February 2, 2014

Chicken raising has rewards

Recently there has been a surge in interest in eating locally grown foods and farm products. While visiting the local farmer’s markets and the roadside stands that are spread across the county is a great start, nothing is more local than growing or raising your own food.

Besides the satisfaction of doing it yourself, you will also gain an understanding of how difficult it is for farmers to consistently provide us with a high-quality, nutritious food supply. Having a backyard garden is sometimes just the first step in our quest to become agricultural do-it-yourselfers. If you are thinking about raising livestock, you might consider one of the most common and widespread domesticated animals in the world, the chicken.

The chicken has been domesticated and raised for eggs, meat and feathers for thousands of years. Originally from the tropical regions of Asia, the chicken has spread all over the world and has been bred into a multitude of different breeds. Chickens in modern agricultural operations bear little resemblance to the original.

Modern breeding programs have created meat breeds that grow incredibly fast for meat production or egg layers that consistently lay large eggs. What these modern breeds sometimes lack however is the beauty, personality and multipurpose qualities of the older heritage breeds of the past. 

What many backyard chicken growers are looking for is a connection to the past, perhaps a memory of chickens from their childhood. From tiny bantams to large birds like the Jersey Giant, there is a chicken for just about anyone.

My interest in chickens began when I joined 4-H as a youth. Raising and showing chickens at the county fair was a good way to start learning the life lessons of responsibility and hard work. More recently, my wife obtained about a dozen chickens from a friend and renewed my interest in these intriguing birds.

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