Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Hens Keep Things Lively at Hoganvillaea Farm
I was surprised when Cindy Ramsay, Central Carolina Community College’s Director of Continuing Education in Lee County, asked me to do a chicken workshop with the focus on a small urban or backyard flock. I’d been keeping chickens then for seven years and very much enjoyed my small flocks. I’ve been intent on raising as much of my food as possible and then having a few cash crops, so raising chickens made sense: handy protein and egg money.
It proved a sharp learning curve. I had to overcome a lot of fear: that the chickens would die, that we wouldn’t get the coop and yard ready in time (they grow fast) and that they might start eating each other; that predators would kill them, etc. But they didn’t smother each other by piling into a corner (it helped to have a horse tub with rounded corners); they didn’t eat each other, and I learned, if one was getting picked on, to separate her out for awhile, and we built coop and yard so as to be secure against the multiple predators: foxes, raccoons, possums, rats, snakes, dogs, hawks, owls, etc., and none died from disease.
It was hard when I had to decide to have some killed, for they were attached to me as I, to them, but my neighbors helped me, and I got through that. So, yes, though I was no expert, I had acquired some experience, knew the resources, and agreed to do the workshop in the fall of 2010.
Cindy Ramsey offered it in Sanford because a recent law allowed keeping chickens (no roosters) inside the city limits.
It turns out that quite a few municipalities now allow chickens, plus, with the interest in healthy local food, my own passion for my chickens isn’t unique. My small flock, renewed with new chicks every three years, is a break-even proposition, as the feed costs almost as much as the egg money can pay for, but I have wonderful fresh eggs in my diet, and they make other people healthy and happy, too.
Teaching is one way that those of us in our PMZ years can give to those younger and share what we have learned, whether about chickens, living, literature, or any endeavor to which we have given time and attention and learned to be at ease.
To my second chicken workshop on April 9 this year another writer came, Ruth Eckles, and she wrote about the experience. I okayed her bringing a photographer to the afternoon farm visit, so Sarah Cress joined us here at my Hoganvillaea Farm, which is, essentially, my backyard, since lawn, where chickweed grows profusely in the spring, the gardens where I grow vegetables, herbs, and flowers, and the small orchard, plus my house, the coop and yard for the hens, are all on half an acre.
I was pleased with Ruth’s report and thought Sarah’s photos added the exactly right visual images. So try this blog and enjoy: http://www.durhamprofiles.com/?p=121