Coop Scoop

A family shares the experience of raising chickens

On a handful of blocks on Madison’s near-east side, just steps away from the bustle of Atwood Avenue, some new neighbors have moved in. Chickens. Brilliantly white or striped in rich tones of brown, the birds have made themselves at home in the backyards of a half-dozen families.

For Ben Anton, raising his own chickens was not only an opportunity to trim grocery bills; it was also a chance to educate his kids, ages two and seven, about where their food comes from.

The Antons purchased their four white chickens from a hatchery this spring. The birds spend their days eating cracked corn, feed and scraps from the family’s CSA share. At night, they hunker down under the coop Ben built from surplus wood and fencing topped with an aluminum roof.

Without a rooster on site, the chickens’ eggs are left unfertilized, and they lay an egg every twenty-eight hours (only during daylight). The eggs vary in size, but Ben and his wife prefer them to the store-bought variety.

“They taste better,” he says. “They’re brighter.”

Chickens can spend winters in coops, but the Antons have found a system that works for them: They get their chickens in spring and keep them until fall, when they have them butchered so they can eat the meat.

“We’re not a vegetarian family,” Ben says. “They’re chickens. They’re still food even if they have names.”

Some people who raise chickens don’t agree with the family’s decision. But Ben points out to his kids that they’ve given their chickens a good life and appreciate the nourishment they provide.

“Everything has a purpose,” he says. “The point is being honest about it.”

RESOURCE: Find out more about raising chickens in Madison on madcitychickens.com.

Katie Vaughn is associate editor of Madison Magazine.

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