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More Will County residents are raising chickens for eggs. But is it worth it?

Will County Farm bureau said all municipalities may not allow it.

Nola Mata's son John helped watered the chickens during the time the family raised them, from 2014 to 2021, in their Will County backyard.

With the price of eggs still high, some people are wondering if they should raise their own chickens.

Mark Schneidewind, manager of the Will County Farm Bureau, said more people in Will County are raising chickens but “it’s not as easy as it sounds.”

For instance, in addition to feeding and watering chickens, owners are responsible for following the rules for their own municipalities, Schneidewind said.

“There are ordinances to make sure you keep them in a confined area,” Schneidewind said. “You can let them in your backyard as long as you’ve got them fenced and make sure they don’t fly out or go to the neighbors.”

Schneidewind said people should check with the land use and zoning departments of their local municipalities before purchasing a chicken kit.

Because, yes, you can order a kit online that comes with baby chickens that are one to three days old, Schneidewind said.

“They actually ship it to you in the mail,” Schneidewind said. “You have to pick it up at your local postal service.”

That’s exactly how Nola Mata of Braidwood and formerly of Wilmington, received her first batch of chicks.

Mata raised chickens in her backyard from 2014 to 2021, until she moved to an area of Will County that didn’t allow it, she said. She’d heard home-raised eggs tasted better and that chickens are friendly and fun to raise, so she found some online chicken ownership forums for information before deciding.

Chickens may go outside when they are fully featured, at approximately 9 weeks of age. Nola Mata of Braidwood and formerly of Wilmington, raised chickens in her backyard from 2014 to 2021. She felt the eggs looked and tasted fresher than store-bought eggs and her young sons loved the experience.

She learned would-be owners should order more than two chicks because chickens are social animals and need a flock. Ordering just two is a bad idea in case one of them dies, Mata said.

So Mata ordered six chicks for $30 with shipping, the minimum order from that particular hatchery, Mata said.

“I picked them up at the post office,” Mata said. “They had a warmer there for live deliveries. They put them in the warner and said, ‘Come and get them.’”

For the first year, Mata cared for the chicks in a spare bathroom for ease of cleanup (“It can get pretty dusty,” she said), to keep the chicks safe and because chicks need help maintaining body warmth until they are “fully feathered,” she said.

Chickens may go outside when they are fully featured, at approximately 9 weeks of age. Nola Mata of Braidwood and formerly of Wilmington, raised chickens in her backyard from 2014 to 2021. She felt the eggs looked and tasted fresher than store-bought eggs and her young sons loved the experience.

“You can keep a better eye on them that way,” Mata said. “And if you have other pets, like dogs and cats, you do have to be careful because you just never know.”

Mata said chicks need a feeder, waterer and bedding, such as pine shavings. Chicks also need brooder, a place that keeps them safe and warm. Mata kept her chicks in a bathtub covered with a spare screen. Some owners use hard plastic swimming pools, but chicks quickly outgrow – and escape – them, she said.

“In three weeks they can flutter, so it’s not super practical,” Mata said.

Water must be changed at least twice daily because chicks knock shavings and excrement into it, she said. Wet shavings should be scooped up daily and replaced with dry shavings, she said. If ammonia from chicken waste builds up inside the pen, the chicks will get sick and die, Mata said.

Mata did a heavy cleaning every three days, she said.

“I also had little sticks in there, at first, to practice sitting on them and stepping on them,” Mata said.

The chicks may go outside when they are fully feathered, at approximately 9 weeks old, although they may still need a heat source, Mata said. She let her chickens out of the coop in the morning and locked up at night, making sure they plenty of food and water.

Chickens may go outside when they are fully featured, at approximately 9 weeks of age. Nola Mata of Braidwood and formerly of Wilmington, raised chickens in her backyard from 2014 to 2021. She felt the eggs looked and tasted fresher than store-bought eggs and her young sons loved the experience.

Even with good care, the mortality rate is high, from the moment they leave the hatchery, Mata said.

“These babies can be so fragile and it’s a long trip for them,” Mata said.

Chickens are also susceptible to vitamin deficiencies, neurological issues, mites and feather lice, she said.

It’s also nearly impossible to find care for chickens locally, she said. Veterinarians that care for exotic animals often don’t “see tons of chickens,” Mata said. So owners often seek advice online from other chicken owners, Mata said.

Nola Mata of Braidwood and formerly of Wilmington, raised chickens in her backyard from 2014 to 2021. She felt the eggs looked and tasted fresher than store-bought eggs and her young sons loved the experience.

Backyard chickens can also carry salmonella, even if they appear clean, the Centers for Disease Control said. People should immediately wash their hands with soap and water (or use hand sanitizer) after touching chickens, their eggs or “anything in the area where they live and roam,” the CDC said.

The results are worth the efforts, Mata feels. Chickens lay one egg a day starting around 6 months of age. Mata eventually had “tons of eggs” and sold them $3 a dozen for a short time. Eventually Mata simply gave them to loved ones because she “really wasn’t raising chickens to make money off them,” she said.

“If my family could enjoy the really good eggs, then I was happy to share them,” Mata said.

Mata said the difference in taste between her chickens’ eggs and store-bought eggs was similar to that of a homegrown tomato and those from the grocery store. The egg yolks also had “a more vibrant color” and the whites were firmer than grocery store eggs, she said.

Mata’s sons John and Justin were preschoolers when she began raising chickens. and they loved the process.

“We had chickens from an incubator once and they got to see them hatching,” Mata said. “It was awesome.”

Chickens may go outside when they are fully featured, at approximately 9 weeks of age. Nola Mata of Braidwood and formerly of Wilmington, raised chickens in her backyard from 2014 to 2021. She felt the eggs looked and tasted fresher than store-bought eggs and her young sons (Julian is pictured) loved the experience.