Resurgence of homegrown food seen across the state
The issue of chickens roosting in the city is not a new one, but it is one being addressed by cities of all sizes as more consumers look to grow their own food in an effort to be health and money conscious, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service leader.
Angela Burkham, AgriLife Extension regional program director for family and consumer sciences in the North Region based in Amarillo, said, “There is a resurgent interest in home-based food production based on the desire for healthier living and playing a more personal role in the food that a family is eating.”
The city of Canyon was recently presented two proposed ordinances for consideration by commissioners—one prohibiting chickens in town and the other simply adding regulations specifically to barnyard-type fowl.
Greg Archer, AgriLife Extension poultry specialist in College Station, said many people wanting to raise chickens in the city don’t need a rooster if they just want eggs, and that will help solve some of their neighbor complaints.
“We usually try to tell people not to get a rooster to keep the noise level down,” Archer said. “And then in terms of air, they just need to make sure they maintain the coop, keeping the litter cleaned out to reduce fly problems and ammonia. If they have good airflow and the litter stays relatively dry, it won’t be as bad. But if it doesn’t have good ventilation, the wetter litter is what causes the problems.”
Archer said he recommends chicken owners get in a routine of cleaning the coop and then adjusting for weather changes that add moisture to the coop. Making sure any water flows away from the coop is important when designing or locating one.
“And we don’t recommend having more chickens than you can eat the eggs,” he said, adding that most breeds will lay an egg every two to three days, but specialized egg-laying breeds might lay an egg every day.
Many people get overwhelmed with all the eggs they will get and they don’t know what to do with them, so they need to know what breed they are getting and also how many eggs they can use weekly, Archer said.
More information can be found through publications, links to webinars and helpful articles at http://www.extension.org and search for chickens, he said.
“Having chickens in the backyard should be more for a hobby or your own use, but not to make money,” Archer said. “If you manage the litter, you won’t have the issue of flies and smell.”
AgriLife Extension has been presenting Backyard Poultry programs that include “Introduction to City Chickens” and “Keeping Your Hens Healthy and Happy” as a part of a larger pilot Backyard Basics series focusing on homegrown and homemade foods.
The Backyard Basics initiative has been in response to the growing interest in home-based food production, preparation and preservation in Texas and throughout the U.S. Burkham said this program was initially piloted in more urban areas of the state, but is now being implemented in less populated areas.
Also in keeping with this interest, the Houston Urban Food Production Conference in August will provide educational information and training for participants who are interested in producing food—chickens, goats, bees—in Houston, the nation’s fourth most populous city.
Recently a small-scale poultry production seminar was held in Fort Worth, designed “for those who want to take control of their own food,” according to coordinators. In Fort Worth, both hens and roosters are allowed, with the numbers dependent upon lot size and with other restrictions in place.
“It doesn’t matter where you live, people in general are more interested in where their food comes from and a desire to eat less processed foods,” Burkham said.
“The Backyard Basics program focuses on being self-reliant,” she said. “The purpose of the program is to educate people regarding personal food production, preparation and cooking, and water conservation. There are currently individual programs on gardening and food preservation in the Panhandle through AgriLife Extension. This program packages many of those concepts together and we hope to offer it to clientele starting in 2014.”
More information on these and upcoming Backyard Basics programs can be found at http://Backyardbasics.tamu.edu.