Andy Bary, a researcher at the WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center, addresses a crowd of people enrolled in a workshop on raising chickens in Tacoma. (Photo by Chris Benedict, WSU Pierce County Extension)
TACOMA — Probably fewer than 100 people in Tacoma raise chickens for eggs, guesses Chris Benedict, WSU Pierce County Extension educator, but that number might double after last weekend.
Prompted by numerous phone calls, Benedict organized a workshop on small-scale egg production that took place Saturday at the WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center. About 110 people attended the class “Chicken Management 101: Small Scale Egg Production.”
Benedict thinks most of the interest stems from a desire by many people to know where their food comes from.
“By raising their own chickens, people are completely aware of everything that goes on in the process,” he said.
Locally, he said, demand of direct-sale eggs has outstripped supply.
How much production can be expected from a backyard flock?
“I suspect that most people with a flock of four birds may get 15 eggs a week,” Benedict said.
There’s also a seasonal aspect to egg production because chickens will stop producing when light changes.
“If you aren’t willing to manipulate day length in the winter, you won’t get any eggs,” he said.
Start-up costs vary widely, depending on equipment. Chicks are relatively cheap at about $l.80 each.
Backyard production requires commitment.
“There are no vacations,” Benedict said. “The chickens are always there.”
Backyard producers must also be aware of predators, such as raccoons and dogs.
“The initial learning curve for anyone is going to be steep,” he said.
The workshop covered municipality regulations; coop design; chicken breeds; food and water; poultry diseases; insect pests; waste management; and egg management.