They had some longtime family friends, Howard and Patricia Swanson, who lived on a cattle ranch not too far from town and we went for a visit one bright sunny morning.
Now, I grew up in a neighborhood with straight streets, sidewalks, and everyone had fences around their backyards. Not exactly country living.
So, being on a real ranch was a totally new experience for me. I mean, they had actual cows in their barn. And real live chickens too—in a little building off to the side of the main house.
Mrs. Swanson sent her two girls out with us, who showed us around. We went to the barn to see their calves. Each of these girls had raised a calf for a 4-H project. They treated them like pets. That was almost too much for me to handle. How can a cow be a pet?
The eggs were still warm
Then we went to the chicken house to look for fresh eggs. These ranch girls just reached in and picked up a few eggs from the nesting boxes. They put one in my hand and it was still warm.
Now I had seen cows and chickens and I knew where milk and eggs came from. But reality suddenly hit me like a ton of hay bales: This is where eggs really come from!!
I was in a state of amazement and wonderment. And I must confess, I was a little bit disgusted. It all seemed so dirty and weird. The eggs had gunk on them. How gross.
Well I guess that’s why there are so many organizations to get City kids out into the Country to see first hand how food and livestock are raised. Otherwise, they just think everything comes from the grocery store.
I hate to admit it, but I was almost in the same category as those City kids.
Back then, I had never heard of anyone ever raising their own chickens. It was something from the past. Why go to all that bother?
We’re making progress
Fortunately, attitudes and awareness of what we eat have changed.
More and more people are raising their own chickens, and not just folks who live out in the country.
I know of very posh neighborhoods (which is the last place you might think this would catch on), where folks are raising their own chickens.
Even in New York City people are raising chickens. Imagine THAT! It’s kind of becoming the new status symbol. Move over Mercedes-Benz.
Well, if they can do it, you can do it.
OG 365 Timeless Gardening Tip #21: Raise your own chickens for fresh eggs and/or meat.
There are basically two responses to this suggestion:
• You’ve got to be out of your mind. That is too much work. The chickens will stink and make too much noise. I’ll just keep buying my organic eggs locally and support someone else’s efforts.
• OR: What a great idea. I’ve always wanted to have my own fresh eggs. I’ll have to learn what to do, but it sounds like a lot of fun.
It is not nearly as complicated as you might think. And there is nothing quite like the thrill of finding that first fresh egg in the nesting box.
There are gobs of reasons to raise your own chickens. Here are a few:
- You get REALLY fresh eggs and /or meat. And organic eggs are much healthier and taste better than eggs from the supermarket.
- You control what your chickens eat so you know there are no harmful chemicals in what you feed your family.
- Your chickens have a healthy environment with access to fresh air and water and can scratch in real dirt. A healthy chicken is a happy chicken. Yes, chickens can be happy.
- Chickens can eat a bucket load of bad bugs, including ticks, from your garden. They also eat many weeds. Ah shucks.
- Chickens are little bio-recyclers. The will eat your kitchen scraps and recycle them into nitrogen-rich poop which can go right into your compost pile. Your garden soil will thank you.
- Hens don’t make the neighbor-agitating ruckus that roosters do. And you don’t need a rooster to get eggs from your hens.
- It’s easy to build your own chicken coop from scratch or you can buy them as kits or pre-assembled.
- If you have enough room to have lots of hens, you can produce enough eggs to sell and make a little extra income.
- Believe it or not, chickens make amazing pets.
And here’s the BONUS: chickens come up with the most outlandish names for themselves and somehow communicate with you so you know what to call them.
So think about raising your own chickens
You’ll need to do some research. Go to the library or search online for information about building a chicken coop and how to get started with everything you kneed to know. Here are some books on how to raise chickens.
Many communities, even in suburbia, allow you to have 4 to 5 laying hens (no roosters) in your yard. Obviously you need to check with your municipality to see what the specific ordinance is for your community.
- Find out if anyone in your neighborhood is already producing the freshest eggs possible. You can share ideas and be a support to each other. And you can “chicken sit” for each other when you go on vacation.
- Scout out local resources for supplies, both to build your chicken house and to feed and care for your feathered friends once you’re up and running.
- Make sure you give them organic chicken scratch to eat. And don’t use any chemical pesticides, etc, in your yard or nearby. Eggs full of poison are not on the menu, thank you very much.
It going to take a little work, but is well worth the effort. There’s nothing like eating fresh eggs right from your own backyard.
Are you raising your own chickens or thinking about it? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Here’s to getting a little something eggstra from your garden,James Early Organic Gardening 365. Helping you get the most out of your organic garden all year long P. S. For the complete series of OG 365 Timeless Gardening Tips, click here.
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