When we think about chickens and farms it is natural to picture a rooster atop a fencepost belting out his best crow at the crack of dawn. In the farmhouse the aged farmer crawls out of bed to start his day. There is something romantic about seeing hens meandering through the farmyard and the farmer's wife gathering eggs in the morning light.
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Now we stumble out of bed to our digital alarm, grab something to eat that is wrapped in plastic and filled with more preservatives than natural ingredients, then run off to work. We rush through the day, hurry into a crowded grocery store on our way home and grab some eggs out of the commercial refrigerators. There is something wrong with this picture.
A few decades ago we knew where our food was coming from. Now we have no relationship to it and our lifestyles are so hectic we unrealistically think we don't have the time to reconnect.
However, with the revival of living sustainably and organically I have seen more and more small town and even city dwellers purchasing new pets for their household. Having a few hens in your backyard is now very cool. In fact, I have heard some city dwellers who are yearning for the country even keep Silkie hens as indoor pets! (I wouldn't recommend it though!)
Chickens are quite useful birds to have around. They not only keep the insect population in check, but they provide natural fertilizer for your garden. Plus, let's not forget the benefit of fresh, organic eggs in your backyard! There are several hen house plans online not to mention books on the topic.
Construct a simple house for your “girls” and you'll wonder how you lived without these sweet pets. You can even let the hens roam around in the yard, provided there are no dogs to torment or harm them, and they will gather grit and greens for food.
In their house or coop, offer organic, non-genetically modified feed and grain along with fresh water. You might also want to include some oyster shells. The calcium in the oyster shells hardens the eggshell. Take care of your “girls” and they will thank you with a full supply of eggs for your kitchen.
Finding The Perfect Breed
When shopping for the perfect poultry breed it can be overwhelming as there are literally hundreds to choose from. Rhode Island Reds have a sweet disposition and are prolific egg-layers. Buff Orpingtons are a heavier bird and are also great layers. I also love Silkie bantams. Even though they are quite small, compared to Rhode Island Reds, they are good layers.
Their small size makes them a great breed for being in town. They are very gentle, great with kids and unique in that their plumage is really like a downy fluff instead of feathers. Silkies are the poodles of the chicken world.
You can order these breeds and more from reputable hatcheries online. As I said, there are many breeds to choose from. If you take some time and do your homework you are sure to find the perfect match for your backyard.