Lake Norman & Mooresville

Raising urban chickens for a rural lifestyle

It's happened. Davidson has gone to the birds.

Many people have been clucking about the town's new ordinance that allows people who live in single-family homes to keep up to four hens on their property. And Greg and Jennifer Coleman of Virginia Road are quickly becoming the experts on backyard chicken raising.

The Colemans and the next-door neighbors Doug and Rea Wright are raising five chickens together. They've had experiences with urban chickens at their previous homes.

Both Greg and Jennifer Coleman are originally from rural upbringings - his in Queensland, Australia, and hers in Asheboro. Greg also holds a degree in agricultural science. The family farm that he grew up on included corn, beef cattle, fruit trees and ducks and chickens.

"After growing up that way, it was hard to go back to store-bought eggs," he said.

He now hopes to echo that lifestyle in his adult years. "I saw the benefits of sustainable agriculture as well as the need for it. It's important to be conscientious and know where your food comes from and try to control that."

The benefits of backyard chickens reach far beyond eggs. In the winter, the chickens wander the garden, while in the spring they'll move around on a mobile chicken tractor. A chicken tractor is a mobile coop without a floor, which allows the chickens to roam the Coleman's yard while still being controlled.

"The idea is to concentrate them to one area and also keep them safe from predators," Greg said. In the process, they will aerate, spread waste to use as fertilizer, and be a tool in pest reduction. It also allows them to have a foraging diet, resulting in tastier eggs.

The birds also serve as an educational tool for the Colemans' young children: Tristan, 4, and Amelie, 2. Greg built the tractor with access doors so the kids could feed the chickens and collect eggs each morning.

"Since they've always had chickens, this doesn't seem unusual to them. But it is to their friends."

Though the chickens at their previous homes had names, the current birds are leghorns, or and harder to differentiate between. Greg acknowledges, however, that as the kids grow older, they may wind up with names anyway. They also haven't decided what they'll do when the chickens stop laying eggs, but they've decided to cross that bridge when they get there.

Greg said although most Davidson residents seem excited about the new ordinance, there have been many people with questions as well. Before he and Jennifer began the chicken-raising process, they went to neighbors to help educate them on the concept. "Many were worried about the noise, but the truth is that they're quieter and less of a problem than dogs or cats," he said.

The Colemans estimate it costs about $200 to build a coop and buy the chickens.