I’ve wanted for some time to dispel some myths related to keeping chickens. Since chickens are no longer common in most backyards, we’ve come to believe certain misconceptions about our fine, feathered friends and what happens when we keep them. I was fortunate enough to meet Kelly Lang, who along with her husband Noah and their kids grow veggies and raise chickens in Mehrten Valley. I asked Kelly about a few things people often assume about chickens.
Myth #1: Chickens are disgusting and will get you sick.
Just like with any animal, if you neglect to take care of it, the more likely it’s going to be dirty and get sick. But with proper care (no, you don’t have to clean everything every day) your chickens should stay nice and healthy. Educate yourself and your loved ones about proper maintenance and keep on the lookout for warning signs that your flock needs help. Also, wash your hands after handling or cleaning out the coop. That's just good sense people.
The Lang’s setup is quite nice. They have a large coop and two runs; one for the older hens, the other for the younger ones. And despite having a bunch of birds, the runs are both very clean since Kelly and Noah compost the droppings. “You can keep chickens in a small space, but I think they stay healthier when they have more room,” Kelly said.
Now what about that bird flu? Well, you’ll be happy to know this from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Highly pathogenic avian influenza A (H5N1) viruses have never been detected among wild birds, domestic poultry, or people in the United States.” Did you catch that? “Never.”
Myth #2: No rooster, no eggs.
Hens, like human women all carry eggs. No rooster needed. In fact, you only need a rooster if you’d like those eggs to become chicks. Catch my drift? So, even without those noisy roosters, hens will give you a regular supply of eggs. Kelly said their hens average about an egg a day during the most productive times of the year.
Myth #3: Chickens are loud and obnoxious.
This is only a half myth since roosters are usually the ones that are loud and obnoxious. Kelly will attest to the fact that hens are usually very quiet except for the one squawk that may follow laying an egg. And really people, compared to dogs, who will bark all night long or my neighbor who likes to have loud phone conversations at 3 a.m. on his porch, hens will be the last ones making anyone lose any sleep.
If you’re interested in raising chickens, check with your city. And then you can decide whether or not to abide by the rules (just kidding… maybe). Just do your research, make sure you have a proper set up, and then invest in a few birds. And for the sake of domestic tranquility, maybe give your neighbor some of those eggs.