Amy Remely of Covington pets a chicken named Easter Egger, while Justin Miller, president of the Conyers Backyard Poultry Club, talks to her about the chickens featured at the 8th annual Agriculture Day, held in conjunction with the Rockdale Farmer’s Market and hosted by the Rockdale County Cooperative Extension’s 4-H Club. (Staff Photo: Julie Wells)
Most people have a dog or a cat as a pet. Justin Miller prefers chickens. He keeps a few hens on his property and not only enjoys their company but appreciates the added benefit of having fresh eggs.
“I personally do it for the pets. I have two children and the chickens are so entertaining, more entertaining than a dog or a cat,” said Miller, a Rockdale resident.
Two years ago, Miller, along a few other chicken hobbyists, started up the Conyers Backyard Poultry Club. It’s primary aim is education, said Miller, club president. Miller assists a few Rockdale schools with hatching eggs in the late winter/early spring. He supplies the eggs and the schools supply the incubation equipment.
After roughly 21 days under the warm lights (chicks prefer 90 degrees or higher), out of the three dozen eggs Miller provides, as many as 10 can hatch into chicks.
“I help them through it,” said Miller of the hatching process.
He also volunteers his time to visit the schools and discuss farm animals with the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten children and the life cycle of a chicken with students first through third grades.
Miller then finds homes for the chicks at the Poultry Parade, an event held annually at the Stock Market Country Store in Conyers. The day-long gathering draws hundreds of backyard chicken growers from all over Georgia, as well as Alabama and Tennessee.
The backyard chicken growers trade, sell and swap various breeds of chickens from Polish and silky to the Ameracaunas and Plymouth Rock.
The Conyers Backyard Poultry Club also makes appearances at local events such as the Olde Town Fall Festival and Agriculture Day at the Rockdale Farmer’s Market. The club uses the venues as opportunities to create public awareness and support of the benefits of backyard chicken growing.
Miller said chickens produce wonderful compost, control insects like spiders and ticks by eating them, and provide eggs that contain significantly more vitamins and less cholesterol and fat than store-bought eggs.
He said backyard chicken growers produce “double A” eggs, eggs that stores can’t produce because a backyard chicken egg has a shorter shelf life than a store-bought egg.
“A backyard egg is the highest quality egg you can get,” said Miller, who added that hens lay one egg per day, about six days a week, during peak laying times in the warmer months.
Miller said as far as whether or not backyard chickens are allowed to be kept on certain properties, every residence has a different zoning, so it’s best to research the zoning before delving into the hobby.
According to the City of Conyers ordinances, chickens are not allowed on RS-14 zoned properties, and most houses in the city hold that zoning designation, said Marvin Flanigan, director of planning and inspection services for the City of Conyers. Properties zoned RA, or Residential Agriculture, with at least 3 acres, can keep chickens as pets.
In unincorporated Rockdale County (outside the city limits), chickens are not allowed on properties in Rockdale County zoned R-1, or single family, according to the ordinances. Poultry is only allowed on A-R, or Agricultural Residential, properties and the Watershed Protection zoning district, and the properties must be at least 3 acres in size.
The Conyers Backyard Poultry Club meets the first Sunday of every month from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Stock Market Country Store, 4479 Hwy. 20 in Conyers. Miller said club members discuss topics such as nutrition, housing, predators and incubation.
Miller said the key to successfully raising backyard chickens is ensuring their well-being.
“Everybody I’ve seen has a different set-up. As long as you keep them safe and fed. Our club teaches you to do that,” Miller said.
To learn more about the Conyers Backyard Poultry Club, visit www.conyersbackyardpoultryclub.com or find the club on Facebook.