly away!
Once the chickens are introduced to their space, they'll create a natural pecking order. It could get aggressive at first, but humans shouldn't interfere! They'll do this each time a new chicken is introduced or removed from the community.
The chickens should be safe in their home in my backyard as long as the coop door is closed and the chicken run is sealed off. When they're running around my yard freely they can hold their own, pecking at cats or dogs to keep them away and eating bugs from my garden (Yes! Pest control!) One serious chicken predator is the fox, but who knows how many of those we have around Brooklyn?
Daily, my responsibilities would include:
- Open the chicken coop and run to allow them to move around the yard under my watchful eye.
- While they're out and about, collect their eggs from the nests.
- Check their food and water levels, and in the winter, monitor the water for freezing.
Weekly, my responsibilities would include:
- Collect manure from the chicken coop to use for garden fertilizer (adhering to proper poo usage guidelines) and clean the coop.
- Clean the chicken run by raking the ground and adding more ground cover.
- Give my birds a quick health check: head, eyes, legs, nose, comb (the red stuff on top of the head), and vent (the all-purpose hole for poos and pees and eggs and sexy time).
I'm pretty excited for the daily supply of fresh eggs. Yes, that's right: ONE EGG PER HEN EVERY SINGLE DAY! And if I use them in the same day they're harvested, they don't even need to be refrigerated! Fresh eggs are healthier, have a stronger flavor, and have firmer yolks. A rotten egg will look normal, but the yolk will break at the slightest touch, it will be full of bacteria, and you'll be losing lots of the nutrients that were once present in the egg. Quick way to test the quality of an egg: if it floats in water, it's rotten.
So what's the hold up? Well, the chicken coop & materials, food & supplies, and the chickens themselves will cost me around $600 total to get started. After that, there's not much more cost involved other than buying their food. I'm working on raising money for my chickens through donations, but don't feel guilty if you can't donate... you're already helping out by being on the site! I earn money through those ads you see on the right. The more donations and ad money I can earn, the sooner you'll get to read about my adventures (and probably my mistakes) in raising chickens in the city!
In the meantime, check out these translations of "cock-a-doodle-do" in many languages on the Omlet website. And while you're there, I'm sure you'll spend hours looking at all of the city farming supplies they offer, including chicken coops, rabbit hutches, and beehives. That's the order I'm following for FarmTina: after the garden comes chickens, then rabbits, and then bees. And then world domination.