As people hear more reports of contaminated food and worry about the ethics of factory farming, they want to take control of their food in whatever way they can. For many this means starting a garden, and for more and more, this means having a small flock of hens in the backyard. However, myths abound! Sadly, this misinformation slows people down or stops them entirely from having their own fresh eggs.
Not so fast! Have you actually checked your city’s municipal codes? Many are available online. Cities such as Chicago, New York, Austin, Minneapolis, and Portland, Oregon, allow chickens. And in cities where chickens were not allowed, such as Madison, Wisconsin, citizens have been getting the laws changed.
Myth #2: You need a rooster to have eggs, and roosters are noisy.
Although roosters can be noisy, you do not need one to get fresh eggs. Hens lay eggs, even if a rooster is not present. However, if there is not a rooster present, the eggs will be sterile and won’t hatch.
Myth #3: Chickens have diseases.
Chickens are not inherently sick, and if they are kept in clean conditions, they rarely, if ever, become sick. They are the healthiest animals on our homestead. If you’re still concerned, buy day-old chicks from a hatchery whose stock is certified free from diseases.
Myth #4: Chickens stink!
This usually comes from someone who lived or worked on a factory farm. You would stink too, if you had half a square foot of living space. Chickens do not stink. Mountains of chicken poo do stink. Three or four chickens do not create mountains of poo like thousands of chickens. In fact, your chickens will provide you with some great fertilizer for your yard or garden, in addition to the great eggs.
Myth #5: Chickens have lice, and they’ll give them to my children.
Okay, I admit this one slowed me down for a few years when I heard it. However, there are a few hundred different species of lice in the world, and most are host specific, meaning that chicken lice don’t like the taste of humans. And again, chickens don’t hatch with lice. So, unless your chickens are mingling with other chickens (at a poultry show, for example), the odds of them getting lice are pretty slim.
We started our flock of chickens after moving to the country, and they are so easy to care for, that I’ll never be without my own fresh eggs again. I’m also incredibly spoiled by the delicious taste. In my next post, I’ll tell you how to get started with your own backyard flock.
Deborah Niemann dragged her professor husband and three children to 32 acres on a creek in the middle of nowhere in 2002 to start raising their own food organically. She blogs regularly at Antiquity Oaks, and her book, Homegrown and Handmade, comes out this fall.