I began advocating in support of backyard chickens when I learned that my community had an ordinance prohibiting them. I joined a small cohort of local gardeners and homesteaders interested in gauging community support for allowing small flocks of backyard hens for egg production. For my part, I put together an informational website and compiled research on the subject. I also helped local college students host a series of talks that invited experts and community members to gather on the topic.
Having become more educated on the subject, I chose to get chickens and keep them responsibly.
Upset to learn that many ordinances prohibiting backyard chickens arose in a cultural context of gentrification, I sought to keep chickens with a heightened sense of social justice underscoring the many ecological reasons. A homesteader friend helped me source a small, previously used guinea coop, which I retrofitted to collect manure for composting. I purchased four chicks from the local farm store and raised them in my bathtub.
Predators on the Prowl
During their first spring night outside, I went to check on the ladies and encountered a large, curious possum lumbering around the coop. Unable to get past the cement slab perimeter and reinforced hardware cloth walls, the possum wandered away. Since then, several cats from a stray colony have come to investigate the chickens, but gradually lose interest with no way to get inside.
To accommodate the need to age chicken manure before using it as compost, I built a three-tiered composting bin. Friends unable to compost at home began contributing their own kitchen scraps to feed the ladies, and in return I shared eggs once the gals started to produce.
Help for Honeybees
I built a run from the chicken coop to lead beneath my beehives, which ended up helping to strengthen my honeybee colonies. The chickens ate the small hive beetle parasites that had been encumbering the bees. The first year after the chickens took up residence in the backyard, I was able to collect honey from the bees.
My four Ameraucana hens gradually began to lay eggs with green, pink, and blue shells. Because of their access to garden greens, plentiful kitchen scraps, and insect protein, they produce eggs with huge golden yolks that taste delicious. Each chicken lays up to six eggs per week. Beyond cooking with the eggs, I give the eggs away as gifts to friends or use them for barter.
When a compatriot from our chicken group received a notice of legal action against her backyard chickens, she petitioned the county commissioners and won her case to change the local law. Now my chickens are legal in the county, contributing to the vitality of the backyard homestead and nourishing their community.