Backyard beauties: Mesa County residents raise chickens for food
Owning backyard chickens can be a rewarding and fun adventure for those wanting fresh eggs and dinner. Here are some tips:
Chicken ownership within Grand Junction city limits is limited to six chickens per one-half an acre or less. A pen, fence, or cage is required no closer than 20 feet from principal residential structures or adjoining properties.
Will they be meat producers, meat and eggs, or just eggs? Knowing ahead of time helps decide on what type of breed to buy, the type of coop, type of feed, etc.
There are a variety of breeds of chickens, at times not mixing well, so be careful when choosing breeds.
Chickens need 14 hours of sunlight, helping them to lay eggs daily.
Be sure to wash your hands when handling live chickens, eggs, or raw meat to avoid illness.
Forums are popping up everywhere … The trend is taking backyards by storm … There’s even a magazine all about it. And a Fruita festival commemorates a headless one …
Backyard chickens are a bountiful bird providing fun and food for the whole family. From daily eggs to bug control, these critters are more common than you think.
Locally, this trend is gaining speed as many residents throughout the Grand Valley host farm-favorite poultry in their yards.
“They are slowly becoming lawn ornaments,” Grand Junction resident and hen owner Dave Grossman joked.
Fun fact: During a hen’s (the female chicken) young life, it produces dozens upon dozens of eggs from six months old up to 4 years old. As they age, egg production slows (but doesn’t stop). The life expectancy of a hen is around eight to 10 years, with some living more than two decades.
For many, having chickens as pets just won’t work, but for two Grand Junction families — the Martins and Grossmans — it’s just a way of life.
The Martin family purchased chickens two years ago from Murdoch’s Ranch and Home Supply in Clifton as chicks. Once old enough, the hens laid 12 eggs each per day, usually more than they could handle and give away to friends and family.
“They are a great way to keep the bug population down, too,” Cindy Martin said.
The Grossmans however started their chicken clan in a slightly different way.
In 2009, they purchased around 50 chicks from an online breeder out of Iowa. They shared the group with their neighbors, keeping 12 for themselves. Then they put the chicks in a water trough with warmers and feed to stimulate growth. Eventually they put them in wired fences to introduce them to their backyard home — a coop purchased off Craigslist and a pen.
As the chicks grew, Dave realized one of their hens was a rooster. When it began crowing and causing disturbances to the neighborhood, they ate him for dinner.
“I had to watch YouTube on how to properly kill a chicken,” Grossman said. “It was a learning experience for sure.”
The Martins also eat their birds, “once the chickens have done their time.”
For Cindy, raising birds seemed natural because she grew up around them. But for Dave, it’s been a continuous learning experience — from raising chicks, to what to feed them, and how to handle them.
One thing’s for sure — Dave said each of his chickens have a distinct personality.
“It’s fun to watch them banter with each other like they are having conversations about their day,” he added.
Dave also explained that chickens are easier to care for when compared to other household pets, like a dog.
Throughout the years, the Grossmans have lost a few hens from illness and predators, leaving them with five hens.
And though they sometimes debate whether they should eat their chickens for supper, for now they continue the journey of hen ownership, enjoying fresh eggs daily for breakfast.
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