So you want to keep chickens in the desert?
Before we go any further I have to mention the fabulous chicken photo above. My friend Melissa Haun took the picture (hence the stamp). Melissa got her first fancy camera not long after I got mine, but she actually invested in classes and trainings and countless hours practice. It shows. She is moving to the big leagues soon. Check out her site.
Leah asked a few weeks ago about tips for raising chickens in the heat of the desert. Given we’ve only been doing this since January we’re hardly experts, but now it is September we’ve at least made it through the summer. Well, almost. For those outside of Tucson, it is still bloody hot here. I can’t pretend expertise, but I can share what I would do different or the same if we were to do it again. Most of the information I’ve gleaned has been from the Backyard Chicken Forum, My Pet Chicken and Mykl Wells aka not completely random guy in bar, who I know through Crafternoon. The first installment: Really? Chickens?
The appeal of fresh eggs in the morning, especially after the recent salmonella scare, the increased awareness of dire factory farming practices, and the whole back to the earth movement has a lot of us checking out backyard chickens. Our discussion about keeping chickens started seriously a couple of years ago after house-sitting for some friends in Marin, CA who had five chickens. Along with fabulous fresh produce, we were in a gastronomic heaven. Green grew up partly on a farm, so the idea had a lot of appeal for him, and I’m a push over about such things so it didn’t take much. We visited our friends in CA again this past March, and along with some more local friends doing the urban chicken thing and talking with our neighbours who keep chickens we finally bit the bullet and got some chickens.
It has been incredibly rewarding so far. One of the first things I do every morning is check out the chickens, or chooks as those wacky Australians refer to them as. Feed them, check their water, clean the coop (okay not every day on this, but often). When we get home, I rush to see how many eggs they’ve laid, and to let the chickens out to play in the larger yard. I love how they cluck at the gate as soon as they see me in the morning and how Snow White (What can I say? We have a 3.5 year old kid in our midst.) follows me around the yard. The eggs are almost as rewarding as just having them with us in our home.
I’m definitely digging the chicken thing, but if you’re planning on making money with this, I’d think again. Once you’ve paid for their feed and building the coop, even a backyard herd of a dozen isn’t going to make much, if any profit, at least not in financial terms. However, if you count a little money for a couple dozen eggs a week, a bunch of mint for a dozen, trading with a neighbour for produce from their garden, a gift here and there of eggs to neighbours and friends, and of course eggs for an egg loving household well then it does feel pretty profitable. Well, and then there is this:
Of course, you could just get friendly with someone with a backyard chicken addiction.
Next time: What hen? That hen.