5 months ago our jumat (community) decided to raise chickens so that we could have healthy, free range eggs to eat. We divided the chicks between the families to raise for 8 weeks. Then they went to live at my auntie and uncles house. Helping raise chicks to chickens was a very rewarding experience alhumdulilah. The chicks have great personalities. They are also relatively easy to care for. Throw in the fact that they provide us with fresh nutritious eggs and I can’t think of a better pet to have around! We were very sad to give the chicks to my auntie and uncle at the end of the 8 weeks. We had grown quite attached. Inshalah we plan to build a chicken coup to have at our house, but for now we enjoy visiting our dear chickies. Meanwhile my auntie will keep you posted on the adventures of raising chicks in urban San Diego. Here is her first entry:
The CHICKEN CHRONICLE by Asiila Imani
The numbers 18-22-36 are blazed in my memory.
That combination unlocks the back door of our chicken coop giving easy access to 10-15, fresh, free range eggs each day. Insha’Allah, we’ll get at least twice that much in a few months when the rest of our 19 hens mature, and with a little help from chicken psychology. I’ve been told, if you collect the eggs more than once a day, the chickens will lay more. They are maternal and want to ‘mother,’ so when they see the first egg missing they just lay another.
Having chickens is an unexpected and delightful adventure. Growing up, my family had dogs, cats and fish. While homeschooling my sons we “raised” a cockatiel, tadpoles, butterflies and a hamster. Although chickens definitely have personalities and are engaging to watch, they aren’t necessarily the kind of animal you get cozy and consider part of the family. In other words, it’s hard (for me anyway) to think of chickens as pets. Our relationship is more akin to business partners: We feed, water and take care of them, and they lay eggs for us. And when they can no longer lay eggs, we will consider eating them, although I hear old hens are no good to eat.
Apparently, it’s a growing phenomenon for city dwellers to grow their own chickens for more nutritious and safer eggs and meat. You can find everything you need to know online.
It was brother Ebraheem who got our jamah involved after he began raising hens last year. He convinced the rest of us to do the same as part of our “grow your own” DIY (do it yourself) efforts we strive towards. We also figure in time, and with enough eggs, our young teenage man cubs can try their hand at running an egg sales business.
We bought 20 New Hampshire Reds and Leghorn chicks from a local hatchery and divided them between the five families. They lived in our homes for about 4 months. Each batch of chicks lived in a cardboard box with wood shavings, a heat lamp, water and chick feed. They grew incredibly fast–from little palm-sized puffs of yellow down to huge chunky red or white birds. All the kids enjoyed interacting with the chicks. They cheep incessantly, but would stop and stare if you recite al-Fatiha! Muhammad, my 14-year old son was in charge of the 7 chicks at our house. He vacillated between looking forward to the daily tasks of changing the bedding, pouring the feed and cleaning the water bowls and playing with them, to complaining about how much they pooped, especially in their food and water.
These animals are relatively easy to raise but a few just don’t survive. My step son awoke one morning to find one of his chicks dead, leaving us with 19. We almost culled another chick when it looked like she was actually a he; she was not.
It’s a sexist thing to say, but no males are allowed in our clutch.
Technically, our mini-chicken farm is illegal. The space between us and our neighbors is not large enough to legally keep chickens within city limits. Like bigamy, raising chickens is a crime that is ignored until someone complains. To avoid that we share eggs with our neighbors on occasion and opted out of adding a disturbingly loud rooster to the mix.
There’s no denying a rooster would be a serious deterrent to the neighborhood chicken predators: feral cats and possums. The cats–part of the landscape for years– prefer chasing the hens around the yard 2-3 times a week just to see them panic. We feed them just enough cat food to stick around and kill mice. Consequently, they’re not hungry and the hens are a curiosity. Over a year ago, a nasty looking possum moved into the crawlspace under the house and will eat the cats’ food when she wants. So far, it has not discovered the hens, or perhaps has developed a taste for Kibbles and Bits. For sure, chicken and eggs is a favorite possum meal.
I’m not so sure a rooster could’ve done much with the hawk that landed in the yard last week. When its shadow graced the ground, one of the chickens gave a LOUD squawk and they all ran and huddled under the coop. He may have been on a reconnaissance mission or simply shocked to the size and amount of birds roaming about, but he didn’t try to snatch one. My husband heard the commotion, ran out and picked up a rock. Sir Hawk looked at him and flew away.
In defense of roosters, my husband says it’s not fair to deprive “all those women of a man,” and perhaps it’s not. But since our intent is to obtain eggs (is it halal to eat fertilized eggs?) and not more chicks, as well as to keep the peace in the neighborhood (and thus continue to keep our hens), roosters are out.
Besides, Allah has proved (as always) to be an even better protector.
Asiila Imani is a doula/midwife middle aged mama of two mainly homeschooled boys. She is also my auntie:-)