March 25, 2014 in City

Doug Clark: Raising chickens at home more costly than you think

By The Spokesman-Review
 
In related news
The Spokane City Council on Monday approved limited urban farming. Learn more here.

When I heard that the South Hill Library was hosting a “Backyard Chicken Workshop” Monday night, well, I knew I had to be there.

I don’t like to brag, but I consider myself the Picasso of backyard poultry.

Really. Give me an hour with my Weber. I’ll give you the best-damned barbecued bird you’ve ever eaten.

Haw.

I’m just pullet your leg.

I knew that the chicken workshop, led by Paul and Susan Puhek, was about raising live chickens, not roasting dead ones.

The Puheks operate S&P Homestead Farms in Otis Orchards, after all. What this engaging couple doesn’t know about chicken-wrangling probably isn’t worth knowing.

And never before has this information been so relevant for Spokane.

On Monday night, the City Council voted to change the residential zoning rules to make Spokane a haven for urban farmers.

Under the new ordinance, residents can raise small livestock, like chickens, and crops for sale at unlicensed produce stands. The numbers and animal types allowed will depend on the size of your lot.

Frankly, a lot of this strikes me as hippy-dippy nonsense.

Council President Ben Stuckart, the driving force behind the zone change, says this is all about sustainability and growing more local crops and feeding people.

I hope so. Far more important, however, is that he has inspired me to start working on a new parody song to the tune of classic TV’s old “Green Acres” theme.

Sample:

“Ben Stuckart wants us all on farms.

“Shoveling piles of poop and raising barns.

“Piggies oinking and chicks that cheep.

“Give me a rifle, my neighbor just bought a sheep.”

But getting back to the workshop …

About 30 people filled the library conference room, which speaks volumes about the popularity of urban agriculture.

Schedule a dramatic reading of Emily Dickinson poems and I’m betting not six people would show. Open the doors for a chicken lecture and you all but run out of chairs.

Some of this was clucking to the choir, of course.

About seven or eight hands shot up when Paul asked how many current chicken aficionados were in the room.

I had my hand up for a second, but then pulled it down when I realized that frequenting KFC didn’t count.

The Puheks are experts and good teachers. They patiently went over chicken basics like regulations, breed selection, and care and feeding.

It wasn’t long before my brain was Rhode Island Dead from an overload of data about coop design, fencing, water and feed, proper nesting and roost areas, wing clipping, lice and mites, chicken temperament and the ever-present dangers from a roving raccoon.

Be careful what you wish for, people. This chicken stuff is a whole lot more involved than you’d think.

It isn’t cheap, either.

I haven’t accounted for all the costs, but here are a few of the financial basics that should give you an idea of what you – the Spokane residential chicken rancher – might be in for.

Baby chicks (4) – $12.

Heat lamp and water dish – $25.

Work gloves – $5.95.

Pair of bib overalls – $3.

Wheelbarrow and rake – $140.

Chicken feed – $50.

Coop with fencing – $500.

Medical bills after fight with neighbors over livestock – $600

Bail after court appearance because of fight with neighbors – $2,500.

Retainer for attorney to defend you on assault charges – $10,000.

Cost per egg – $139.95.

Go ahead. Call me a chicken. But I think I’ll still be getting my eggs at Safeway and Rosauer’s.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at dougc@spokesman.com

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