Saturday, April 20, 2013

Chickens in the city???

Our 15 Golden Buff chicks at 1 day old
Well, we held out as long as we could, but Samm and I went to the Tractor Supply store Thursday evening and bought 6 new bantam chicks.  They are AWESOMELY cute and way more entertaining to watch than any cable TV show...except maybe Scrubs, but that's different.

Right now we have them in our apartment with a heat lamp and have been watching as they "fly" themselves up to their little perch and then jump back down again.  It's absolutely hilarious to see how clumsy they are!

We already have 14 fully grown chickens at my future in-laws' house, 13 of which are Golden Buff hens (egg-celent layers!  Each lays about an egg a day!) and 1 black Jersey Giant rooster (he's a veritable mack-daddy and is VERY protective of his ladies).

How do we have chickens in Warren, MI?  Well, there's a fun story!

We first got our chicks in late spring of 2012.  We purchased 4 awkward mixed breed chicks from a local pet store and started learning the ropes of the do's and don'ts of backyard chicken raising.  I remembered reading something about Warren allowing chickens as pets and went ahead with the purchase while I was living with Samm's parents.  Once we had the coop built and an area set up for their "yard", we went ahead and ordered 15 Golden Buffs from the Meyer Hatchery in Ohio.  Our order came in (much to the surprise of the post office workers!) and we had one rooster and 14 hens.  We were thrilled even though the rooster ended up getting sick and dying within a week or so of their arrival.  As they grew and the roosters got louder, a neighbor complained and Animal Control came to investigate.  It's then that we were told about the city ordinance against keeping farm animals and that we would be fined if they weren't off the property by 5 days from then.  I was furious and felt like an idiot for having believed something I found on the internet.  Well, Samm stayed up all night with me and found just what we needed to get the city off our backs.  And as it turns out, ANY city in Michigan regardless of ordinance is subject to the same.

The Michigan Right To Farm Act:

This law states that anyone can keep and raise farm animals anywhere in Michigan so long as they are looking to sell a product or make some form of income from them and they follow the Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practices (GAAMPs).


We checked over these documents and saw that we were following the law perfectly.  So, we printed out a copy for ourselves and for the city, wrote up a letter explaining how we are within our rights, and headed on up to city hall.

You ever had a police officer pull you over for something you didn't even know was a law and then tell you that ignorance isn't a valid argument?  Well, they definitely don't enjoy their ignorance of laws being shoved back in their faces!

My future father-in-law, Bill, and I went up to City Hall together to educate them and get them off our backs.  We were very calm, as were they, but they gave us the run around.  The police sent us to the city attorney, the city attorney sent us to public services, public services sent us to the police, and finally we talked to animal control.  They told us we were wrong and they were unaware of any such law.  They said that zoning laws didn't allow for us to sell eggs out of our home and so we had no choice.  We then explained that we were delivering eggs and would be selling them at farmer's markets and would not be breaking any zoning laws.  They then took the copies of the laws and the letter and talked loudly to themselves about how they'd " to have chickens, but it's illegal."

Of course, that was in September of 2012 and here it is almost May of 2013 and we have yet to hear a word from the city.

Staying educated and current with the farming and zoning laws is important if you're going to raise any kind of livestock.  If you're armed with knowledge, you're untouchable.  Mostly.  We can get into government bullying in another blog though.  For the purposes of this one, let's just assume your city government is comprised of reasonable individuals who are there to be public servants.  Good for you for living in such a city!  In any case, you HAVE to stay current or you may end up losing your right to have the animals you so deeply crave.

Why bother going through all the trouble of knowing these laws and building a coop and feeding and cleaning up after animals?  The rewards are many!

We as a society have lost touch with where our food comes from.  Our kids don't know that chicken nuggets are made of chicken.  They don't know that hamburger is made of cow.  They couldn't find a tomato in a potato stack.  Sounds ridiculous, right?  But it's sadly true for a majority of children in our country.  There's become this disconnect between the farm and the plate...and I see this as such a moral slap in the face.  We're blindly eating what's handed to us in a fancy package and not thinking about the cost of it.  Sure, we're looking at the price, but what is the cost?  What does it cost to feed an animal?  What does it cost to package and ship eggs and meat?  How about to butcher an animal?  You start to realize that food is something we've learned to take advantage of due to an abundance here in America. I, for the first time in my life, killed and butchered my first chicken last year.  I did 3 of them total and those first 2 took a real mental toll on me.  I had never killed an animal like that before.  It's so personal when you've raised the creature yourself and you are taking its life with your bare hands.  It's humbling.  "You appreciate something more if you do it yourself" is something I've heard my whole life and this was the first time I really realized how true this statement was.

Raising chickens has allowed me to not only indulge in the best eggs I've ever tasted, it's helped me to understand the relationships found in nature.  We let our chickens roam freely through the backyard most days and I noticed that once that started happening, the number of bugs flying around us decreased dramatically.  I also noticed that their scratching at the lawn made the grass healthier....not to mention their poop.  Their poop, when composted, is some of the best fertilizer out there.  At least this is something I've read time and time again.  I'm really looking forward to doing some good composting with the massive amount of fecal matter these beautiful birds leave behind.

There are other reasons for raising your own chickens.  For example, arsenic is found in commercial chicken feed along with fluoxotine (prozac), caffeine, antibiotics, and growth hormones.  Ever notice how much younger girls are developing nowadays?  I don't have the proof to link the two right now, but I'd be willing to bet money on this among other contributors.  We'll have to discuss the never-ending profit cycle for companies like Monsanto and Pfizer in dealing with our food in another blog posting, but for now, let's focus solely on the health factor.  Maybe I'm crazy for thinking this way, but if we are what we eat, aren't chickens what they eat?  If we don't feed them natural foods, how can we expect a natural product?  Did I mention that chickens are like mini garbage disposals?  No?  Well check this out.  When you have chickens, you just save your fruit peelings and vegetable scraps, stale bread, over-ripened fruit, grass clippings, spiders and flies you squish in the house....and feed them to the chickens.  They'll LOVE it.  Then you'll end up with high quality meat and eggs and even higher quality fertilizer from their waste.  AND you'll save on garbage bags!  Maybe not a whole lot, but every little bit counts, right?

I could go on and on, but I'll let this be as is for now and pick it back up another time.  I've enjoyed keeping and raising chickens so much.  Samm and I can't wait to have a house with some property so that we can have many different animals and raise them all together, just as has been done for millennia.
Samm holding one of the new bantam chicks

Youtube Llamas with Hats...  This chick loved it so much she decided to sit on Carl.

2 of our newest chicks

An egg-sample of the latest batch of fresh eggs

Depending on the day, eggs can be huge or tiny or anywhere in between.

One of the best parts about raising chickens is seeing how different each egg is from the next.

Chickens in the garden

They aerate the soil and pick up your slack!

Digging for bugs in the garden

Chickens help keep pests under control in the garden.  They eat very little of the actual produce.

Our first eggs!

We can spend hours just watching them do their thing.

"There've gotta be bugs in here somewhere..."

Scratching around the yard on Easter looking for a bug snack

Our rooster proudly making his rounds through the yard amongst the Golden Buffs


1 comment:

  1. Chickens are the best. After the last of our original 26 died last year (we live in the country), I finally persuaded the family to get more chicks. They brighten up the yard and eat so many bugs! Plus, the eggs are amazing - tasting and looking!



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