SOMERS, N.Y. -- Nancy Zander may not be able to tell you "which came first," but she knows everything else there is to know about chickens and eggs.
The Zander family started out about ten years ago with two chickens, acquired at the behest of their 8-year-old daughter, Clara. From that, said Nancy Zander, "it grew into this crazy thing."
Zander was delivering a talk about raising chickens at Muscoot Farm on Sunday to an enthusiastic audience of all ages.
"Chickens don't need a lot of maintenance," she said. Contrary to some belief, you do not need a rooster. "Roosters are fine because they protect the flock," she said, "but with them comes the crowing and the mad neighbors."
Chickens generally recognize their predators and seek cover if a hawk, for example, hovers nearby. That is one reason why they need a building to live in. Another reason is that they need a safe place to lay their eggs. They like to find protection from the sun and it is wise to put them in their house at night.
Each chicken lays about six eggs a week, so two chickens will give you a dozen eggs a week. Young chickens, called pullets, start laying eggs between four and six months of age. They usually live five years or so. Zander knew one who lived to be age 12.
Her advice to potential chicken farmers is to start with a few, preferably from a small farmer.
Like most other animals, chickens respond to human attention. They learn whichever person is responsible for feeding them. When bedtime rolls around it is easier to round them up if you have bonded. Zander's chickens often put themselves to bed. Though they do not suffer from the cold, they dislike walking around in the snow, so a patch has to be cleared for them on snowy days.
The Zanders became so dedicated to their hobby that Peter, Nancy's husband, tried his hand at designing the ideal chicken coop. He aimed for something "aesthetically pleasing and environmentally forward -- the ultimate in turnkey startup."
The chicken coop is available through their website, Front Yard Coop. All you need are the chickens.
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