If you’ve been paying any attention at all, you know that keeping chickens has become popular among urban and suburban homeowners. The idea of feeding your family fresh eggs from hens in your backyard is appealing to farmers and city-dwellers alike, and McKinney, TX has its fair share of chicken keepers. In fact, this Saturday, April 26, you can tour some of McKinney’s most luxurious coops at the Tour D’Coop – but more on that in a minute.
I got to sit down with Jeremiah Hammer last week over breakfast and learn all about keeping chickens. Jeremiah is passionate about fresh, healthy food and runs the McKinney Community Garden Association. He has his own hens in the backyard of his Mckinney Historic District home, so I knew he was the perfect person to explain Chicken Keeping 101 to me. This is what I learned in our conversation.
Why Keep Chickens in McKinney, TX?
Well, there are a lot of reasons, first being eggs.
Each hen will lovingly provide you with one egg every day. So if your family goes through two dozen eggs per week, you are covered with just four hens. Of course, it sounds to me that these little ladies are addicting, so you may end up with more. This will make you popular with your neighbors since you will of course share your eggs with them.
I ran a thoroughly unscientific test on eggs, comparing organic grocery store eggs to locally purchased free-range eggs. The local egg yolks were neon compared to their washed out commercial counterpart. It seems that free-range eggs have less cholesterol and saturated fat, and more of vitamins A, D, and E, beta-carotene, and Omega 3’s. Check it out here. (Not vouching for the science, so don’t come after me!)
In addition, these girls are entertaining. Jeremiah says that people stop watching tv and start watching chickens when they get their own flock. I’m not sure they rise to the level of Walter White, but they are pretty cute and quirky.
It seems that chickens are fairly easy to keep. Some folks let the chickens roam free in their yard, others keep them in a a coop or fenced in area. If they are able to roam free, you don’t need to worry about clean up and they will fertilize your yard for you, but they still need a coop to keep them safe at night.
If you’ve got chickens with wanderlust you might choose to keep them in a coop all the time. Just remember that the smaller the coop, the more clean up, or “mucking” you have to do. According to Jeremiah, the mucking isn’t such a big deal. “I’ve got to go muck the coop.” That’s a phrase I want to be able to say and mean it.
There is a hybrid solution as well – a chicken tractor. Basically a coop on wheels, you move the coop and its resident chickens around your yard from time to time. It spreads the fertilizer out, but keeps the chickens contained and gives them a fresh supply of insects to peck at.
It is important to make your coop impenetrable to predators – around here you need to worry about raccoons and hawks, and possible coyotes depending on your neighborhood.
Feeding the Birds
Chickens are omnivorous, meaning they consume both vegetable and animal food sources. Their powerful beaks allow them to make quick work of insects and they are happy to chow down on the feed you provide for them as well. Jeremiah emphasizes the importance of quality feed. He says that lower quality feed results in eggs with thin shells and pale yolks. When you go this route, you end up investing in supplements to improve these problems and spend just as much as you would if you had just bought the good stuff to begin with.
Jeremiah recommends D&L Farm and Home as a supplier of quality organic feed with no GMO’s.
How Does The City of McKinney Feel About This? This Isn’t Green Acres, You Know?
McKinney allows up to twelve chickens to be kept by residents, according to animal control’s FAQ page. They must be kept in appropriate enclosure. Also, no roosters.
I know it’s off topic, but no peacocks either. Curious.
Remember that your HOA may have a different view on keeping chickens, so be sure to check your HOA covenants before getting too attached to your flock.
Jeremiah suggests purchasing hens (about $12 each) that are ready to lay for you. You can also purchase chicks for about a dollar a piece, but of course it will be a while before they provide you with breakfast. I’m thinking this is a bargain either way. Breed is a personal preference issue. You might choose a breed based on their appearance or the color of eggs they produce.
It’s a good idea to have their sleeping arrangements figured out before you bring them home.
There are numerous Facebook groups for backyard chicken keepers and they are a great resource for you if you want to get started with your own group of ladies. In addition, BackYard Chickens is a website with a ton of informative articles as well as active forums for the chicken-keeping community.
The McKinney Historic Neighborhood Association’s Tour D’Coop
If you want to learn a little more before you jump into chicken-keeping, or you are just curious about chicken-keeping in McKinney, then you should not miss the MHNA Tour D’Coop this Saturday, April 26 from 11-4. Tickets ($5 each) and maps will be available starting at 10:30 am at D&L Farm and Home at 210 W. University, the tour will take you to seven of McKinney’s most upscale chicken coops.
And not only do you get to see these adorable coops, all attendees will receive tasty chicken samples at Local Yocal, free iced tea and entry into a raffle at Patina Green, and some delicious Henry’s ice cream at Spoons. In addition, the first 100 people to purchase tickets will be treated to hot coffee and free breakfast.
So head on over to D&L on Saturday. I hope to run into you there!