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Raising backyard chickens

Tuesday, September 21, 2010 Leave a Comment

On a quiet street near Bill Roberts Elementary, you might just hear the soft clucking of half a dozen hens. They reside in a backyard chicken coop, the cooperative project of four Stapleton neighbors who decided they wanted to have fresh, healthy eggs from chickens they would raise themselves.

I'm a fan of healthy eating and backyard gardens, so I was intrigued by this group of neighbors who are sharing 6 hens in the backyard and paid them a visit.

Stapleton Mom Shannon Brooks and her 4-year old daughter, Georgia, gave me and my two boys the grand tour. The inspiration, Shannon told me, came from the book "Animal Vegetable Miracle," where author Barbara Kingsolver and her family spent a year eating only locally grown and raised food for an entire year. Shannon and her neighbors wanted healthy eggs, free of hormones and antibiotics (and now salmonella, although that wasn't even on their radar two years ago), from chickens raised humanely. That meant finding eggs from someplace other than a factory farm, someplace where the chickens were allowed to roam freely, scratch in the dirt, eat bugs, and eat a chicken's natural diet.

Then the Denver Botanic Gardens put on a class about raising chickens in the city, so they took the class, built a chicken coop, got a permit from the city, and bought some chicks from a farmer in Fort Collins.

The six hens all live in a nice sized chicken coop. The raised, insulated coop is where the hens lay their eggs each day, but they have a ramp so they can roam the fenced area. The families take turns caring for them, for a week each time. They feed them, let them out in the yards to roam -- but never unattended, as there are raccoons in the neighborhood -- collect and distribute the eggs. They get around 30 eggs a week.

When 4-year old Georgia opened the coop door, she pulled out a lovely brownish pink egg. They just got a new hen, she informed me, who lays green eggs. Which made me wonder: what's the difference between white and brown eggs?

According to NPR, the answer is quite simple: white eggs come from chickens with white feathers, and brown eggs come from chickens with brown feathers. And there's no difference in the insides - brown eggs are not healthier than white eggs.

The chickens eat organic feed - that is crumbles or pellets & then table scraps - veggies, fruits, breads, pasta, oatmeal, etc. They LOVE movie popcorn. And, of course, bugs in the yard.

They keep clear of anything spicy, like onions or garlic, as it will affect the taste of the eggs.

So how do they taste? Better than store bought? I brought a couple home, and they have rich golden yolks -- and that alone makes them more appetizing than, say, the pale yellow Archer Farms eggs. Shannon thinks they taste better, but her husband doesn't notice much of a difference.

But they are free of hormones or antibiotics or the salmonella plagues of the big egg farms, and that makes all the difference to these four families.

My boy wondered if they'd named the chickens... there's Tootsie, Barbie, Carmel, Sunshine & 2 that are nameless.

If you want to see for yourselves how Shannon and our Stapleton neighbors are raising chickens, they're on The Denver Botanic Garden Chicken Coop Tour on October 2. You'll need to buy tickets in advance to see some chicken coops around Denver -- $20 gets 4 people in.

Go check them out!


  • Anonymous said:  

    How do you get the permit?

  • Unknown said:  

    awww, where did the photos go?