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.