Urban chicken farming growing in popularity

By Isabella Bravo, Staff Writer

Manny Antonacci said saving money, saving your health, saving the environment and having fun are the top four reasons to start backyard chicken farming.

“I see an increased interest (in backyard farming),” said Antonacci, a teaching assistant in wildlife biology and an urban chicken farmer. “I think the new generations are starting to realize it’s important to eat healthier and to shorten the distance between your mouth and where your food comes from.”

Chicken farming is growing in popularity among environmentally conscious students, said Alex Parvaz, a graduate student in environmental studies who started raising her own chickens after hearing about the positive health and environmental effects.

The U Farmers Market hosted a workshop about urban chicken farming Thursday. Celia Bell, who ran the workshop, detailed the chicken farming process starting with chicks and ending with hens.

Bell stressed care and responsibility to the chickens. She said there is a 5 percent death rate among chicks, and all chicken farmers eventually come to the tough decision of whether to start a chicken retirement home, or send the old hens to the chicken coop in the sky.

“What will you do when your chicken starts to lay eggs only every once in awhile?” Bell said. “You need to have a plan for what you will do (before the time comes to make the decision).”

Maddy Corey works for Wasatch Community Gardens and started raising chickens in her backyard two years ago. After organizing the first Tour de Coop, an annual tour of local backyard chicken coops, she decided to start farming.

“Ninety percent of people don’t have problems with their neighbors,” said Corey. “Check with your neighbors first. Share your eggs. Don’t get a rooster.”

Salt Lake City does not allow roosters for backyard farming. City law prohibits the housing of chickens within city limits without a permit. A one-year permit costs $5 per chicken, up to $40 per year. The maximum number of chickens allowed within the city is 25 per household without a commercial permit.

Animal Services can perform complaint-driven or spontaneous inspections on chicken coops within the city, which happened to Antonacci.

“I had a rooster and the coop was not far enough away from my house. The officer said really all they care about is that the chickens are well taken care of,” Antonacci said.

Proper care for backyard chickens consists of fresh water, enough food, perches for the chickens to roost, room to dig and move freely and a clean, predator-proof coop.

The eggs from locally farmed, organic chickens have less cholesterol and significantly more nutrition than the eggs bought in stores, Antonacci said.

“Americans are known as a society that doesn’t eat very healthy. They have the highest percentage of obese people,” he said. “The chickens from the store get industrial and chemical feed. Those chickens don’t get space to move around. They get a 15 inch by 15 inch square just barely enough to stand up, turn around and sit back down. That affects the eggs.”

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Lucas Isley

Manny Antonacci, a teaching assistant for wildlife biology, handles one of his Red Indian Jungle Fowl roosters during a workshop on urban chicken farming at the farmers market on Thursday.