Driven by the growing interest in farm to table cuisine, many homeowners are turning their backyards into free range habitats for chickens.  From the suburbs to urban city lots, chic little chicken coops are dotting the landscape.  More and more cities are relaxing their laws and ordinances and allowing chickens, so city dwellers can enjoy this pleasant hobby.

Environmental activists and celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston, Barbara Streisand, Miley Cyrus, Chevy Chase, Reese Witherspoon and of course Martha Steward raise backyard chickens.  It is relatively inexpensive to start your own backyard flock.

Chicks can cost between $3 to $30 dollars each depending on the age and breed. Chicken coops are available on-line and at home improvement stores like Home Depot.  A coop that can house 3-4 hens costs around $200.  The larger your flock the bigger the coop you’ll need.  Feed is available at farm stores or on-line and cost about $5.00 per chick per week.  You should plan to spend an additional $10 per month on supplies.

Mike Newsome, Merchant, Building Materials for Home Depot says, “We monitor our customers purchases in all departments.  We continue to see their growing support for more environmentally responsible purchases.   We feel this product addition is just a natural for Home Depot.  Our partnership with Summerhawk Ranch has helped educate us and put together a complete and affordable group of support products for those customers wanting to get started in raising their own backyard chickens. It’s a great family hobby that we’ve really enjoyed learning more about and helping our customers.”

Each hen, depending on the breed, will produce 4-7 eggs per week.  If you do the math, you can see how a modest flock of 3 chickens could keep your family sunny side up week after week.  In fact many families share their abundance of eggs with neighbors, community food banks and charities.  A great learning experience for young and old.

Backyard hens produce eggs that taste wonderful and are very nutritious.  They contain more than double the amount of Vitamins A and E, Beta Carotene, Omega 3 and Folic acid than battery eggs.  Plus they have half the cholesterol and saturated fat.

Their manure makes great fertilizer for your garden.  It contains high levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.  They are bug-eating machines, happy to gobble up crickets, grass hoppers, snails and other pests that invade your garden reducing your need to use toxic sprays and synthetic fertilizers.

Chickens are very friendly, easy to manage, low maintenance and relaxing to watch.  Some folks even keep them as house pets.  Believe it or not there are even little fancy diapers that you can get for your in-house chickens.

Now that I have your interest, how do you get started?  First, check with your local HOA and municipalities regarding their chicken ordinances. Be sure you take your neighbors into your considerations and share with them your plans.  The promise of no roosters and free eggs helps.

You can keep your hens in the coop all the time or let them be free range and roam your yard.  Of course you need to do some research regarding protection for your hens from predators such as hawks, eagles, raccoons, cats and dogs.  If they are true free range without a coop you’ll be searching for eggs all over your yard.

You can buy new chicks at farm stores in the spring or order online.  Believe it or not, they are shipped via the US Post Office.  Take your time researching various breeds on line.  I’ve been told, selecting the “right frickin chicken” is very important. They all have very unique personalities just like any family pet.  Some are more dependable layers than others.  Some play well with children. Some lay beautiful blue or green-shelled eggs while others are feathered works of art.

This is truly a family endeavor.  It brings your family closer together and helps your children understand the importance of nature and where our food comes from.  One chicken lady put it best, “ One of the best things about having our chickens is watching my kids with them.  Whoever gets up in the morning first runs out to the backyard to open their door and let them out for a while and give them their morning snacks of raisins.  When they get home from school they both run out back to see how many eggs they have laid.  Everyday is an Easter egg hunt.”