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Fenton Township Couple Shares Chicken Expertise

As Fenton considers a proposal to allow chickens in the city, Frank and Laura Kay Jones talk about raising 2,700 chickens a year at Earth Shine Farms.

When it comes to raising healthy chickens, Frank and Laura Kay Jones wrote the book.

Well, the Fenton Township couple hasn’t written it yet, but they plan to.

While in the city, the Jones’ have been handling pasture-raised poultry for 25 years and at their peak had 2,700 fowl. They were sending eggs and chickens across the country to New York City, the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and even Star Wars creator George Lucas.

“We couldn’t raise enough of them,” Frank said.

The couple since moved from Durand to Fenton Township and now raise chickens for themselves and family. They have about 100 meat birds, 16 egg-layers and one rooster to watch over them.

When it comes to in the , the Jones’ are all for the birds, but said they believe there are certain ways they must be raised to be healthy, clean and happy.

Whether to place roofs over has been a key issue the Fenton City Council has discussed. City officials have said roofs would prevent rain from washing chicken feces into the soil to avoid odor issues. Laura Kay said the chickens need the sunshine to help kill the bacteria and a roof wouldn’t be a good idea. She said odor issues could arise if the birds are kept in a dirt area with no grass and no sunshine.

“Where there is no grass and it’s damp, that’s where the bacteria comes in and you get the smell,” Laura Kay said.

She said the chickens need grass, and their pastures need to be rotated to keep the patch clean. That’s why all of the Jones’ chicken houses and pens are portable. Laura Kay also said the chickens some dirt in order to take dust baths, which is the way they protect themselves against parasites. She also said some shade is necessary.

“We’ve never had a smell and with four or five chickens, they shouldn’t smell,” she said.

Laura Kay said the birds need about four to five square feet per chicken. She added that the birds are jungle fowl and like trees and also are excellent mosquito control.

There has been debate among city officials for allowing anywhere from three to five chickens. The Jones’ said either amount could work; it just depends on the size of the lots. Most lots in Fenton are 60 feet wide and 120 feet long, said Councilman Les Bland.

The Jones’ did question what people would do with chickens went they get old, stop laying or aren’t wanted anymore.

“There is not many places that will butcher chickens for you,” Laura Kay said.

Earth Shine Farms

The Jones’ said they believed they raise some of the healthiest and most nutritional chickens around at Earth Shine Farms in Durand. The labor- intensive process, however, made it tough to produce large quantities and make a lot of money, even after selling eggs for $4.99 a pound, chicken for $5.99 a pound and whole chickens for $54. The Jones’ would ship eggs to restaurants in Chicago, have all but a few broken, and still get delighted thank you's.

Laura Kay said the term “organic” is thrown around a little too often as is “free-range.” She said birds can be called free range even if they are kept in a barn and many farmers don’t follow guidelines that truly make a chicken organic. She prefers the term “pasture-raised” for her chickens. They are outside from a very young age and fed a certified organic feed.

The Jones’ said they were first to use a French method for chilling the birds after processing using a walk-in cooler, instead of a process referred to by chicken farmers as the industrial “feces soup” where birds are placed in large tubs of water. Laura Kay said state officials didn’t know what to make of their methods as they were used the mass production process.

“We met with legislators, the Michigan Department of Agriculture,” she said. “People from all over the country were watching what we were doing.”

While the Jones’ don’t expect anyone to produce chickens like they do, they encourage people to raise chickens to put food on their own tables.

“We are all for it,” Frank said. “We wish more people would garden and produce their own eggs.”

The proposed ordinance, as originally written, says:
* A maximum of three chickens.
* No roosters.
* No slaughtering.
* A minimum of 4 square feet of coop per chicken.
* Clean, dry and odor-free.
* No coops in a side or front yard, and at least 25 feet from any neighboring home and 10 feet from any property line.
* For single family detached homes, in single family residential neighborhoods.
* Chicken owners would obtain a permit annually from the city, to ensure continued compliance. Any private restrictions, such as neighborhood association by-laws that prohibit chickens, apply.

Joe Kershaw May 29, 2012 at 12:28 PM
Excellent article. Great information. Glad you spoke to the experts with years of experience. I am sure the information presented in the article is only the tip of the iceberg of all they know.
Jason Alexander May 29, 2012 at 03:44 PM
What do you think the Fenton ordinance should be?
Chris Shreve May 29, 2012 at 09:33 PM
I am delighted to see that Fenton is open minded enough to be working on this issue! What a Trend setter! Times are changing, with all the genetically modified food (GMO) coming to light, it is very scarry to even think about what we are eating when we buy from the grocery store. If you aren't getting your eggs and meat right from a pasture raised animal and farmer who adheres to this, and it doesn't say 100% usda organic you are eating GMO food. Because the of what the animals that aren't organic are being fed. GMO Soy and GMO Corn. Scientists are now finding that GMO feed, is causing sterility in pigs, cows, chickens, turkeys and many other animals. GMO is causing ilnesses even death in test rats. We are eating this folks. (see Dr.Mercola.com GMO) Never in the history of man, has our food source been so threatened. Hurray for people realizing this and wanting to grow their own food! I believe in the future you will be seeing more and more people having front yard and back yard gardens. Everyone had huge gardens up until the early 1960's. I think people are wanting to know that their food has integrity. Laura & Frank are true organic farmers, I have had their eggs and they are the best, because of the love and integrity they put into raising their chickens. This seems to be the new trend, people in other states especially Florida are raising Chickens in subdivisions as well, it is the sign of the times. It also brings a sense of community.

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