Chickens come home to roost in backyards around the USA

Two of our neighbors have chickens. Chris and Leigh Ann, recent converts to backyard chickens, like the healthy eggs and enjoy watching the chickens. Their 3-year-old son gets lots of exercise chasing the hens.

USA Today describes the unfolding trend. Excerpts below.

Link: Chickens come home to roost in backyards around the USA – USATODAY.com.

A trend in backyard chicken farming is taking hold as urbanites, eager to scoop up flavorful organic eggs, discover how easy it is to get started. A simple coop, a pen and a little feed are such a low entry bar that people are flocking to try their hand at keeping chickens in a tough economy.

About 150 communities have launched Meetup.com networks of hobbyist chicken farmers in the past two years, says Andy Schneider, host of Backyard Poultry With the Chicken Whisperer on blogspot radio.

Outfitting chickens costs about $200 for lumber, plus $5 a month for feed. Chickens earn their keep by offering many benefits, Rudin says, including a tick-free backyard and lots of fun for her children, Ted, 9, and Finnian, 5, and her husband, Jon. What's more, they make free-range eggs an affordable part of the family diet.

A low entry bar for chicken farming helps explain why some communities, such as Caledonia, Wis., have blocked recent campaigns to permit backyard chicken farming. Among the concerns: Negligent practices can lead to odors and attract rodents.

But Schneider, the backyard-poultry-show host, insists the risks are no greater than those associated with owning dogs.

Some observers believe that concerns about undercutting farmers are overblown, too.

"People who have chickens or who farm in their gardens are more interested in getting to know where their food comes from" than those who don't, Heike Mayer, professor of economic geography at the University of Bern in Switzerland, said in an e-mail. "Those who have chickens will be more likely to buy a piece of meat from the local small farm."

Meanwhile, organic eggs from local providers are commanding high prices. Joseph Heckman, a Rutgers University soil scientist and proprietor of River Birch Micro Farm in Monroe Township, N.J., gets $5 a dozen for his eggs. But in terms of backyard agriculture, he, too, would like to become more self-sufficient.