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Chickens Come Home to Roost

Oceanside CA- Raising chickens in Oceanside? You bet. It ain’t easy but you can do it. Recent articles such as the story concerning the same material, azodiacarbonamide, being used to create yoga mats is also used in bread dough and worries about genetically altered foods have sparked a boom in urban farming. You can see planter boxes in just about every North County neighborhood. People taking control of the food they put in their bodies.

“You can buy eggs from free range chickens at the grocery store but you don’t know what they are feeding the chickens” said Bobbie DeBoer of Oceanside. Bobbie has been raising chickens in the backyard of her Oceanside home for several years. She got the idea from a friend in Carlsbad that raises chickens. Her husband, Mark, was all for the idea. “If there is a chance he gets to build something. he’s all for it.” said Bobbie.

Chicks in the bathtub. (photo courtesy of Bobbie DeBoer)

Chicks in the bathtub. (photo courtesy of Bobbie DeBoer)

The DeBoers began with four chicks and little experience in what is involved in raising chickens. The four Golden Sex Link chicks, a breed that is a top producer and lay brown eggs, spent their first month of life in the DeBoers sawdust filled bathtub. During that time, Mark and Bobbie gleaned much of their knowledge on raising chickens by reading books including a book titled ‘Raising Chickens for Dummies‘ and from sites on the internet.

Raising chickens can be hard work so you should not jump into the endeavor without a little research.

Chickens require a lot of cleaning up after and the odor of their feces isn’t a pleasant one.  You need to have a coop so they have a place to go at night and be protected  as well as a place to lay their eggs.  You can build a simple one yourself but if you are not the DIY type, raising chickens has become mainstream enough that Lowes, Home Depot and even Costco offer pre-built coops.

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You can buy chicks for less than $3.00

Chickens can also be noisy. “People think about roosters when talking about noise from chickens.” continued Bobbie “The hens are not really loud but they do make some unusual and primal sounds.”

There really is such a thing as a “pecking order” with hens and when one gets sick, they all tend to become ill. “When several of our chickens were injured, we didn’t know what to do or where to take them”, said Bobbie. Fortunately, due to the rural nature of San Diego’s north county, there are a few veterinarians that work with fowl and the DeBoers were able to find one, in Oceanside, to help.

The upside to raising chickens; you can’t get eggs any fresher than walking out to the backyard and collecting them. The chickens are less stressed and the eggs tend to be larger,  a third lower in cholesterol and 25% lower in saturated fats.

Chickens are beneficial to backyard gardens. Their waste is a great organic fertilizer and chickens are a natural pest controller. The hens scratch at the ground digging up and eating ticks, fleas, grasshoppers, spiders,snails, slugs, mosquito larvae, and almost every other insect they can get their beaks on.

Along with what the chickens dig up in the yard, hens are not overly expensive to maintain and having control over what goes into your chickens is a major benefit over store bought eggs. There are many non GMO  and organic feeds available in the area. The DeBoer’s hens are partial to blueberries and yogurt.

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Emily checks out the newcomers in the bathtub at the DeBoer house. (photo courtesy Bobbie DeBoer)

Predators haven’t really been a problem for the hens in the DeBoer backyard. “We’ve had neighborhood cats come over and visit but they really just sit and watch the girls” said DeBoer. They also had a weasel transit the backyard but it didn’t even slow down as it passed through. The family dog can be a problem however as they will attack the birds and learning from experience, Emily, the family’s golden lab is no longer allowed in the backyard when the hens are roaming free.

The initial cost when purchasing the birds isn’t much. You can buy chicks online for less than three dollars each. This time of year, in the Spring and around Easter, the prices tend to be lower with more inventory available and you can find them at local feed stores. You can save money by purchasing “rescue chickens” birds that have been saved from unfortunate circumstances.

Bobbie said her hens aka “the Golden Girls” are not really affectionate animals “each one has their own distinct personality.” Bobbie can also tell which egg was laid by an individual hen. “You can tell what color egg a hen will lay by looking at the color of the hair behind the hens ears.” explained Bobbie.

The hair color behind the ear is the same color of the egg the hen lays. photo: courtesy of Bobbie DeBoer

The hair color behind the ear is the same color of the egg the hen lays.( photo courtesy Bobbie DeBoer)

“We grew up in a different time” explained Bobbie, “Growing up, everyone was growing their own food, raising their own animals and it was just more communal. I really like raising our own. It just feels natural.”  Although, in the beginning, she wasn’t sure what it was going to be like raising backyard chickens. “I don’t think I could be without them now.” said Bobbie.

Before you decide to raise your backyard chickens, find out what your zoning is in your particular neighborhood. Zoning varies from city to city and some places, neighborhood to neighborhood. The numbers vary but here is quick guide for local areas:

  • Oceanside allows 6 chickens per resident and the coop can’t be any closer to a neighbors home than 35 feet. Rooster aren’t allowed anywhere inside the city limits of Oceanside.
  • Carlsbad allows up to 25 chickens and are permitted only in certain residential areas but not within 40 feet of neighboring houses. Enclosures are required in some areas.
  • In Encinitas,  you can raise up to 10 chickens and are they are permitted in all residential areas. More allowed on larger lots. Coops must be no closer than 35 feet of neighboring homes.
  • Vista only allows two chickens in certain single-family residential areas, and up to 25 in other areas.

There are many websites catering to the would be chicken rancher. A good resource online is   backyardchickens.com