June 18th to 25th is Wasatch Community Gardens’ chicken week here in Salt Lake. (Not the grilled or crispy variety, but the backyard pseudo-pet kind). WCG is hosting many activities this week including the extremely popular Tour de Coops on Saturday, June 25th at 10:00 (the South Valley tour is full, but registration is still open for the downtown tour). Since Salt Lake allowed the practice of raising chickens in 2009, people have been ‘flocking’ to chicken farms for expert advice and tips on raising chickens in their own yards.
So what is this backyard chicken thing all about? For many, the lure of having fresh, healthy eggs at a fraction of the cost is one reason for the sudden interest, but for Cynthia Hinkson and her husband Kent, the desire to become more self-reliant is what led them to the 6 new avian family members which now reside in the backyard of their Orem home. Having 6 ready-to-lay hens gives them 3-5 fresh eggs a day since they lay on a 25-30 hour schedule. And the cost? Minimal. “We buy mixed grain to produce higher omega fat eggs and a 40 lb bag of that is $11.50. We go through about a bag a month with our chickens. Plus we feed them oyster shells to replace the calcium they are losing every day. A bag costs $11 and lasted us 10 months. We also feed them scraps from veggies and leftover cooked meats. (We throw it all in our food processor and grind it up for them.) So in all we spend about $12.50 a month on chickens in exchange for approximately ten dozen eggs. But you’d have to pay $4 a dozen to get the same quality of eggs.”
With the expenses so low and the idea of having a mini farm in your backyard, it may seem like a turkey shoot (sorry, another pun) but there are strict rules and standards to adhere to, such as: coops need to be at least 50 ft from your neighbor’s house, it must be cleaned at least every 2 weeks and you can’t slaughter the bird in the backyard for all the neighborhood kids to see. For the full revised set of rules, click here. But if you stick to the guidelines, raising poultry can be easy and fun for the whole family.
So what advice do the Hinksons’ have for anyone thinking of rearing fowl? “Research information on diet and coops. Chickens lose a lot of calcium and protein every day they lay an egg so you need to make sure those are being replaced with their diet. Also, there are lots of different varieties of chickens (a few of their hens actually lay green eggs!) so find a couple of different breeds and bring them together for your flock. But be sure to introduce them correctly or you could lose some of your hens. There is reason behind the term ‘pecking order’! “
For more information on backyard chicken raising visit www.backyardchickens.com.