Friday, May 28, 2010

Count Your Chickens!

The Egg and I?
Did you ever wonder what it would be like to work on a farm or raise your own chickens? That was the basis for Betty MacDonald's 1940s bestseller, The Egg and I. MacDonald's memoir tells the tale of how she and her husband traded city life in Seattle for a chicken farm in Chimicum, WA. So popular was MacDonald's book that it was made into a movie starring Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray in 1947.

"Chicken Woman" to the Rescue
Perhaps you don't envision a chicken ranch in the country, but maybe a few laying hens would be nice. Meet Jennifer Murtoff, also known as "chicken woman." Murtoff, an Oak Park resident, operates Home to Roost, a consulting business she started in April 2010. Murtoff, who grew up on a farm in PA, is an urban chicken consultant. Murtoff helps city folk and suburbanites raise and care for chickens in their backyards, in addition to being an accomplished translator, writer, and editor. Although not a veterinarian, Murtoff can help treat and diagnose some chicken ailments, which can cut down on visits to the animal hospital, saving clients money.

Egg Ecconomics
Raising egg-laying chickens can be a great family project and a wonderful learning experience. Oak Park resident Bruce Caughran recently built a chicken coop in his backyard with the help of Alcuin Montessori School students. Caughran's daughter, Ailsa, attends Alcuin at 324 N. Oak Park Ave. Murtoff recently helped Caughran purchase chicks and set up with a brooder box, an environment for baby chicks too small to be on their own in the backyard.

Ready to be "Old MacDonald?"
Not everyone is cut out for urban chicken farming, but if you'd like to learn more, visit Murtoff's blog. For an appointment with the chicken woman herself, call 708-524-5038.

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