By Janis Mork / East County Magazine
City Heights – On the weekend of September 21st, some 30 would-be urban farmers flocked to hear Farmer Bill Tall from City Heights Farmers Nursery offer advice on how to raise chickens. San Diego, along with several other jurisdictions locally, recently legalized backyard ownership of hens – though not roosters.
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Tall led off with tips on keeping eggs.
“You don’t have to refrigerate them as long as you don’t wash them,” he said. He advised storing washed eggs in a separate container from foods.
When a woman wanted to know why stores refrigerate the eggs, Tall answered, “Because they wash them,” then added that eggs do last longer in the refrigerator.
He then listed five things people need to raise chickens:
(1) protection– fencing and netting from predators and rains,
(2) clean water and food,
(3) a place to fly high and roost (can be 2 X 4),
(4) a nesting box (The nursery uses recycled crates)
(5) feed (Baby chickens need to feed constantly because they’re growing.)
The best foods to feed chicks are alfalfa, grains and greens, chick starter ingredients. Chicks can be kept on these ingredients for five to six months until they can eat a pellet. They can even feed on worms and bugs.
He recommended that people learn portion control when feeding the chickens. He weighs out two pounds and sprinkles it on the ground for the chickens to eat until they’re no longer hungry. He gives them enough food for 30 minutes.
“If you really want to spoil chickens, feed [them] earthworms in a compost pile,” Tall added.
In the winter, chickens lay fewer eggs. The best thing to do ahead of time is freeze the eggs – without their shells – you get earlier in the year, so you’ll have eggs to eat in winter.
Another audience member asked about keeping rats away. Tall told her not to store food in the chicken coop, or hang a feeding container high up on a wire.
Someone else wanted to know what to do when you’re going away for a couple days.
“You can feed them once before you leave. Then feed them again once you come back. They’ll be okay.”
To find out more about raising chickens in San Diego, go here.