Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Chickens in the Back Yard

Chickens in the back yard, why not?  Recently the city of Cedar Rapids passed an ordinance to allow you to keep up to six hens within the city.  Hooray for those people!  They will soon be able to enjoy their own feathered pets and fresh eggs. 

Chickens go along with the sustainable ecological lifestyle, many of us would love to attain.  Many years ago chickens were in back yards everywhere.  Why the change in attitude?  What is so offensive about chickens? They eat bugs, grass, food scraps, provide fertilizer and help to fill the compost bin. And give us eggs!  They are quieter than a dog.  They eat less, and quite honestly, smell less too! Chickens are low maintenance pets. 

Chickens will also eat items out of the garden when available, bugs included. Ours love green peas.  I get more enjoyment out of watching them eat the peas rather than save them for ourselves.  They fight over who gets to eat them.  I have never seen anything like it.  One of the larger ones, we now call her fatty.  (She was crazy feathers, but lately has really put on the weight).  She is always first in line begging for treats.  She will actually push the others out of the way to get to them.  She’s also really fast and is usually first to get to them. 

Every time we go outside they look at us in their run and wait for us to come and give them treats and pay attention to them.  They like to be let out in the yard to forage for insects and eat grass.  Today we mowed the yard and placed the bagged grass into their run.  They loved it.  They could sit in the soft grass and eat all they wanted.  They like scratching and playing in it.  They will have the grass gone within a few days.  I generally keep straw on the ground for them to scratch and eat the seeds off of to keep them busy, but when we mow, we like to treat them with fresh grass. 

It shouldn’t be too long before we start getting eggs from our older girls.  One of them in particular is starting to get a nice red comb.  This is a sign they are about ready to start laying.  I can hardly wait.  I haven’t bought eggs from the store in a long time.  I am going to have to break down and buy another dozen for baking.  After having fresh eggs, I just can’t seem to use an entire dozen of store bought eggs any more.  They don’t last very long and taste awful! 

I am also excited today because I have finally found a local source for organic chicken feed!  Thanks to the facebook group CLUC (Citizens for the Legalization of Urban Chickens) I was able to contact our local Theiesn’s to see if they could order it for me.  They were nice enough to actually pick it up at another store and in the future will do a store trade if I would like more.

 When I inquired about the feed the manager indicated others thought the price was too high and walked out of the store, therefore, they do not carry it.  He quoted me a price of 14.89 for 40# which actually is only a little higher than non-organic TSC store brand I had been purchasing.  I think I pay close to $12 for 50#. 

I currently give our hens organic fruits, vegetables and nuts when possible.  I had looked at organic food in the past, but could only find suppliers on the west coast.  Shipping charges were going to be outrageous. I even looked into making my own, but this meant having all of the grains on hand, grinding them, and then mixing it all together.  This was going to take more room for storage, time, and having a lot of food on hand that could possibly go bad.  Not something I was wanting to tackle for my brood of 12 hens.  In the meantime, I am looking forward to Friday when my organic feed comes in.  We are getting down to the last few inches of feed in the bucket! 

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