When we moved into our new home, we were actually excited about having a small yard...mostly for growing a garden and having a little more privacy. Ever since starting this project, we've been daydreaming about the things we can do with our yard. We pictured decks, planters, maybe even a hot tub...but the one thing we never pictured was chickens. That is, until a few weeks ago.
Before we discovered we could buy local eggs at PCC (a natural food co-op in Seattle) for $2.99 a dozen, we were buying them for $5-$6 a dozen at the farmer's market. Because of all of the baking we do, eggs are a major staple in our home. We easily burn through 2 dozen a week--that's $40 a month just in eggs! Youch.
So our minds naturally drifted to the thought of raising backyard chickens. Think about it, we mused, we could wander into our own backyard and have a plentiful supply of fresh, VERY local eggs.
Before heading down to the lumber yard to build ourselves a coop, I thought it might be a good idea to know what we were getting ourselves in to. I turned to Seattle Tilth, the local go-to for any kind of gardening or urban livestock class. I signed up for "City Chicken's 101", and headed to north seattle to wrap my head around raising chickens.
I feel very lucky that I live in a city that I can take a class on raising chickens. Judging by the size of the class, I guess I'm not the only one. From grandparents to bike messengers, urban couples to empty nesters, the class was filled with 30 plus people, all anxiously taking notes about how to raise chickens properly. It seems that chickens are very en vogue.
The first part of the class covered the genus of the chicken, history and natural habitat, which was used throughout the rest of the class to explain modern day chicken behavior. Fascinating, yes, but by the time we got through the "how" of raising chickens, I realized it was not for us.
First, you need 3-6 feet of space per hen, which quickly covers the span of our backyard. Second, that space needs be completely contained with wire to protect them from predators (raccoons, etc). It also needs to be covered to protect them from the rain. Then there are the other things to consider, like rats, vermin and lice. And the kicker? Each bird lays an average of 300 eggs per year. After the first year, the egg production drops by about half. Then what?
Yes, they are cute, and such a great conversation piece for guests! If we had twice the space, I would probably consider it. Considering the cost of the start up involved (covered pen, wire, lumber, feeders, food, etc.), I'm thinking that $2.99 a dozen at PCC is a pretty good deal.