A poultry adventure – The gang’s all here

Published 8:53 pm Tuesday, September 26, 2023

For the past few months, I have been working towards establishing a back-yard chicken coop. After constructing the coop, repairing damage the coop sustained during recent storms and researching best practices for raising chickens, I became the proud owner of a small flock Saturday, six birds that are well on their way to fulfilling a new life’s mission to get me off the computer and outside in the fresh air while teaching me the virtues of backyard farming.

Growing up in the country, one might think I had some knowledge of poultry farming, but that is not the case. My mother bred Saint Bernards for a while during my youth and our family kept four of them as household pets. Those larger-than-average lap dogs were the closest encounter I experienced with raising livestock, until now.

The poultry adventure began in February as coverage of how avian flu was impacting Alabama egg producers. During the investigation, I interviewed local backyard chicken farmers, women whose stories ignited my interest in establishing a small flock of my own.

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For the story, I talked with Dianne Stuckey, who owns a non-commercial backyard flock of around 24 layer hens in the Logan community near Fort Deposit and Ermalinda Burkett, who sells surplus eggs produced by her 75 free-ranging chickens in Greenville.

Then I met with Danielle Williamson, who operates Big Bean Farmstead in the heart of Luverne. After touring her farm and spending an afternoon getting to know the pigs, turkeys, egg chickens, meat chickens and bunnies which supply the Williamson’s table, I was hooked and I knew it was farm life for me.

Williamson helped me select five docile hens and a young, well-mannered rooster to start my flock. Chanticleer and his five hen wives – Pertelote, Sassy, Cinnamon, Madge, and Amber – seem happy now in their new coop, happy enough that Cinnamon deposited one small egg in the nesting box on Sunday.

Already, I find the small flock calming. We enjoy our morning coffee together and watch the sun go down as Chanti nudges his ladies into the henhouse for the evening.

A friend keeps telling me not to name my food, but as the saying goes, “to each his own.”

The chickens are pampered pets now. I do not plan to bring them into my house or sew handmade outfits for chicken photo shoots. Chanti and his ladies live a life of leisure, with a new purpose of helping me connect with nature.

My mother used to tell stories of how her mother kept a small flock, using their eggs for the table and their meat for Sunday lunch. I never met my grandmother Lucy, but I want to cultivate the kind of farming memories my mother had with my granddaughter Caroline. Such things connect our past to our present, passing “old ways” down so that they are not forgotten.

Watch here for updates on my poultry adventure, as I learn whether diatomaceous earth is a suitable remedy for chicken fleas and help my birds learn that I am a friend. Our staff would like to hear your stories too, about how backyard agricultural efforts connect your past with your present. Email your comments to us at news@greenvilleadvocate.com.