We chatted about backyard chickens live on CNN Newsroom with Suzanne Malveaux this afternoon. Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions about the growing trend.
Q: Will having a backyard chicken reduce the cost of eggs for my family and me?
A: This varies wildly depending on the way you decide to house them (a do-it-yourself coop or pen versus a fancy Egglu) and if you decide to feed them chicken feed, organic chicken feed, kitchen scraps or allow them to be free-range. You should also factor in how many chickens you or your neighbors have, since buying bulk can reduce the cost a tremendous amount.
Q: If I'm not saving money, why would I bother?
A. What you're really paying for is the knowledge of exactly what your chickens are eating (and what's going into your diet), assurance that they're both humanely treated and not as susceptible to conditions plaguing factory farms (poor hygiene, battery cages, and infection that leads to salmonella), and better tasting eggs that haven't traveled hundreds of miles to get to you.
Chickens also produce excellent garden fertilizer and provide an incredible lesson for the young people in your life about where their food comes from.
Q: Who else is taking this crazy ride with me and who can help me when I get stuck?
A: You're hardly alone in this effort because there are 128,012 members of the forums at backyardchickens.com, a chicken hotline at mypetchicken.com (or 888-460-1529), publications like Backyard Poultry (distributed nationally in an average of 75,000 copies per issue) and Chickens magazine.
Not only are local chicken raising communities popping up in towns and cities around the country - there's also Andy Schneider, better known as The Chicken Whisperer, just a click, "like", tweet or podcast away.
Q: So what are some other things to consider?
A: Your local laws (and neighbors) may not be chicken-friendly, and it's vital to check beforehand.
Consider your attention span and level of commitment. Are you willing to keep a hen after her egg-laying years or are you ready to humanely dispatch her or eat her?
Does your lifestyle support having chickens? Do you have children, pets, a sitter or feeder for when you're gone?
Can you afford to feed, house and keep up their quarters?
A few fun facts:
Chickens come in an incredible variety of breeds, plumages, sizes - and they produce eggs of all different hues and sizes. Some chicken breeds are so tiny, they can be kept in an apartment.
Chickens have personalities, just like dogs and cats, and they can live well over a decade.
Nope, contrary to popular misconception, chickens do not need a rooster to produce eggs. While they're not totally silent, at least they won't be crowing at the crack of dawn.
See all egg safety information on Eatocracy
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