Haven’t you heard? Just look at the flood of media coverage, and you’ll soon discover that chickens are making themselves at home in neighborhoods all across the country, embraced and lauded as good pets and a source for sustainable, nutritious food.
Our very own book Keeping Chickens, part of the Homemade Living series, offers up helpful guidance to those new to the backyard chicken experience. Packed with must-know details, inspiring photos, and even some delicious egg-centric recipes, it’s fast becoming one of the hottest go-to guides on the topic. In light of our bird-themed blogiversary, I thought it would be fun to check in with author, Ashley English, with some questions about her own flock and her experiences with the chickens book.
Q: How many chickens do you own now, and do you have plans to get more?
A: At present, I own 4 hens. I’m actively in the process of acquiring more. We’d like our flock to ultimately be at around 10-12 chickens. That way, we’re less likely to run out of eggs, which often happens now.
Q: I know it’s hard to choose, but what’s your favorite way to use your chickens’ eggs?
A: Oh, wow. It really is hard to choose! If forced to select a favorite, though, I’d probably have to say just simple scrambled eggs are my favorite way of using my flock’s eggs. We cook them “low and slow,” meaning that we whisk them together and then cook them slowly over low heat, while continuously stirring. This method makes the most delicious scrambled eggs: soft, pillowy and full of flavor.
Q: What do you most often hear from readers of your book, Keeping Chickens?
A: Folks often write asking how they can acquire chickens in their area. For such questions, I encourage people to seek out local backyard chicken-keeping clubs, scour the classifieds (both print and online; Craigslist is a great resource), and ask purveyors of locally sold fresh eggs if they have birds for sale or perhaps know someone who might.
Q: In hindsight is there anything you would do differently now that you’re a more experienced chicken momma?
A: I’d have fortified my coop against predators even further. My situation is somewhat unique, living back in a dense, undeveloped forest as I do. I thought I’d predator-proofed it adequately, but some very clever raccoons (or, a raccoon), discovered means of accessing the coop (via scaling the fencing). We’ve since turned it into “Chicken Fort Knox,” with barbed wire and a serious of coops within the coop. If I’d known at the onset just how wiley (and smart!) these raccoons could be, I’d have begun with a coop as well fortified as it currently is.
Q: Several years into owning chickens and a year and a half after the publication of your book, have there been any stand-out surprises for you in chicken ownership?
A: Nothing really stands out, aside from just how easy it is. After your coop is secure, it’s really just a matter of providing food and water, and staying on top of regular coop maintenance. The reward is a happy, clucking flock and fresh, nutritious, scrumptious eggs. It’s a win-win scenario for all parties!
For more wisdom from Ashley, check out these great blog posts she’s written on the topic of backyard chickens:
Design Sponge: Keeping Chickens
Small Measures: Chickening Out / Keeping Chickens Preview
Small Measure: An Ounce of Prevention / Winter Chicken Care
Small Measure: Stating the Obvious / Knowing Where Your Eggs Come From