It seems that recently more and more people in Fairfield County are putting up chicken wire…and it isn’t to keep the deer away. If you have always wanted a “pet” and are tired of paying $4 a dozen for free-range organic eggs, why not buy yourself some chickens?
We recently spoke with a local chef on the benefits of backyard chickens, and she offers some compelling reasons to raise these pecking “pets”.
We’ll take the work out of starting your own flock, and help you source your CT birds, and build your very own coop. It requires less work than you think.
6 Reasons to Say YES to Backyard Chickens:
1. Backyard chickens make healthier eggs. Because they are allowed to exercise freely, and eat a more varied diet than their factory friends, their eggs have 25% more vitamin E, a third more vitamin A, and 75% more beta-carotene. They also have significantly more omega-3 fatty acids than factory farmed eggs.
2. Backyard chickens’ eggs are just plain better. Eggs in grocery stores can be old, and time will permit air to seep into the eggshells, degrading both nutrition and taste. If you have never eaten a fresh egg, it is unrecognizable from what we purchase in stores. The whites are firmer, the yellows are brighter, and they taste delicious.
3. Chickens eat those pesky insects like grubs and earwigs creating a chemical-free solution to pest control.
4. Your garden will love you. Chicken poop is high in nitrogen and makes for great fertilizer if added to your compost.
5. Chickens are great for kids. Researchers have found that young children in regular contact with farm animals are less likely to develop allergies later in life. Also, raising and taking care of chickens teaches your child responsibility and instruction on where food actually comes from. These lessons come from the collection of the 250-300 eggs a hen will produce annually, chasing the chickens around the yard, getting them back into their coop (I have watched this…it is quite entertaining), or refreshing their food. They are contributing to the household in a meaningful way, and it is a great confidence booster.
6. Your family can gain a great understanding of where exactly our food comes from. Kids can connect the scrambled eggs they are eating for breakfast with the effort that a chicken exerts to produce that one egg a day. It forces you to take less for granted at the table.
Where Does One Go to Buy Chickens?
We called around to a bunch of the CT Agway stores and many don’t sell chickens anymore, but our editor bought her chickens at Benedicts Home & Garden (an Agway Store) in Monroe, CT.
She decided to buy “pullets”, which are 20-week-old female chickens that are ready to lay, as opposed to buying baby chicks which require growing them in incubators. You also don’t know the sex of the chicks when you purchase them, and while having a rooster in the coop is good for protecting the flock, you need to be prepared to be raising additional animals if they chose to mate. Choosing pellets takes the guess work out if you are not looking to expand the group.
For more information check out this article on Raising Chickens 101 from BackyardChickens.com.
Building Your Coop:
If raising chicken is for you, to get started you will need a small house (minimum size abour 2’ x 2’) where the chickens can roost, and some fenced in outdoor space (about 10 square feet) for the chickens to roam. There are great options for either buying your coop or building your own. Here are some resources to get you started:
- We found the best information including extensive step by step plans to build every size and design imaginable at Backyardchicken.com.
- For more chicken coop DIY see: chickencoopsdiy.com
- Here is a coop with a garden on top! The Green Roof Chicken Coop.
- If you can’t decide where to put your chickens here’s some video on building a portable chicken coop.
Related Article: NPR: If You Must Be A Chicken, Be An Urban One
Related Recipes: We love this recipe for Tostadas with Eggs, Black Beans, and Chorizo as well as the Tarragon Shallot Eggs Salad Sandwiches from Epicurious.
CT Bites Recipe: Quick Quiche with Prosciutto & Spinach
We had a dozen eggs from our chickens so I decided to make a quiche. I don't love quiches that are overly eggy so I combined a quiche with a Spanish Torta which has potato in it. This recipe made 2 quiches and turned out amazing! Here's the recipe:
2 pie crusts (store bought is fine)
1/2 lb. proscuitto (bacon can be substituted also)
1/2 onion, finely chopped
5 c. fresh baby spinach
1 potato, peeled, and chopped into small cubes
1 c. crumbled feta cheese (shredded cheddar cheese is fine too)
3/4 c. fat-free milk
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350. Cook proscuitto in a large pan on medium high heat. While the proscuitto cooks, snip it into pieces with scissors. It should take 8-10 minutes. Also while the proscuitto cooks, boil the potato cubes in another pot until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Once the proscuitto is crisp (about 5 minutes) remove from the pan. In the same pan saute onions for 4 minutes, then add all of the spinach, a handful at a time until the spinach has cooked down. This only takes a minute. Whisk eggs and milk together, then add a pinch of salt and a healthy pinch of ground black pepper. Add onion and spinach mixture, cooked potato, crumbled feta cheese and proscuitto pieces. Whisk together and pour half of the mixture into each pie shell.
Bake for 35 minutes or until quiche is springy and firm. Quiche freezes beautifully and is delicious for breakfast, lunch of dinner with a salad of fresh arugula, peas, cherry tomato, lemon juice, salt and pepper