As consumer demand for natural foods climbs and the mainstream food supply fails to keep up, backyard farmers are taking up the slack.
Several Savannahians keep backyard coops -- ordinances allow up to four hens (no roosters) within the city limits.
County dweller Steve Ellis is one of those backyard chicken enthusiasts. He and his wife, Beth Logan, keep 10 birds that provide about four dozens eggs a week for their use -- and "plenty to share with friends who can't find good eggs," Steve says.
Steve prefers chickens that are docile and good layers. After lots of research and about eight years experience, he's chosen Barred Rock, Australorp, Silver Wyandotte, Buff Orpington and New Hampshire Red breeds. They all lay jumbo brown eggs, which Ellis says are his favorites.
"But I also have a Buff Brahma and a Partridge Cochin just to look at," Ellis says. These are exotic breeds that offer showy plumage and, in the case of the Cochin, feathered feet.
For aspiring backyard chicken ranchers, Ellis has two pieces of advice:
"Don't skimp on the pen -- build it like Fort Knox to keep out predators like cats, raccoons and possums -- you'll save a lot of disappointment," he says. "Second, do your research and buy chicks from reputable hatcheries who supply the best quality."
Plans abound on the Internet for coop plans and the interest has, of course, spawned innumerable websites and even a magazine, Backyard Poultry (www.backyardpoultrymag.com/).
A free ‘Backyard Coop Tour' leaves from Sentient Bean at 5 p.m. July 11. First come, first seated on an Oglethorpe Tours trolley. Tour hits private coops in Wilmington Island and Savannah and returns about 8 p.m. Call 912-398-7852.