FOR THE LOVE OF CHICKENS
Did you know that there are more chickens on the planet than there are people? Yes, chickens are everywhere and are a major source of protein around the globe. They provide not only meat for consumption but the hens give us the gift of eggs, another source of protein, and a reason to decorate for Easter. In the US, chickens used to be a luxury meat but with today's technology and (unfortunate) supplements to chicken's diets, chicken is now the most consumed meat in America. Just look at what COSTCO rotisserie chickens have done to our culinary consumption. For $4.99, you can get a 3+ pound fully cooked bird for your family. They are a bargain. No wonder Costco sells over 60 million chickens a year. And several years ago Martha Stewart glamorized chickens several years ago when she started raising exotic chickens for the eggs and the unique blue colors of various chicken breeds. She now has four large chicken coups and chickens are a part of her brand. But many people are wanting to raise chickens themselves. Raising chickens has become quite a trend and not only are they found on the farm but are now found in backyards in the suburbs and in cities where all you need is a little space for a coup, land for the chickens to run around and a lot of attention for proper feeding and cleaning. Chicken coups are readily available and can be found on websites as common as Wayfair, Etsy, ebay and Amazon, to name a few. But once you have the coup do you know what goes into raising chickens? You will need to choose a breed, which is thought to be in the hundreds. You have to determine what you want your chickens to provide for you. According to , The Happy Chicken Coop , there are lots of breeds of chickens, and they all fall into one of four categories: Heri tage Breeds: The Livestock Conservancy defines a Heritage chicken as a natural breeding chicken that has a slow growth rate and can live a long, productive outdoor life. The breed must also conform to the American Poultry Associations standard for that breed. Egg Laying Breeds: These hens have been bred to produce large quantities of eggs through their short production lifetimes. Leghorns are a good example of prolific egg producers as are Australorps . Dual Purpose Breeds: These hens are the best of both worlds in utility terms. They are productive in the egg department and also grow large enough to be used as a meat bird later on in their life. Meat Breeds: As the name suggests these breeds of chicken are bred for meat purposes. They grow very, very quickly. They put on weight at an alarming rate and are ready for slaughter at around nine weeks. Once you have decided how you want your chicken to fit into your life, you can figure out how you want to buy your chickens. The cheapest is chicks but there are other options. (as noted in the same The Happy Chicken Coop ) Hatching Eggs: These are fertilized eggs that you need to incubate . If you are new to chickens, I don't recommend that you get hatching eggs unless you really know what you are doing. Although incubation is fairly straightforward, there definitely is an art to it. Chicks: This is the most used and wise choice for novices. You can select which breed(s) you want and when you want them. You typically get chicks at one day old. Pullets: Pullets are birds aged between four to six months. The chicks have been reared to adulthood and are usually sold at point of lay, meaning the pullet is about to lay her first egg anytime soon! Adults: Adult hens are more difficult to come by as breeders like to move birds out before they get too old since they eat more. A common source of adult hens is animal shelters or rescue sanctuaries. As you can see there is so much to think about before you decide to get into this hobby. And remember, where there is a coup, there is poop. Yes, chickens are messy and chicken hygiene is important to keep them safe as well as you. Chickens are a pet of sorts, but they are not to be cuddled, snuggled or kissed on the chicken lips. They are carriers of harmful bacteria and handling chickens requires washing your hands often and keeping your ladies clean. And, don't forget that you are not the only one that loves chickens. There are many predators out there that would love your chickens as a treat so keeping them safe is a major concern and priority when raising chickens. And make sure your homes association approves your little cluckers. There is so much to consider when deciding whether to raise chickens. For me, I think I will respectfully leave that up to the chicken farmers and well-informed hobbyists and get my chicken and eggs from the grocery store. But of course, for the love of chickens, I will also be wearing my favorite chicken novelty socks from FOOT TRAFFIC .