Backyard to barnyard: Lodi class to give guidance on raising chickens

·4 min read

Jun. 11—Over the last two years, residents took up new hobbies and interests due to COVID-19 lockdowns and stay-at-home mandates.

One of those, according to Cherie Sintes-Glover, was raising chickens.

While the idea of Lodians raising chickens within the city limits seems feather-brained, Sintes-Glover said it's more than likely everyone has at least one neighbor keeping fowl on their property.

"During COVID people figured if they were home, they might as well try something new, perhaps starting a garden and raising a few chickens for eggs," Sintes-Glover said. "But they got an added benefit, which is being able to watch 'chicken TV' from their own backyards. And it gave them another opportunity to socialize online about their new hobby."

The City of Lodi's municipal code allows residents to keep as many as five chickens in backyard enclosures, as long as feed is properly stored and sanitary conditions are maintained.

Since the city's chicken ordinance was updated in 2015, Sintes-Glover said coop sales have increased, and it has been difficult to find baby chicks in feed stores.

An Urban Chicken Consultant, Poultry Health Inspector and a veteran 4-H Leader of more than 20 years, Sintes-Glover is now giving Lodians the opportunity to learn how to properly care for chickens with a class offered through the city's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services.

She will be teaching Backyard Chicken Keeping 101 June 14 and 21 at Hutchins Street Square from 6:30- 8 p.m.

The class is designed for those considering raising their own backyard chickens or for those who would like a refresher on the basics.

Students learn everything there is to know during the first year of keeping chickens, from choosing baby chicks and setting up a brooder to the move to the big coop and laying those very first eggs.

A Backyard Chicken Keeping 102 class will be offered July 12 and 19, and will cover common chicken aliments along with how to recognize health concerns in a flock.

From what to keep in your Poultry First Aid Kit at home to keeping your chickens cool in the deathly summer heat, the class will cover all of the common myths and best practices.

"This is my favorite class, because we get past all of the misinformation that you'll often find online," she said. "Social media can be helpful, but you want to be educated about why and how to treat your chickens effectively."

While chicken keeping may not seem too complicated, Sintes-Glover said it's important to learn the basics and get familiar with what you might need.

If you want the best eggs possible, she recommends feeding chickens a good quality layer ration and making sure they have plenty of fresh, cool water, especially during the summer months.

"People often think that scratch corn will be enough, but it's not when you look at what chickens need nutritionally," she said. "And scratch should never be fed to chickens during the summer months when the temperatures are over 90 degrees."

That is because chickens have a higher normal body temperature, she said, and feeding them corn and other treats can cause their body temps to rise to unsafe levels. Heat stress is a common issue in the valley, where days can reach more than 110 degrees.

"Chickens can handle colder months once they are fully feathered, like any wild bird," she said. "But introduce our hot summers and that is when we need to take certain precautions to help them regulate their body heat and stay cool."

Sintes-Glover has taught dozens of classes on raising backyard chickens in a variety of venues and was a frequent guest on KSTE/KFBK radio's popular garden show "Get Growing" with Fred Hoffman.

She also provides private consultations to chicken owners who need a helping hand with everything from coop location to assessing health concerns in their flocks.

Sintes-Glover said fresh eggs are not the only benefit to keeping chickens in a backyard.

These egg producers also eat bugs and pests in the yard and garden while providing hours of entertainment to their owners.

And with the cost of food skyrocketing, including eggs, she expects to see more people exploring the idea of raising backyard chickens if they haven't already taken the plunge.

"Raising chickens can have initial start-up costs, but because chickens lay 475 eggs on average in their lifetime, it is often worth the investment," she said. "And nothing beats a fresh, home-grown egg for breakfast."

Fees for each class are $55, or $110 to take both. To sign-up, visit www.lodi.gov/841/Activity-Guide. For more information visit www.ChickensForEggs.com or email chickensforeggs@gmail.com. You can also contact PRCS at 209-333-6742.