Nebraskans who want more control over how their food is grown are planting their own gardens and some are even putting chicken coops in their back yards.
Jodi Holmes, an animal nutrition specialist with Cargill, gives seminars at farm stores, answering questions about raising the birds.
“How much space do I need? How much feed will I go through? Do I need a rooster to get eggs? Some of those basic questions, clear up to what temperature do I need to set the brooder at, so it can get pretty technical,” according to Holmes.
Sometimes finding out what it takes to be a backyard farmer is enough to curb the enthusiasm.
“I started telling her you need a brooder and a heat lamp and this for feed and this for water and she was instantly, ‘Nope, it’s too much, I’m out’ and you are going to have people like that,” Holmes says. “That’s where the education part of these seminars comes in. Because if you get into and lose a whole batch of chicks, it’s frustrating and a lot people will never do it again.”
One estimate finds it can cost around $500 to build a decent chicken coop, with the cost per bird running between $3 and $30 each, in addition to feed and other costs.
Nebraska had a brush with avian influenza last spring so Holmes says there’s extra attention being placed on bio-security.
“Making sure that they’re washing their hands and their tools, and not sharing between their farm and their neighbor’s farm,” Holmes explains, “quarantining new birds until they’re proven healthy to integrate with their existing flocks.”
One-point-seven millon chickens had to be destroyed last year after two flocks in northeast Nebraska’s Dixon County were confirmed infected with bird flu.