Hot chicks: urban chickens in Florida

Hot chicks: urban chickens in Florida

For those of you who really know me, you’re probably surprised that I’d like to get some backyard chickens.  Surprised because, at the moment, I eat neither chicken nor eggs!  However, backyard chickens offer a few remedies to the reasons for my food choices.  First, the reason I don’t eat chicken is because of the conditions at factory farms and the chemicals given to the chickens, such as arsenic and antibiotics.  As for eggs, I’ve never really liked them, and since my family has a tendency toward high cholesterol, I simply avoided them.  Backyard chickens, because they’re not crammed into unsanitary conditions, don’t need regular doses of antibiotics or other chemicals.  Their eggs taste better and tend to be much lower in cholesterol and higher in nutrients.

A few weekends ago, I attended the Sarasota County Extension‘s Chickens 101 class, which was held at the Lauterbach farm on Palmer Boulevard.  The class talked about raising urban chickens in Florida.

blog-chickensThe class was completely full of chicken enthusiasts and current chicken owners, including Jono Miller of Sarasota C.L.U.C.K. Subjects covered were chicken breeds, necessary equipment, feeding, protection, etc.  It was interesting to see the various breeds and to know that many breeds are actually in danger of extinction because the big factory farms only care about the best layers or best meat birds.  So, by choosing the less popular breeds for your backyard chickens, you are actually working to save some special species of birds.  You can find out about the various chicken breeds using the Handy Dandy Chicken Chart.

One great thing about backyard chickens is that they eat kitchen veggie scraps.  For a vegetarian like me, this means less feed to buy for them.  It feels good when one of my outputs can become an immediate and important input.  We were told that they don’t do so well with onions and avocados, though.  Here is some good information on keeping your chickens well-fed without buying commercial chicken feed.

Biosecurity and keeping your chickens healthy were stressed in this class.  First, it was advised to get your chickens from NPIP rated farms as they have been tested for disease.  (For some reason, the NPIP page on the government’s website seems to be missing… not sure what that’s about.)  Second, watch your chickens for signs of disease and report any sick birds to the appropriate authority.  Third, protect your chickens by disinfecting your shoes and clothes if they come into contact with soil or birds from another property.  Getting NPIP certified is free of charge and gives you plenty of peace of mind, so I would highly recommend it.

Part of the way through the class, we were invited to taste test the difference between store-bought eggs and backyard eggs.  As I don’t really eat eggs, I asked to just try the backyard eggs because I already knew they’d be better!  I put a bit of salt on them and dove into my first real serving of eggs ever.  I was pleasantly surprised by the taste.  I often force myself to eat Think Thin bars to get protein, and it definitely wasn’t any worse than that.  I’m guessing the taste would grow on me – especially knowing how fresh and nutritious the eggs are.

To me, backyard chickens seem like great pets and a perfect next step toward a healthier, more self-sufficient life.  If you’re thinking about backyard chickens, take this short quiz to see if you’re ready.

P.S. I apologize that there aren’t more photos… I can’t find the camera I took them on!

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