Learn how to raise your own chickens

For Jennifer Behm of Twin Lakes Farms, raising chickens was more practical than raising cows. “They’re smaller than I am so I can deal with them better than cows,” said Jennifer Behm , who will be at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden’s first Tuesday presentation next week to share insights and give pointers to those interested in starting their own chicken coop. She’ll discuss resources newcomers can turn to for help and what they can expect, ready-to-lay hens versus tiny day old chicks, equipment and feeding needs and the do’s and don’ts of starting a chicken coop. “I’m telling the story of how I kept our first set of chicks upstairs in the bedrooms,” she said. “that might be a big don’t .” Jennifer Behm used to work for a Charlotte law firm. but after her mother passed away three years ago, she began raising chickens on the Belmont farm that belonged to her parents. Today, she has more than 100 chickens and collects nearly six dozen eggs daily. her chickens are all fed natural grain with no antibiotics or hormones, which makes a difference in the eggs they produce, she said. “They taste better,” she said. “If you crack a store-bought egg into a cup and crack a farm fresh egg in to a cup, you will see a big difference in the yolk. The farm fresh egg is usually much darker.” Those considering raising their own chickens need to decide if they want them for their meat or their eggs, she said. Her chickens are kept in groups of 30 to 40 and have full run of their 1,000 square-foot enclosures. those in urban settings don’t need a lot of acreage for a few hens, she said. They do need to have room for a chicken coop to keep dry and safe. “in the city, dogs aren’t supposed to roam, but cats do,” she said. “there are coyotes in lots of neighborhoods and predatory birds that will sit on posts just outside the chicken coop.” You’ll also need to know what the zoning regulations are, she said. in Gastonia, the city ordinance permits residents to keep 20 chickens per acre of available land. Guidelines require feed to be stored in rat- and snake-proof containers and for odor and noise to be controlled. Feeding your chickens twice daily instead of using a continuous feeder can help prevent leftover feed attracting pests in city settings, Jennifer Behm said. “The hens will clean it up real fast,” she said. “They’ll eat it up and then it’s gone.” “If you have four hens or something like that, to do a good job, you might spend anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes (a day),” she said. “I make more work out of mine because I like them to have a clean chicken house. “I don’t think the chickens mind, but it’s nice for me. I don’t like dirty nests.” LEARN HOW TO START A CHICKEN COOP

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