LAUREL — Opry Hill in Laurel has seen a rise in the popularity of buying and raising chickens within the last few months. Owner Melissa Heiken said the idea of having backyard chickens is an interest for a few reasons.
“So the increase I’ve seen is people wanting eggs. But more than anything, I don’t think people are worried about the cost of eggs in the store, they’re worried about the limited supply and they want a way to have that security,” Heiken said Sunday in one of her eight chicken coups.
Opry Hill is a breeding facility that sells multiple breeds of chickens that produce egg colors of light blue, green, red and brown. Heiken currently has 62 chickens and roosters in total, so she understands what goes into caring for the small livestock.
“First off and foremost, is that these chickens, everything tries to eat them. Predators try to eat them, and diseases, and pests and parasites will try to eat them,” she said.
She recommends doing a monthly health check to make sure the chickens are happy and healthy. She said knowing your goal for eggs is important, because some chickens will lay 250 to 300 eggs every year.
There is also the cost of feed and chicken coops to keep in mind before purchasing chickens. Heiken said coops can range from thousands of dollars to practically free. She said they've used an old playhouse for a chicken coop before.
"The goal you really want is a draft-free coop that has proper ventilation because that’s really going to help those chickens out at all points in the year,” she said. "You can do this at the cost point that you are comfortable with.”
Heiken feeds her birds organic feed with an added poultry supplement to keep the chickens healthy for breeding and pays an "average [of] about $7 per bird, per month.”
She also said that chickens are flocks, so don't expect to just get just one chicken. To keep them happy - a happy and healthy chicken lays eggs - Heiken said a first-timer should start with at least two or three chickens.
"If you have the desire and the want and the need, anything is possible. You can do it within your price range, you can make it affordable. You can do all of the things,” she said. “Anybody can raise chickens. Literally anyone.”