The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

September 26, 2012

BICKER: There are many good reasons to raise chickens

By Angie Bicker
Lifestyle Editor

CLINTON — The popularity of chickens never ceases to amaze me. They seem to be the “in” accessory just like a cute purse.

Urban chicken farmers have become a new and fascinating craze that has spread across the country.

For me, raising chickens was something I always wanted to do because my grandmother raised them.

However, in recent years, people have become more health conscious and knowing where their food comes from has become a high priority. I think that is why farmers’ markets have become so popular.

Raising chickens is not rocket science and its doable right in your own backyard. It’s possible to raise a few hens and have farm-fresh eggs when you walk out your backdoor.

When it comes to raising livestock, I think chickens are about the easiest when it comes down to cost and management. For example, I can purchase 1-day-old baby chicks, all females, from my friends at the Murray McMurray Hatchery for $2.23 a piece if I get between 25 to 49.

Obviously, the price varies from breed to breed but compared to other livestock they’re pretty cheap.

I recently watched a program on Iowa Public Television, “Growing a Greener World: Backyard Chickens.” This program was very informative. The host not only emphasized their ability to provide good food, but entertainment as well. They can definitely become family pets and tried-and-true companions who will follow you around all day long.

I have come to the conclusion that my hens are more like dogs than chickens. When I stand outside the coop, clap my hands and yell, “Come on out girls,” my hens literally can’t get to me fast enough.

This summer I taught them a trick. And let me tell you, they were a lot easier to train than my dog who thinks tricks are a waste of time.

My dad built some ledges out in their pen for roosting during the day. I managed to train my girls to jump up on the roosts by snapping my fingers and giving them a reward — grass.

Now, every time they see me, everyone is clamoring and fighting each other to get their prime spot on the roost so they can get some grass. Some have become pretty clever and are jumping from roost to roost.

When I explain this to people, they don’t believe me. I guess you have to see it to believe it.

When it comes to cost, chicken coops can be constructed for a reasonable amount with scraps that can be found around the house. This program did a good job of demonstrating how to build a critter-proof coop for a couple hens for around $200. Obviously, the price goes up with a bigger brood. Coops can be pretty basic or very fancy depending on your taste.

My coop is probably a bit swankier than most with insulation and electricity. My hens also have the luxury of listening to a radio all day and all night, which helps keep critters away and helps me sleep better at night.

They also have heat lamps in the wintertime so their feet won’t get frostbite. I also enjoy the heat lamp because it warms me up too.

City officials in Camanche recently passed an ordinance allowing residents to raise no more than six hens in their backyard.

I give them two thumbs up on this move. I think more towns should offer this to residents.

In a society where obesity has taken center stage, raising chickens definitely promotes a healthier lifestyle.

They provide happiness, good food and fertilizer for your garden. What could be better?

Angie Bicker has been employed with the Clinton Herald since 2001. She can be reached at angiebicker@clintonherald.com.