Jeneen Wiche of WFPL’s HomeGrown recently realized a personal dream when she acquired a small flock of egg laying hens. Free-range or so-called “backyard” chickens are growing in popularity nationally as supermarket egg prices continue to rise and as people become aware of the nutritional inferiority of eggs produced by hens confined to the indoors in cramped conditions. According to some studies, eggs from pasture-raised hens may contain 1⁄3 less cholesterol, 1⁄4 less saturated fat, 2⁄3 more vitamin A, two times more omega-3 fatty acids, three times more vitamin E, and seven times more beta carotene as compared to the conventional eggs sold in mainstream supermarkets.
Jeneen has discussed her flock of chickens on recent episodes of HomeGrown, and created an online photo album of the coop construction and the arrival of the chickens. She writes:
“I am not one to blog but I have chickens to tell you about! My friend and neighbor Kay Yount gave me a dozen laying hens three weeks ago. She needed to thin her flock of 24 Barred Plymouth Rocks so Andy and I showed up with a truck filled with (empty) banana boxes for the transport. We live about a mile away from each other.
We prepared for our new hens like an expectant couple. We read magazine articles, books and asked questions. Ultimately I think that chickens are like children because as long as they have food, water, shelter and protection from predators, all is well. The only difference I can tell so far is that chickens need some dust so they can “clean” themselves.
We have a secure coop constructed in the barn. A secure chicken yard is in the plans, and we have some moveable fencing for when we want to move them further from their home zone around the barn. For now they go out when I am home and they love it. They scratch around the blueberries eating henbit and chickweed; they find worms in the damp soil and they happily eat grass in the field. When a flying insect catches a chicken’s eye, they high-tail after it. They all follow well on runs back to the barn (except Big Mama, who seems to be a bit more independent).
So, for now, all are alive and well. Our dog, Buck, has been trained not to chase and his red healer instincts come in handy when I have to round everyone back into the coop. At dark they usually are in the coop, roosting, on their own….except for Big Mama who seems to wait until the very last minute.”
Oh, and the eggs are pretty tasty too.