Raising chickens in cities gaining popularity

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Candace and Nate Zuckas live in the kind of small suburban home that begs for 2.5 kids and a family dog.

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Nate Zuckas feeds Louise, a Rhode Island Red chicken, with his wife, Candace, at their home near Lake Olmstead. Their chickens produce as many as five eggs a day. The preservative-free eggs taste better than store-bought ones, the couple said.   Corey Perrine/Staff
Corey Perrine/Staff
Nate Zuckas feeds Louise, a Rhode Island Red chicken, with his wife, Candace, at their home near Lake Olmstead. Their chickens produce as many as five eggs a day. The preservative-free eggs taste better than store-bought ones, the couple said.

Instead, five chickens scratch in the backyard of the half-acre lot near Lake Olmstead. They groan softly, bob their heads and throw clusters of leaves in the air as they search for bugs to eat.

"I like the idea of growing our own food," Candace Zuckas said. "We eat organic, and this is a way to know where our food is coming from."

The chickens produce as many as five eggs a day. The eggs have no preservatives and taste better than store-bought ones, the couple said.

The Zuckases aren't the only city dwellers raising chickens, said Lisa Munniksma, the editor of Urban Farms , a Kentucky-based magazine about sustainable living.

Food-supply problems such as last year's egg-salmonella outbreak, a growing awareness of how far food travels and the poor living conditions of some commercial livestock have rekindled interest in homegrown food, she said.

"People are asking a whole lot of questions about backyard chickens right now," Munniksma said. "We've found it's growing a lot in interest."

A half-dozen chickens are no more difficult to raise than a medium-size dog, she said. Aside from eggs and meat, they can produce fertilizer for gardens.

Andrea Hensley, who sells baby chicks at Country Boy Farm and Yard in North Augusta, said her customers used to buy baby chicks as an Easter gift. Now, more are interested in them as an egg-producing pet.

"I think you'd be surprised as you drive by homes how many people have them," Hensley said. "A lot of times I'll ask a customer, 'Where do you live?' and they'll say Belvedere or North Augusta."

Candace Zuckas became interested in raising backyard chickens after reading about an Atlanta family that was doing so. Nate Zuckas was skeptical.

"I thought it sounded like livestock in a backyard. We're not on a farm," he said.

But today, it's Nate who coaxes a reluctant hen from under the back porch with a treat of wild bird seed, or waves his arms to corral his little bird family toward the safety of their caged run.

"I guess I've kind of bonded with them," he said.

The idea has always been to use the chickens for eggs. It's not likely they'll end up in a stew pot.

"No, they're our pets," Candace said.

"They've got names," Nate said.

And personalities. Thelma and Louise are the troublemakers who sneak into the shed where the birdseed is kept. Bella is quiet. Vanilla is the pretty one. Pearl is the boss.

When they cause trouble, Nate might threaten them with new names, such as Lemon Pepper or Barbecue.

The yard isn't any messier than it would be with a dog, the couple said.

The worst problem has been protecting the brood from predators -- raccoons, foxes and possums at night; hawks and neighborhood dogs during the day.

Candace said her neighbors know about the chickens and think they're cool. But one member of the flock quickly lost its welcome.

"He turned out to be a rooster," Nate said. "I went out on the deck one morning and he was trying to crow."

The couple donated the rooster to a farm.

"We didn't want to push our neighbors too much," Nate said.

Comments (11) Add comment
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usapatriot
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usapatriot 03/19/11 - 01:47 am
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gig's up . ARC zone

gig's up . ARC zone enforcement will be around any day now. how dare you do something on your own property without checking with the GOVT first.

this is agriculture, not pets. it has to be regulated. again, how dare someone do something for themselves on their own private property. there has to be a zoning violation here.

and if you sell any of those eggs, make sure you collect, report and pay sales tax.

jebko
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jebko 03/19/11 - 06:05 am
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Wormy... sell your place at

Wormy... sell your place at Belle Mead! Move to here.

jrbfromga
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jrbfromga 03/19/11 - 10:14 am
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Store eggs have no
Unpublished

Store eggs have no preservatives. These may taste better because they are fresher.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 03/19/11 - 10:27 am
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I don't know about raising

I don't know about raising chickens in the yard. My daddy did that and when he would chop the head off one, the thing would fly around the yard headless, getting blood on everyone. I would run screaming back in the house while my fearless dog, Prince, took on the headless monster. It's a wonder I didn't grow up to be an ax murderer or something.

corgimom
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corgimom 03/19/11 - 11:48 am
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Try being around chicken

Try being around chicken waste in the summer.

*GAG*

airbud7
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airbud7 03/19/11 - 04:04 pm
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A man was driving along a

A man was driving along a freeway when he noticed a chicken running alongside his car. He was amazed to see the chicken keeping up with him, as he was doing 50 mph. He accelerated to 60, and the chicken stayed right next to him. He sped up to 75 mph, and the chicken passed him. The man noticed that the chicken had three legs. So he followed the chicken down a road and ended up at a farm. He got out of his car and saw that all the chickens had three legs. He asked the farmer, "What's up with these chickens?" The farmer said "Well, everybody likes chicken legs, so I bred a three-legged bird. I'm going to be a millionaire." The man asked him how they tasted. The farmer said, "Don't know, haven't caught one yet."

getalife
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getalife 03/22/11 - 08:53 am
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Many areas in cities and

Many areas in cities and counties are zoned where chickens cannot be raised there. A small group of chickens does not create a bad smell with their waste, plus it is good fertilizer for flowers and vegetable gardens.

Chillen
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Chillen 03/22/11 - 09:56 am
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If the economy continues its

If the economy continues its spiral & food keeps going up in price we might all be raising chickens in our yards and have gardens instead of lawns.

I personally think its a great idea to raise chickens. A good follow up to this story would be to tell us about the current local laws in Richmond, Aiken & Columbia Counties.

Sweet son
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Sweet son 03/22/11 - 12:25 pm
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I think that I will give it a

I think that I will give it a try in Columbia County. And I don't mean in Appling. Hope my neighbors like them!

Chillen
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Chillen 03/22/11 - 12:43 pm
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Ha! If you get away with it

Ha! If you get away with it let me know sweet son. I'll join you. My guess is the govt would be knocking on our door within days. We'd be creating some sort of "health hazard".

only4years
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only4years 03/22/11 - 01:46 pm
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check out

check out www.backyardchickens.com

FLIP THE BIRDS!!!!!!

Jeepnman
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Jeepnman 03/22/11 - 03:18 pm
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It is legal to have chickens

It is legal to have chickens in Columbia County as long as they are not a nuisance or for profit. As long as you don't have roosters crowing and you keep the coup clean, you shouldn't have any problems with your neighbors.

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