Good Food with Evan Kleiman: Raising Chickens in Your Backyard

Like us, many of you probably have daydreams of giving up the city life and heading to the country. Well, more and more urban people are having it both ways and raising chickens right in their back yards! Evan Kleiman and her guest David Kahn tell us how it's done...

David Kahn is an urban farmer from Edendale Farm, and he advises some caution when considering raising chickens. A typical chicken can live up to 20 years and each chicken in a flock requires at least 4 square feet of space. This can add up to quite a commitment of time and space.

Chickens also require daily attention, making it difficult to take vacations or travel away from home. In fact, Kahn says that this becomes the biggest issue for urban homesteaders who try raising chickens.

And then there's the noise issue. Even if it's not an issue for you, it may very well be for your neighbors. Chickens make quite a fuss when they're in the middle of laying an egg, and roosters are well-known for being rather vocal. Most cities have ordinances against raising roosters (though not chickens) for this very reason. Luckily, roosters are only necessary if you want fertilized eggs that will hatch into chicks.

But! If you are ok with the restrictions on your time and yard space, and if you've been blessed with indulgent neighbors, raising chickens can have a lot of rewards.

For one thing, raising your own chickens is definitely guarantees quality eggs! Chickens lay about an egg a day during the summer months, tapering off during the winter months.

If you also have a large garden, chickens will eat bugs and caterpillars, fertilize your soil, and "till" the soil as they scratch in the dirt. Our friends who have chickens also say that their chickens develop really individual personalities and they become just as close to their chickens as any other pet!

Chickens can be purchased commercially from farms and breeders. Kahn also advises looking into adopting chickens from people who ended up with more chickens than they could handle or who have decided chicken farming isn't for them.

We would love to find ourselves in a time and place where raising chickens was practical for us. Until then, we'll daydream and live vicariously through our CSA farmers!

Anyone out there raising chickens? What can you share about your experiences?

• To hear the full story on backyard chickens and all the other interviews from this past week's show, visit the Good Food website.

Related: Local Farm Profile: Green Meadows Farm in Massachusetts

(Image: Emma Christensen for the Kitchn)

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