More than Fresh Eggs: Chickens Becoming Family Pets
Jun 30, 2019 11:59AM
By Hilary Daninhirsch
Photos courtesy of Dr. Tina Teimouri
It’s a chicken and egg situation for Dr. Tina Teimouri and Connie Field.
Both north Pittsburgh residents own the feathered fowls and enjoy being mother hens to their broods. But raising these birds is not for the chicken-hearted. Despite the early morning wake-up calls, the constant clean-up, and the associated ‘smells,’ for some, chickens are becoming the new family pet.
Dr. Teimouri’s family hatched the idea to give her chickens for Mother’s Day last year, and she has fallen in love with her five ‘babies.’ She said that they’re loveable, cuddly and friendly.
“When we pull up in the car, they start running out toward us like puppies. My husband gives them rides on our lawnmower,” she said.
Dr. Teimouri said that Lady Hawk, Mohawk, Black Beauty and the rest all have their own personalities. One is more of a social butterfly; another is more adventuresome, and another is a little bit of a bully.
It may be surprising to learn that the eggs that the chickens produce are not all white. Dr. Teimouri said that her red chicken makes brown eggs, her black and gold chicken (a.k.a. ‘Pittsbird’) lays pink eggs, and her Easter Egger lays green eggs.
Connie Field has had chickens for about a year. Raising chickens for their eggs was a major motivation, but it was also a way to help reduce the ticks in her yard.
“We also thought it would be a great start for our children to learn responsibility. They have to collect the eggs daily, and they sell the eggs to friends and family,” she said.
Like Dr. Teimouri, Field said that her 18 hens (a.k.a., Shine, Smokey, Lil Squeezers, and more) have morphed into pet status with their unique traits.
“Some like to be held and will eat out of a person’s hand, and others can be afraid of people,” she said. Field owns a mix of chicken breeds, including two New Hampshire Reds, two speckled Sussex, two Easter Eggers and three silver-laced Wyandottes.
If you think that raising chickens is easy, the yolk is on you. Field said that there was a learning curve that goes with the territory.
“It is a lot of work,” she said. “You have to feed them daily and collect their eggs daily. My husband made it easier by retrofitting our coop with automatic feeders, waterers, and an automatic door opener and closer.” As part of her education, she reads books and follows many online chicken blogs.
Dr. Teimouri said that it was definitely an eye-opening experience, with it being more work than she expected. “We thought it would be easy,” she laughed, adding that even as she’s cleaning coops in the middle of winter it’s a labor of love, despite what she calls their ‘bathroom behavior.’
The initial investment is somewhat pricey, with necessary expenses like chicken coops, fencing, a heater and a water warmer. But after that, the cost of weekly upkeep decreases. Field said she estimates she spends about $25 weekly on her 18 hens, which includes food and coop litter.
And certainly, fresh eggs are both a motivation for and a direct benefit of chicken ownership. “The color of the yolks are a deep, brilliant orange, and they are so high in antioxidants and Omega-3s. An egg is the perfect food: low in calories, high in protein and lots of minerals; the whole family eats them every day,” said Dr. Teimouri.
If you are thinking of purchasing chickens, first check your township’s local ordinances, as they vary widely. Many townships consider chickens to be farm animals and may require you to own a minimum amount of land; you also might need approval.
Dr. Teimouri also advised that if you are going to own chickens, you should not be anywhere near a road, because, as the saying goes, a chicken will indeed cross one. Dr. Teimouri lives on an old farm and the chickens are in the backyard so while they do wander around the land during the day, they are protected from traffic.
Even though she loves her feathered babies, Dr. Teimouri warned that they are a daily investment of time. “You can never leave them alone for even one single night or something will get them,” she said, adding that they are more work than raising puppies.
Field has enjoyed raising chickens so much that she has expanded into beekeeping. “I really support farm-to-table products,” she said.
She also loves the experience and would encourage others to keep chickens. “I will always have them now because they are interesting to have as part of my family.”
Added Dr. Teimouri, “If you consider them a pet, they’re wonderful. They’re hilarious, adorable and really smart. They don’t require a lot of attention; you just have to be consistent for their safety.”