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    How to Raise Chickens: 10 Tips for Backyard Fowls

    When you think about the city of Philadelphia, I doubt fresh produce, large gray chickens or a rotund pig named Milkshake rarely come to mind.

    If you haven’t been to Greensgrow Farms, you are missing out. Not only do they have Milkshake and chickens, Greensgrow Farms is a cool agricultural oasis that presents a verdant contrast against the gritty Philadelphia backdrop.

    Greensgrow Farms offers local fresh produce through farm stands and mobile markets, a much-desired alternative to the processed foods in our chain supermarkets.  Located at 2501 E. Cumberland Street,  Greensgrow Farms offers a variety of events, classes, and workshops about eating healthier and living a more sustainable lifestyle.

    I recently attended a workshop on raising chickens at Greensgrow. Marianne Morrison (Aviary team, Philadelphia Zoo), and Maureen Breen (Community outreach coordinator, Backyard Chickens)’s tutorial covered best practices on how to care for chickens from infancy until egg-laying hens.

    I was surprised to learn that raising chickens is an effective way to lower your carbon footprint. You’ll save money on your grocery bill and chicken droppings can be reused as compost and fertilizer. Also, little chicks and chickens make a cute addition to the family.

    Here’s 10 essential facts about raising chickens:

    1. It is illegal in Philadelphia and many other cities to own chickens. If you are a country dweller, feel free continue to on to facts 2-10. If you are city resident, Green Philly Blog does not condone any illegal behavior; proceed at your own risk.
    2. Talk to your neighbors before you buy chickens. They will probably be concerned about the noise level. Chickens cluck at about 60-80 decibels, which is considerably less noisy than a dog. However, reconsider getting a rooster because they are on the high side of 90 decibels.
    3. Keep your chickens away from dogs and cats.  Dogs are natural predators, and it is nearly impossible to break them of the urge to hunt the new fuzzy creatures.   A sturdy fence can prevent a feathery massacre.
    4. Providing shelter for chickens is easier than you would expect. A plastic bin with a heating lamp, chick feeder and water supply will work well when they are little chicks.  As chickens grow, you should invest in a coop, making sure the structure is well insulated and well-ventilated.  A modified doghouse works well as a coop. Heating lamps can help to sustain the temperature, but you have to be careful so as not to overheat the chickens.  Consulting with an avian specialist to can help you provide the best possible home.
    5. An average chicken eats 3 measuring cups of feed a day.  Commercial pellets and leafy greens are a healthy source of food for chickens, and mealworms are a good snacks. Since chickens need more calcium when laying eggs, keep in mind oyster shells as a good source.
    6. It is important that you socialize with chicks. You want your chickens to trust you, so spend time with them during the day when they are most active. At night, they shut down and do not move.
    7. Make sure that there is no food left in the coop at night.  This will help keep predators like rats, raccoons, and opossums away who might steal your eggs or attack your chickens.
    8. Chickens live 6-10 years.  They lay eggs for about 5-6 years.
    9. Safety tips: Always wash your eggs.  Make sure that you provide your chickens with a dry, clean environment to help to prevent salmonella.
    10. Fun fact: The chicken is the closest living relative to the T-Rex.  When you buy your chicken, you’ll be the closest to fulfilling your childhood dream of owning a pet dinosaur.

    Readers, if you have chickens, what has been your experience?  Do you think that people should be allowed to raise chickens in the city? Tell us what you think about raising chickens and more in the comments.

    For more info, visit Greensgrow’s website or email  Philadelphia Backyard Chickens:  LegalPhillyHen@gmail.com

    Your thoughts . . .