Our urban chickens deliver more than just eggs
Members of the Angie’s List garden club wanted farm fresh eggs, so last year we decided to purchase a chicken coop. Little did we know that we’d gain an appreciation for our new feathered friends, but we’ve come to enjoy visiting them on a daily basis.
I was excited as a kid the day Andrew Brake with Nap Town Chickens, an advocacy organization for urban chicken farming in Indianapolis, delivered the coop with its three hens, which cost $1,200. This included the feeders, water bowls, bedding and feed.
A small crowd of employees and garden club members gathered as Andrew went over the care and behavior instructions. None of us had ever taken care of chickens, so we had a lot of questions: What do they eat? How many eggs do they produce per day? Why isn’t there a rooster? What about predators? What should we do with their waste?
Andrew told us they eat chicken feed and leftovers, and they produce one to two eggs per day. There’s no rooster; otherwise, we’d have baby chicks. To keep predators out, the cage is reinforced with 16 gauge wire on all four sides.
Andrew also told us we could use the hens’ waste to fertilize around our fruit trees and use a little in each garden bed. It’s high in nitrogen, but it can burn the plants if you use too much, he advised. Andrew also encouraged us to contact him with any further needs or concerns.
I took over their care for the next several months. The hens quickly became familiar with me, and they recognize me when I approach. They know that I feed them and get excited when I walk toward the cage, especially if I have leftovers in hand. They love pizza, bread and, believe it or not, chicken.
As Andrew had explained, they are cannibals and love to eat all types of meat. The chickens, who I refer to as “the single ladies,” are very vocal if I don’t feed them bright and early, and a few times I’ve gotten emails from my co-workers telling me that they are “calling” for me.
When I do arrive, they start running toward me and begin to get very vocal. It’s one of my favorite parts of raising chickens. The ladies have become very dear to me. I’ve become protective of them and particular about who I entrust to care for them when I’m away.
Like any other pet, they each have their own personalities. One rules the roost and always pushes her way to the front of the coop when I arrive, one tends to be a follower and the third is very laid back and makes her way to feed at her own pace.
As long as I give them plenty of food, water and love, they’ll continue to produce lots of delicious eggs for the garden club members to enjoy.
Kelsey Taylor is a certified personal trainer with the International Fitness Professionals Association, a sports nutritionist and a strength training instructor with more than 12 years of experience. She works at Angie’s List as the wellness director.