by Lisa Tome
Greg Wunder never expected to be a chicken farmer.
Blame it on a woman.
After a health scare for one of their three children, Wunder's wife, Olivia, decided to take more control of what she was feeding her family. One of their daughters had a temporary bout with low blood sugar. Olivia began gathering a family medical history and decided that all of them needed to eat better. She has concerns about food allergies and disease.
"Organic is so incredibly expensive," Olivia said.
So she began growing her own.
The family moved to a home in the Elkton area. That gave them more space for a larger garden. "They (the children) love fruit. I'm working on the vegetables," she said. She planted blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries as well as apple, peach, pear, and hazelnut trees.
She then began researching the possibility of raising chickens. She bought books, used the local library, and read online extensively. The family already has three children, three cats, and three dogs, so she decided to add a half dozen chickens to the mix.
"I researched breeds, cold adaptability, and temperament," she said. She also checked county regulations before getting the chickens. Their home is on more than an acre so it is a permitted use in the county.
She then contacted an online hatchery and bought 15-week-old pullets the "teenagers of the chicken world" for $20 each. Each of the chickens lays one egg every 24-26 hours, enough to feed the family.
"Chickens are the easiest of the farm animals," she said.
Using her research, she designed the chicken coop, which they built. She said it took about 10 hours of construction and improvements are ongoing.
The chickens - Snowy, Midnight, Stormy, Sunset, Twilight, and Sunny, will eventually be served on the dinner table.
She said they will lay eggs for almost four years before they will be butchered.
There are commercial feeds available, but she has opted to feed her chicken family mainly scraps and leftovers. The chickens eat both eggs and chicken.
She is careful about feeding chickens processed foods because they are sensitive to sodium.
The chickens are fed twice a day and have become part of the family. "They are very friendly and kind of skittish. It's like any other animal, if you treat them right, they are very nice," she said.
Noise is not a factor. "We have no roosters. You don't have to have roosters to have chickens," she said.
"Cleaning the coop is easy. I'd rather clean the coop than the cat's litter box," she said. She also plans to plant mint around the coop to curb any odors.
Wunder has also started a blog, the slantedview.com, where she posts about the chickens and other topics.
Greg Wunder, the accidental farmer. has gotten used to life with chickens. "It's nice having fresh eggs everyday. They taste a lot better," he said.