Press-Republican

Hagar

April 3, 2011

Chickens make good ag enterprise

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 DIYers. If you are looking for something a little extra, 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 breeds that grow incredibly fast for meat production or lay consistently large eggs. What these modern breeds lack, however, is the beauty, personality and multipurpose qualities of the older heritage breeds of the past.

What many small-scale 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 enjoys having chickens and she renewed my interest in these intriguing birds. Since we live out in the country, we are able to let them free range during the day and lock them in their coop only at night for protection. While not everyone wants chickens walking about their lawn and driveway, it is quite amusing to see them come running when called to eat.

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