Hudson police, 4H club members want to educate chicken owners
By APRIL GUILMET Union Leader Correspondent
A chicken struts her stuff in a Hudson backyard. (APRIL GUILMET PHOTO)
HUDSON — A free workshop is aimed at educating those who are fond of keeping foul (and farm-fresh eggs) without running afoul of the law.
Hosted by the Hudson Police Department, the Backyard Chicken Seminar will take place on Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon in the community room at the police station, located at 1 Constitution Drive.
While it’s unclear just how many chickens live in Hudson — or in the state at large, since the N.H. Department of Agriculture doesn’t keep such records — local police can attest to receiving an increasing number of chicken-related calls in recent years.
“I’ve definitely seen a rise in backyard chicken ownership in the last couple of years,” Hudson Animal Control Officer Jana McMillan said. “I’ve also had an increase in complaints — mostly from neighbors who find them roaming, or roosters crowing or concerns for the way they are kept.”
Though Hudson currently has no ordinances preventing citizens from owning chickens, there are certain areas of town that aren’t zoned for livestock.
In addition, state laws are aimed at keeping both humans and their feathered-friends safe.
Wanting to learn more about the proper care and keeping of poultry, McMillan attended a course held at the Nevins Farm MSPCA in Methuen, Mass.Though the course was extremely informative, McMillan was dismayed to learn it was only offered once per year.
“Because I’m a huge advocate of educating the public, I wanted to offer something for our residents here.”
A search for local chicken experts led McMillan directly to the local 4H Club, where a subgroup known as the New Hampshire Cluckers was more than happy to share their knowledge, and earn some community-service credits while they’re at it.
Children between the ages of 8-18 are eligible to participate in 4H poultry projects, where they learn about basic chicken care and feeding, health and proper housing.
Hudson 4H leader Suzanne Roark said about a handful of students from the Cluckers group, ranging in age from 5 to 11, would be helping out at the May 10 seminar.
Roark said the workshop would share some basic information on the different breeds of chickens commonly seen as well as more detailed information on how to safely maintain a chicken coop in a residential setting.
“Chickens seem to be getting more popular,” Roark said. “Just the other day I was at Costco and they had a chicken coop for sale!”
The 4H kids will bring plenty of handouts and brochures for their students to bring home with them, and hopefully help them out in their quest for the perfect coop.
In a handout shared by UNH Cooperative Extension, Tom Danko, a retired poultry specialist, noted that small-scale chicken coops come in all shapes and sizes, but all should be properly sealed to prevent drafts and water saturation, with fencing and covered runs to allow for safe, outdoor roaming.
According to Danko, a small flock of 10 hens should lay eight or nine eggs each day once the flock is established, though productivity tends to decline as the birds get older.