COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WECT) - With concerns about the impact our farming methods are having on the environment, a growing number of people have turned to homesteading, growing large amounts of the food they eat and even raising their own animals.
That means it is not unusual to see more people raising chickens, and Ronald Hayes and Malissa Gantz do just that.
"Well, basically, all of my life, but I've had this group of chickens for about three years," said Columbus County farmer Raymond Hayes.
Gantz also started raising chickens about three years ago.
"We decided that we wanted to raise chickens as a home school project and the idea was we were going to raise them for a month or so, and then give them a friend in the country, and, boy, within a day or so, we were just hooked," said Gantz, who has chickens in her backyard in the Myrtle Grove area of New Hanover County.
Like Malissa and her family, many people have found that it is pretty easy and a lot of fun to raise chickens.
But the real benefit of raising chickens is having a supply of fresh, healthy eggs. There are multiple facts why an egg from a free range hen will taste better than eggs from hens confined to factory farms, where many of the birds probably have never touched the earth's soil.
"I know if they were any better than the ones I raised here, I couldn't stand them, because they are just as good as you are going to get," said Hayes.
Gantz said, "they are just more rich, where the store bought eggs seems to be a little more bland."
But beyond just having better tasting fresh eggs at your doorstep, there are huge health benefits, like less cholesterol, less saturated fat, more vitamin A and vitamin E and more omega three fatty acids in eggs from chickens that are allowed to free range.
Before you actually get started in raising chickens, you need to do your homework. A good place to start is your county's Cooperative Extension Service.
"With the production side of things, how to actually grow and take care of them, the feed they need, the overall health of the chickens, those are some of the things we try to provide, an educational component," said Dalton Dockery, Director of the Columbus County Cooperative Extension Service.
And contrary to what some people may think, hens do not need a rooster in order to produce eggs. And hens are much quieter, unlike the roosters, who make their presence known well before the sun comes up - which could lead to some not to happy neighbors, who don't like to get up early.
But most importantly, before you do anything, you need to find out if you would violate any local laws by having chickens in your backyard in an urban setting. Regulations vary from city to city, in North Carolina.
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