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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Bluegrass PRIDE: Chickens do more than lay eggs; they till soil, eat bugs, fertilize yard too

When considering raising chickens, be sure to check out local rules and regulations first. (Photo provided)


By Elizabeth Mortenson
KyForward columnist

What a long, cold winter this has been. I’ve been so happy the past few days to see sunshine again, and it finally feels like spring. For me that means the tomatoes, squash and basil are all ready to go in the ground, buds are popping out on trees and little chicken pullets (female chickens less than a year old) are ready to go outside.

For the past few years I’ve had a very small flock of backyard chickens. The first year I tried cute, fuzzy chicks and learned that if they’re really small when you bring them home, they can’t go outside. This meant that I had a large Rubbermaid container with four peeping chicken babies in my bathroom until they were big enough to go out to the coop. I don’t have a large bathroom, so since then I’ve decided that any new chickens added to the flock have to be ready to go outside as soon as they come home. I now only supplement the flock with pullets.

Well, yesterday I brought home one more pullet to add to the micro-flock. She’s an Australorp who’ll grow to have lovely iridescent black feathers and a bright red comb. The other Australorp in the flock has done really well with Kentucky’s hot, dry summers and cold, wet winters and lays lots of large eggs. This new chicken will join the others not just in laying eggs but in doing yard work, too. A small flock of chickens will till soil, eat bugs and do an incredible job of fertilizing your yard. And while it may sound strange, chickens are pretty comedic, too.

If you’re toying with the idea of keeping chickens, the first step is to find out about your local rules on chickens. Most cities and neighborhoods in Kentucky allow a few chickens, even on small lots. However, you will want to find out how many you can have and whether roosters are allowed. And, of course you’ll want to promise some eggs to neighbors to politely prepare them for your new additions.

If you’re near Lexington, you’re very lucky to have CLUCK! This “Coop”erative of Lexington Urban Chicken Keepers is a great resource for all of your questions, from building the coop to dispatching your birds should you choose to use some for meat. Currently they’re planning the annual Tour de Coops, and they’re always available on Facebook here. If you’re near Louisville, check out Fresh Start Grower’s Supply here. They have just about everything you could ask for when starting out, including much needed advice on sick chickens.

Even if you have no plans to bring home a chicken, I hope that you’re finding some way to mark the arrival of spring and savor some sunshine.

Elizabeth Mortenson began work for Bluegrass PRIDE as a program manager in January 2012. She works on litter abatement, recycling, water and Community Energy Advisor programs. She holds a bachelor’s degree in geography from the University of Louisville and a master’s in environmental science and a master’s of public administration in sustainable development from Indiana University.



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