The garden is going to the birds!
Over the last several years there has been a large resurgence in gardening for food in the suburban backyard. Websites, magazines and televisions seem filled with advice on getting the largest harvest from your garden, square foot gardening, converting lawns to gardens and more. Hot on the heels of this growing interest comes a new trend — one that takes the idea of gardening up to the level of farming, even in the middle of a large metropolis like New York City or Los Angeles. Leading the charge in this new trend is the idea of raising your own backyard chickens.
Here in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, I have often seen various types of backyard livestock. Despite the fact that we are a heavily urban area, there are pockets of ranch and equestrian neighborhoods scattered throughout our city. In these areas it wasn’t that unusual to see an occasional chicken, rabbit or even a goat. That said, when our close friends divulged they were building a hen house in urban Woodland Hills, we were a bit taken aback. Then, a few years later, another friend did the same thing. Now it seems to be a national, if not international trend. Surely you couldn’t be allowed to raise chickens just down the street from the latest Chipotle or Jerry’s Famous Deli. Like most metro areas, though, this is exactly the case. Regulations vary from city to city, but most allow you to keep a few hens (no roosters, please) on your property for your own use.
As you might imagine, fresh eggs — the freshest you have ever eaten — are one big draw of backyard chickens, but there are also the benefits of reconnecting your family (especially kids) to nature.
Keri Dearborn says of her backyard chickens, “Beside providing eggs, chickens naturally recycle kitchen scraps into fertilizer. They also do something that I never expected. When they are out foraging in the yard, they create a sense of peacefulness. Just watching them explore and go about their lives had a zen feeling to it.”
Backyard chickens take time and money, though. Feed and bedding, while not overly expensive, do have a cost, but time is probably more critical.
“Chickens are early risers and go to sleep with the sun. If your days are long, you might have trouble feeding them. They prefer to see the food put down, without that visual stimulation they tend to eat less and be less healthy. They need a sturdy coop to keep out predators and just the right amount of sunlight and shade.” says Dearborn.
You won’t save money raising chickens, as feed and maintenance costs mount, but that seems beside the point.
Susie O’Connell, another Valley chicken farmer says, “It’s been a great experience for me and my kids. The jury’s still out on my husband, but even he appreciates the fresh eggs and ample chicken poop fertilizer for our garden.”
You can find extensive information about raising your own chickens on line, including the blog, Back Yard Chickens at http://www.backyardchickens.com/.