Think­ing of chick­ens in your back yard?

See the ‘R’s of chicken rais­ing: rules, reg­u­la­tions and rentals

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - SAN­DRA BRANDS sbrands@cov­news.com

On one hand, pro­po­nents be­lieve there are lots of ad­van­tages to host­ing chick­ens in the backyard. In fact, the only disad­van­tage, most peo­ple have said, is the amount of work that goes into tak­ing care of them.

Be­cause rais­ing chick­ens can take a lot of work.

“There’s a flour­ish­ing hobby of backyard an­i­mals all over the state,” said Stephen Pet­tis, Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia County Ex­ten­sion Agent in Rock­dale County. “It’s a trend, an up-and­com­ing thing.”

“A lot a peo­ple think they want to see chick­ens walk around [their] backyard,” he said. “But they’ll flip blocks and bricks over, [scratch up] grass and flow­ers, look­ing for worms, and they use the bath­room all over the place.”

Pet­tis said he wouldn’t rec­om­mend rais­ing chick­ens to most peo­ple. In fact, it’s illegal in the city of Cony­ers to raise chick­ens, and there are strict zon­ing or­di­nances for rais­ing chick­ens in the county.

While some live­stock may be al­lowed within Cov­ing­ton city lim­its, and New­ton County per­mits live­stock, it’s im- por­tant to check zon­ing re­quire­ments, sub­di­vi­sion covenants and other or­di­nances, said Ted Wynne, Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia County Ex­ten­sion Agent for New­ton County.

He, too, thinks rent­ing chick­ens might be a good first at­tempt, “un­til peo­ple stick their toe in the wa­ter and get a feel of what it’s like. It’s not an easy thing as far as the la­bor is con­cerned. You have to man­age them to keep them healthy.” Chick­ens, Wynne said, aren’t par­tic­u­larly long-lived. “Peo­ple get at­tached to them, but when it comes to farm­ing, if you’re go­ing to have chick­ens, you have to re­al­ize they’ll come down with some­thing from time-to-time and you’re go­ing to lose a few.

“Three to four years is about how long [backyard chick­ens will] be in pro­duc­tion,” he said. “And you can’t just pick up and go on va­ca­tion. You have to make pro­vi­sions for them— and that’s some­thing peo­ple don’t think about.”

Pet­tis said he thinks peo­ple his age and younger have a more ro­man­tic view of farm­ing then his par­ents or grand­par­ents.

“My gen­er­a­tion grew up get­ting all of our food from the gro­cery store. They have a de­sire to start a small farm. One of the things I do is try to be frank with them about how much work is in­volved.”

That’s why, he said, he thinks rent­ing a chicken could be a great idea.

Two lo­cal com­pa­nies—one in down­town At­lanta and one out­side of Athens—are of­fer­ing peo­ple a chance to rent a chicken to see if they do lik­ing car­ing for the backyard live­stock.

El­der Tree Farm [ http://el­dertree­farm.com/] out­side of Athens just started rent­ing chick­ens this spring. It’s been so pop­u­lar, they have been tak­ing reser­va­tions for chicken rentals.

Though pack­ages vary, the ba­sic four-week backyard chicken rental runs $160 and in­cludes two hens, a move­able coop, wa­ter­ing con­tainer, feeder and a 40 pound bag of feed.

“It’s just a way for peo­ple to try chick­ens,” said owner Matt Far­four. They get a chance to see what it’s like to take care of chick­ens, gather eggs and get a sense of where their food comes from.”

Not ev­ery­one has en­joyed the ex­pe­ri­ence, and the chick­ens are re­turned. Oth­ers have pur­chased the chick­ens they rented.

For Heath Ward, coowner of City Chicks in At­lanta [http://www. city­chick­atl.com/], get­ting into the busi­ness of rent­ing chick­ens grew out of a gift he’d re­ceived a cou­ple of years ago.

“We re­ceived two hens as a gift and we just thought they were amaz­ing,” he said. “A lot of friends stopped by and asked about keep­ing chick­ens. We brain­stormed about an idea where peo­ple could try out hav­ing chick­ens in the city—that’s how the idea hatched.”

Like Far­four, Ward says the re­sponse to the busi­ness has been great. “This gives peo­ple a chance to try it out – and if they don’t like hav­ing chick­ens or hav­ing to col­lect eggs, they can give them back. A re­ally cut baby chick can live to be eight to 10 years old.

“You try it out and see if you like it, and af­ter awhile, peo­ple can even buy the chick­ens,” he said.

He said part of the pack­age City Chicks of­fers in­cludes a course in Chicken 101. They go over feed­ing and wa­ter­ing the an­i­mals, clean­ing and man­ag­ing them, and, the re­quest he gets most, how to catch a chicken.

The in­ter­est in backyard poul­try has grown out of the move­ment to­wards sus­tain­able gar­den­ing and ur­ban farm­ing.

“Peo­ple just re­ally want to know more about where their food is com­ing from,” said Ward. “Far­four agrees. “You know what the chick­ens are fed,” he said. “If you have chick­ens, you see where the eggs come from. If the chick­ens are healthy, the eggs are healthy.”

Pet­tis said that “the con­stant media bar­rage of scary news, whether it’s true or not, [makes] peo­ple want to get closer to where their food comes from. That’s def­i­nitely a driv­ing fac­tor.”

“Know­ing that the chick­ens are raised with­out any kind of in­sec­ti­cide and other things that peo­ple don’t re­ally want in their food sup­ply” can be sat­is­fy­ing, Wynne said. “A lot of peo­ple say they like the taste [of the eggs] bet­ter. The yolk looks deeper, richer and peo­ple think it tastes bet­ter.”

Rais­ing chick­ens is some­thing Wynne en­cour­ages, say­ing it’s a rel­a­tively in­ex­pen­sive pro­ject for chil­dren, one that teaches re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. The UGA Ex­ten­sion of­fices have re­sources to help peo­ple learn more about rais­ing and hous­ing chick­ens.

In­ter­est in backyard chick­ens has in­creased the de­mand for classes to help peo­ple in the ef­fort. Wynne said he’s been asked re­peat­edly to of­fer can­dling classes, which is how the size and grade of eggs are de­ter­mined. “If you want to sell ex­tra eggs at the mar­ket or lo­cally, you have to have a can­dling li­cense.”

A can­dling class is be­ing of­fered Thurs­day, Oct 1, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Rock­dale County Ex­ten­sion Of­fice, 1400 Parker Road, Lobby B, Cony­ers. The cost is $25.00 and in­cludes train­ing and lunch. Reg­is­tra­tion dead­line is Thurs­day, Sept. 25. Both Pet­tis and Wynne will be among the in­struc­tors.

“Four years ago, if you would have told me I would have a busi­ness deal­ing with chick­ens, I would though you’d need to be locked up,” said Ward.

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