Backyard Chicken Keepers Say Homegrown Eggs are Safer, Healthier
Food systems used to deliver our food breaking down, says one supporter trying to bring backyard chickens to one suburb.
Part of a series on local food and suburban farming.
Keeping chickens isn’t just for farmers anymore. While there aren’t statistics available on backyard chickens, a rise in popularity is evident by online chicken forums and news reports of suburbs and cities dealing with poultry zoning issues.
This summer, the Crystal Lake City Council voted against chickens, but it was a close vote, decided by the city’s mayor.
Why do people want to keep their own chickens?
Ed Fuhrmann, who is leading an effort bring backyard chickens to the Round Lake communities, said there are many reasons people want to raise their own chickens.
“Very rarely in my research is it just about the chickens or just about the eggs. There’s usually a tipping point, something that breaks us out of our comfortable suburban cocoon,” said Fuhrmann, an electronics technician teacher at Great Lakes Naval Station.
Fuhrmann believes food safety and food security are primary reasons people get chickens. He said recalls of eggs and other food due to E. coli and lysteria contamination has spurred interest.
“The food systems we count on to deliver our food are breaking down … Folks don’t want to be poisoned,” he said.
People also may get chickens because they are concerned about the inhumane treatment of animals at factory farms.
For many, keeping backyard chickens is a natural outgrowth of the organic gardening movement.
“Chickens make the richest compost. It makes sense for organic gardeners to complete the cycle and cut own on chemical fertilizers,” Furhmann said.
Adrian Plante, of McHenry, said chickens have incredible eyesight and make a huge impact on the most stubborn garden pests, including the invasive weed creeping Charlie and Japanese beetles.
“They will eat their weight in Japanese beetles,” Plante said. He is working with the city of McHenry to legalize backyard chickens.
Backyard eggs are healthier, than those found at grocery stories, said John Emrich, of Long Grove, owner of the Backyard Chicken Run, which delivers feed to urban chicken keepers. “Cage-free eggs from the store and pasture-fed eggs are like fruit roll ups to apples. They’re not even the same product.”
Emrich said the homegrown eggs have one-third less cholesterol, one-fourth less saturated fat, and twice as much omega-3 fatty acids as commercial eggs, Emrich said.
Families with kids find educational benefits. Kids learn where food comes from, they learn the responsibilities of taking care of the chickens and they come to understand reproductive cycles, Plante said.
“They make good pets; they're clean; they’re friendly. Like Ed (Fuhrmann) would say, ‘They are less work than a dog and more than a cat,’” Plante said.