A Tale of Backyard Chicken Farmers
“We started out with six hens two summers ago. A hawk carried one away, so the remaining five provide just enough eggs for us,” reported Laura Miller. Laura lives on Franklin Street in Greenfield with her husband Rick and their children Isabel and Sam. Along with the children’s toys, their backyard contains moveable plastic chicken fencing, and a Taj Majal of a hen house for night roosting, sheltering and egg boxes.
As a chef Laura cooked organic and locally grown food. Inspired by the desire for fresher eggs and by Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, she suggested backyard chicken farming to Rick. “No way!” Rick responded; as a stay-at-home dad, he would be caring for the flock as well as the kids. Plus, he and Laura had grown up in the suburbs; neither had ever been near a chicken. He eventually agreed to try.
They ordered six baby hens from breeds that combine desirable traits for layers: good egg production, cold-weather hardy, double purpose (both eggs and meat). The flock now includes samples of beautiful Golden Comets, Rhode Island Reds, Black Stars, and Silver-laced Wyandottes. This fall the Millers plan to eat the hens; then they’ll buy meat birds and new layers and keep them in separate pens. Town regulations limits backyard flocks to nine and prohibits roosters. Ten or more chickens require a permit from the Board of Health. “Care is minimal,” Rick relates. “I make sure there is a constant supply of fresh water, organic layer pellets for feed, and crushed oyster shells for hard eggshells.”
Chris Peters believes that raising chickens should be part of everyone’s household, like it was 100 years ago, and he recommends it as fun for the whole family. Now the whole family is enjoying the addition of six chickens and a handsome chicken coop behind their home on Hastings Street. Chris and Kara, and their two children Atticus and Penelope, are looking forward to enjoying the eggs, approximately 4 eggs a day.
The Peters chose Plymouth Barred Rocks for their hardiness to New England winters. Chris was imaginative in finding materials and in building the coop himself.