It's official…we’ve decided to raise chickens. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m trying to find ways to help my family eat well and avoid the extra ‘junk’ that comes with processed, packaged food. I have a great back yard, three curious kiddos, and a hubby that loves eggs - so it didn’t take him long to get on board.
Last year I started reading blogs and books on raising chickens, but I also wanted to get advice from someone in my area with experience. Thankfully, I was introduced to Betty Stanley through a friend. Betty and her husband Jeff run Pasta Via, a local eatery and catering business. They also raise chickens, keep bees, and even have a goat!
Earlier this month the kids and I met up with some friends to visit Betty at home, check out her set up, and get some real life advice for raising chickens in suburban Philadelphia.
Betty chooses breeds of chickens known for being good egg layers (she doesn't have any roosters). They lay about an egg a day from spring through fall, with less frequency (if at all) in the winter months. Lucky for us the chickens were back in their spring laying cycle before our visit.
Their coop is totally enclosed to protect from wandering foxes and the hawks that fly above. The coop has no electric or water supply running to it, so every day Betty checks the water dispenser and cleans out the coop…because there are a lot of ‘droppings’ from ten hens! Betty uses the shells and the chicken poo as compost for her vegetable garden.
Ideally, she'd love to have her chickens ‘free range’ during the day, but with very young grandchildren running around and manicured trees and burms throughout the yard – it hasn’t happened yet. Betty doesn’t name her chickens, but we surely will. I think that’s the part the kids are most looking forward too. Chickens for pets!
Like Betty, we prefer brown eggs (I honestly don’t think there’s a difference between white and brown – just preference) and I’ve read that the chickens’ diet controls the health benefits of eggs, the richness and color of the yolk, and the bird’s overall health. I’ve found a few breeds that are said to be perfect for beginners and for keeping a brood of chickens happy and healthy. Do you have experience with a specific breed? I’d love to hear your advice!
Betty was such a gracious host and even sent us home with fresh brown eggs and some honey. Her beehives are amazing and the honey is so fragrant and delicious, maybe bee keeping is in my future as well. But one thing at a time…
We know it won’t be easy, but we're up for the challenge and I’m so excited for my kids to be involved in the 'farm to table' process and to experience the work needed to provide our family with fresh eggs. Stay tuned for more info on our coop design, chicken breeds, and a plenty of egg recipes!