A great mix of different chickens now frolic in the backyards of many residents of St. Paul and Minneapolis. They are lovingly maintained and cared for by their owners. The interest in backyard chickens is growing and growing. Last Saturday, September 14, people had the opportunity to network with other “farmers” to get some valuable tips regarding care, chicken coop selections and also in the choice of the different chickens.
Twice a year, the famous chicken coop tour is organized by Bob Lies and Audrey Matson from Egg / Plant Urban supply.
We also used the opportunity to talk to these farmers about the rules, permissions and their different experiences with the chicken. We met Beth and Ray Harmon – they have raised chickens for three years now and they also have a six week old dog, a miniature version of an Australian Shepherd.
How do you keep the dog away from wanting to eat the chicken?
Beth: Actually, you can not teach a dog how to not want to eat the chicken. We found a miniature of an Australian Shepherd and he is getting along very well with the chickens. He is very interested and he wants to chase them but doesn`t want to eat them. That was sheer damn luck.
What was the reason for you to start with your own chicken?
Ray: I had some experience in farming and so Beth and I went on a coop tour four years ago and started thinking about it.
Beth: We did this because we wanted to have our own food supply. We also wanted to know where the food came from. We wanted to have a sense of responsibility for our own food. And we also wanted to take more chickens away from the factory farm.
Was is difficult to get a permit?
Beth: It really wasn`t. I think there are the same rules for Minneapolis and St. Paul. You have to get written permission from at least 75 percent from your neighbors on your street site. We had to visit ten households. And we got nine of ten signatures. And some neighbors are very interested and sometimes they come over to check the chickens.
How much is the cost for the permit?
Beth: The fee for the initial start is $25 a year. And every year since then it is another $15 $ a year.
And how much is the cost for the food?
Beth: Well, a fifty pound bag will last for a month and a half and it costs about $35. It`s a little bit more in the winter because they are not eating as much grass. And every afternoon they get some fruit and vegetables as well. And you also have to mix grit in the food. It`s fine crushed stone. Because they dont have teeth. So the grit is their teeth. And than once the chicken starts laying you also have to supplement them with crushed oystershell and that helps them out with extra calcium to make sure that the shells on the eggs are nice and strong.
What is a good time to start with the chicken?
Ray: A good time for start is springtime. Because you get them when they are little baby-chicken and so spring around June and July is probably the best time.
And if you buy another little chicken after a time – how do you handle that?
Ray: You can introduce another chicken to them but before you do that, you have to find a chicken that is really broody and has a good motherly temperament. So when they first go in the coop you slip the chicken under them. And at that point they protect the chicken. It kicks in their motherly instinct. If you just try to put a chick in there, they would kill the chicken. That`s why you usually get all your chicken at once.
What is a good amount of chicken?
Beth: Well for a two-person household no more than three. Otherwise you don`t know what do do with all the eggs. Henny the Goldstar she lays an egg per day, every twenty four hours. Well in the wintertime it`s getting less a little bit because of the sunlight. The sunlight is their cue.
Do you need to do something about the smell?
Beth: You need to make sure that you clean up on a regular basis, otherwise it will become very powerful (laughing).
If you didn`t have the chance to attend this year, the next Chicken Coop tour will be next spring. The exact dates will be announced in advance. For more information have a look at Egg / Plant Urban Farm Supply. They will be happy to provide you with some more information.
This is one of a number of articles produced by student interns at the TC Daily Planet.
Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.