WHEN it comes to what she eats, Sara Braden just wants to know where her food comes from.
Braden is one of about 40 people who attended a lecture on the basics of caring for chickens by national expert Rosalind Creasy at the Myriad Botanical Gardens.
Creasy has written 18 books on edible landscaping and the benefits of knowing the origins of your food.
That’s why Braden and her husband started growing much of their own food in their Oklahoma City backyard. The idea of raising chickens for eggs is a natural progression.
“It’s really good to know where your food comes from,” she said. “I eat more vegetables than I ever did before, and my kids eat better, too, but it’s hard to raise protein in a garden, so this is something we were interested in.”
The “chicken school” at the Myriad Gardens drew people from all walks of life, something Creasy has seen in her travels.
“When I started 20 years ago, nobody had chickens,” she said. “And then Martha Stewart started making a big to-do. I think some of the trend is because of the local food movement and people wanting to get more in touch with their food.”
The Oklahoma City Planning Commission is set to review a proposal to relax the rules on backyard chickens later this month. Under the proposal, residents who pay $25 could apply to keep chickens.
Neighbors would be notified and given the chance to comment. A previous proposal allowing residents to keep up to six hens failed to get the necessary support from the city council.
Current ordinances limit chickens to lots of at least one acre.
Oklahoma City resident James Pickel said he plans on raising chickens for their eggs.
“We’ve read books about it, and we’ve built a coop, but it’s empty,” he said.
“We figured we should probably learn a little more.”
Pickel said the quality of the eggs is one reason why he wanted to explore the idea.
“I think fresh eggs and knowing where they come from is kind of interesting,” he said. “And it’s also a little bit of the social aspect of being able to share them with friends.”
Creasy demonstrated the differences in what a backyard chicken egg yolk looks like compared to one that came from a factory farm.
The yoke was a bright orange while Creasy said factory-farmed eggs are less colorful.
Home-raised also contain higher levels of beneficial minerals like beta carotene, she said.
“It’s a richer taste,” Creasy said. “If you don’t like eggs, you’re going to say ‘Oh I really don’t like these’, but mostly it’s a richness, and how they fluff up more. The omelets can be puffier. But the main thing is the nutrition.”
Trend could continue
Kevin Gant raises pastured pork and sometimes serves as a consultant for those who are beginning to raise their own food.
He said he expects the trend of people becoming more involved in their food to continue.
“You see people from all walks of life,” Gant said. “We’ve seen a lot of white- collar people who are interested in raising chickens for eggs. We’re making strides. They’re already allowed in Norman and Edmond, and I think there is a lot of interest in Oklahoma City.”
Creasy said raising chickens for eggs is more expensive than buying eggs from a grocery store, and it is a lot more work. The coops have to be cleaned regularly and the chickens fed and watered. All of that takes time. But still, Creasy said the work involved isn’t always what keeps people from raising their own chickens for eggs.
“I think people are more worried about what their neighbors might think,” she said. “It’s like ‘wow, nobody else is doing it’. But what they find out is that it’s a wonderful way to get to know your neighbors by giving them some of your fresh eggs, and maybe they’ll decide they want to do it, too.”