by Jessie Fetterling – Photographed by Kenneth B. Hill
Have you ever considered raising chickens in your own backyard? Whether you live in the city or the country, you can raise a few hens and enjoy fresh eggs that are significantly more nutritious than commercial eggs you purchase at the supermarket.
Local laws concerning poultry vary from city to city. In a 2003 survey organized by Mother Earth News, four out of 20 cities did not permit chickens, but eight allowed an unlimited number.
In 2004, Alicia Rheal and Bryan Whiting of Madison, Wisconsin, organized a group – Mad City Chickens – to encourage a change in the laws of their area after they found out that they had been raising chickens illegally for a year. Madison’s chicken laws have now been changed and the group provides information and advice on how to raise chickens and coordinate pro-poultry groups.
Mother Earth News magazine’s egg studies show that eggs from pastured hens are nutritionally superior. They have less cholesterol and saturated fat, four to six times more vitamin D, and more vitamin E, beta-carotene, vitamin A and omega-3s than commercial eggs. Not only will your birds be raised humanely, unlike those in a factory, you will also be provided with hours of entertainment.
If being awakened in the early morning is a concern, just get hens! Most cities won’t allow roosters anyway, because they often crow loudly. Some people mistakenly think that a rooster is necessary in order to have eggs, but hens will lay eggs without a rooster. These eggs just won’t have chicks! Hens are known for being quiet. They squawk a little when they lay their eggs, but normally just make a soft clucking. And by sunset, they’re fast asleep.
After you decide to raise poultry, you may want to visit with your nearby neighbors. If they’re unsure about your idea, talk to them about the benefits of fresh eggs. On average, three hens lay about two eggs a day during spring and summer, so you may have enough eggs to share. Your neighbors may be excited about the idea of fresh eggs. Who knows – after seeing your chickens, they may decide to get some of their own!