Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Birds

Last fall while we were house hunting, we told our Realtor all about our desire for a big backyard with lots of sunny space for a garden.  But there was one other thing that we were silently considering as we studied each backyard.  We sometimes spoke about it vaguely; in a sort of "code" that only we could understand.  Because you see, everyone can somewhat understand the desire for a garden, but we were making plans for something a bit more unconventional.  In an effort to seem reasonably sane in the company of our Realtor, we opted not to mention it.  Then one day as we were scrutinizing a relatively small backyard, Greg had no choice but to question, "Where would we put the birds?"

Ah yes, the birds.  Because no urban farm would be complete without a little livestock, we will be adding some backyard chickens this spring.  Our Realtor was surprised to hear that it was even legal to keep chickens in an urban backyard.  Well, fortunately for us, Des Moines is a very progressive city when it comes to backyard chicken-keeping.  We even chose to limit our house search to the city limits of Des Moines rather than any of the less chicken-friendly suburbs.

So now that you know that you can keep chickens in some cities (check your municipal code to find out), let's discuss why we want to keep backyard chickens.  The simple answer is: EGGS!  Eggs are a fantastic source of protein and a productive hen will lay an egg almost every day. Of course, you can buy eggs at the grocery store, but the commercial egg industry has serious problems with salmonella outbreaks, not to mention the poor living conditions and downright cruel treatment of the chickens. So why not raise your own?

Besides, chickens don’t need much more care than a typical housepet. They just need shelter, food, and water. The shelter is actually a work in progress already! Stacia has been spending time in the basement taking the salvaged pieces of the backyard playset and assembling them into small sections of the future chicken coop. They will eventually come together to make something like this:

There will be pictures of the real thing eventually, but for right now, it’s mostly just a concept. We’ve got a few months before we’ll need it anyway. Our current plan is to buy the baby chicks in mid-March, and keep them indoors for their first 5 to 6 weeks. Baby chicks need to be kept very warm until they grow their adult feathers. Then in early May they’ll move into their permanent home in the backyard. We’ll post plenty of updates here on the blog, so be sure to watch this space!

Sidenote: If backyard chicken-keeping isn’t an option for you, consider getting your eggs at a Farmer's Market. Or you might even be able to find a grocery store that sells eggs from small, local farmers. If you’re in the Des Moines area, we’ve seen local eggs at Gateway Market, Campbell’s Nutrition, and New City Market. (If you know of others, feel free to add them in the comments section.) We’d love to see people support farmers that care about the welfare of their animals and provide people with safe, fresh, healthy food!

1 comment:

  1. Why does a chicken stand on one foot?

    Because if she lifted the other one, she'd fall over!