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The Journals are the premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and advertising in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Sep 15, 2020

A Growing Trend: Caring For Chickens at Home

By Shanna O'Mara

In recent years, the landscape of organic farming and animal care has changed, with more and more people developing an interest in growing their own food, raising their own cattle and caring for species that previously only had a place on a farm. With this evolution of animal domestication has come the practice of keeping poultry as pets.

It is no longer uncommon to see a coop set up or chickens running around a neighbor’s backyard. Many New Jersey towns now allow residents to keep roosters and hens on their property, albeit with certain restrictions. Some towns limit the number of animals permitted while others mandate the homeowner have a minimum number of square feet per bird.

Aimee Eisenmann, of Middletown, bought her first set of chicks in March 2019.

“I have always joked with my husband that I wanted chickens, and finally one day, he was tired of listening to me ask for a new pet, so he said yes,” Eisenmann laughed. “We bought our chicks, ordered our coop and never looked back.”

Eisenmann’s family now owns 11 hens of six breeds and admits the animals are easy to tend to.

“Caring for chickens is simple,” Eisenmann said. “Clean water and full bowls is about all they require, but of course, our hens are spoiled. They are constantly getting treats of worms and food scraps. They will pretty much eat anything and love when we bring them stuff from the kitchen.”

The chickens – Josephine, Jelly, Olive, Petunia Dara, Lulu, Lala, Mocha Java, Hazel Basil, Myrtle, Almond Buttercup and Fiona Billy – were named by her son, Oliver, who was 3 years old when the family bought them. Eisenmann lovingly refers to her pets as “our girls” and says they have access to the backyard and a covered coop throughout the day. She describes them as being low-maintenance, still wanting the affection other animals crave but being much more independent.

Oliver holds Lulu, one of the hens he named when he was 3 years old.

“At night, they always return to their coop and put themselves to bed,” she said. “We have an automatic door on the coop, so even if we are not home for bedtime, we know they are locked up safe and sound. We could not do this with a cat or dog. You always have to worry about getting home to let them out or feed them.”

Another advantage of owning chickens, Eisenmann said, is the fresh eggs they lay. Her birds are given organic feed, so she knows there are no chemicals potentially harming her pets or her family.

Dr. Joseph Heckman, Board of Directors member at the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey, has published research about the nutritional value of eggs laid by chickens who live outdoors and roam around on grass. Pasture-raised eggs contain more vitamin A and E than their confinement-produced counterparts, Heckman said. Evidence also suggests that animal foods raised on pasture have enhanced nutritional quality in regard to fats.

Eisenmann said her son loves to collect the eggs from the coop and guess which hen laid which one. Her family enjoys the healthy breakfast as well as the companionship these pets provide.

“When I walk out to the backyard, they all come running to me to see what I have, just like a dog does when you get home,” she said. “They will then just hang out with me. Some of them even like to be picked up and pet. They all have different personalities and are very entertaining just to watch.”

For more information on raising chickens in Monmouth County, check your town’s ordinances regarding keeping fowl on your property.