For Love of ….Chickens

Tip of the Month – February 2013 By Cynthia Ruzzi

To everything there is a season, even food. Incorporating seasonal, local, whole foods into your daily diet provides a healthy balance for you and the environment.  Eating vegetables and fruits soon after harvest maximizes the nutrients in the food.  Besides being better for the environment, seasonal, local food is usually more cost effective and generally tastes much better.  My husband and I certainly think so.

We love trying new, local foods and so, we were delighted when Jake, our 11 year old neighbor and self-professed Chicken Farmer invited me to learn more about ‘growing’ fresh, local eggs.  Jake has wanted to raise a brood of hens since 2nd grade when he hatched chicks as a classroom project.   Roadie, J.J., Chevy, Hazel and Fluffy make up Jake’s clucking crew.  He started off with six chicks, but Scrambles was retired to a rural farm when one morning, the family heard crowing.  Apparently, crowing is the first identifier that a chick is a rooster and not a hen.  Danville keeps the peace by banning roosters within city limits.

photo (25)Jake’s brood started laying eggs when they were just under 5 months old and will continue to offer eggs for about 2 years.  It takes a chicken 24 hours to produce an egg, and production is dependent on having at least 13 hours of daylight – so maximum production is 35 eggs per week. Jake basically knows which chicken has laid which egg because he has different breeds that lay different colored eggs; including a Rhode Island Red, two Brahmas and Hazel and Fluffy his Americana chickens.  These girls lay green eggs!  Yes, there really are green eggs – just like in the Dr. Suess book, Green Eggs and Ham.  The family picked these breeds because they can handle both our hot summers and cold, wet winters with aplomb. 

photo (26)

Jake spends between 10 – 30 minutes a day caring for his brood.  The chickens greet him when he opens the screen door to give them their feed or a special treat of cantaloupe (in season of course).  The girls mostly ignore the family when they sit out in the backyard.  Jake says the chickens have a great relationship with his cat, Nutmeg – especially since the chicks have grown larger than the cat.  Jake recommends adopting chickens all at one time to limit competition (pecking order) between the hens. 

jakeJake’s chickens have plenty of room to ‘eat local’ roaming around a large part of the backyard eating bugs.  Thanks to Jake’s dad, Chris, these hens have a chicken palace to rival anything offered in the William Sonoma catalog.  Chris admits he didn’t save much money ‘DYI’ – though he used reclaimed wood for all the construction.  Chris said one of the most important architectural elements for the coop is to include lots of ventilation in the design and to secure on all sides, including underneath the coop, to protect from raccoons and other predators.

As a ‘parting gift’ – or perhaps in exchange for the chocolate chip cookies I brought with me, Jake gave me eggs that were laid that day.  Excited, I picked some spinach from my garden and cooked up a simple omelet that very night.  Can you get more seasonal or local than that?

At EMBRACING THE SEASON FOR A HEALTHY, BALANCED DIET, Sustainable Danville Area’s forum – February 20th forum 6:30pm – 8:00pm  Veterans Memorial Building  400 Hartz Avenue – you’ll learn how to savor local flavors from our guest speakers as they talk about the inspiration they gain by embracing the seasons.  Sebastian Miller, Executive Chef of Piatti’s Danville, is known for bringing contemporary flavors to the plate using seasonal, local ingredients prepared in a simple, unpretentious manner.  Sebastian reveals how he creates the ever changing ‘market menu’ at Piatti’s and how you can do the same at home.  Angela Stanford, Registered Dietitian and Holistic Food & Nutrition Advisor, Vital Nutrition & Wellness, holistic approach to eating combines 20 years of working in the food and health industries with roots on her family farm and love for cooking and organic gardening. For more information, visit and join us on Facebook (

Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News

Want to learn how to raise your own chickens?  Check out Papa John’s Chicken-Raising Workshops in Lafayette.

Chicken-Raising Workshops with Papa John
3d calendarFebruary & March

Raising chickens has never been easier. The popular workshops with Papa John Keifer are the best way to get started. Close to 300 people have attended in the past three years. Classes are on Sundays from 1-3:30 (2/10, 2/17, 3/2).  Free, but registration is required.See more information on our Chicken Workshop flyer or email Papa John at

One response to “For Love of ….Chickens

  1. Those are some beautiful hens you have. I also raise chickens as well and love to hear when others have them as pets.