Lisette Gibson is a professor of English and lives just down the street from campus, but many students would be surprised to know that she keeps three free-range chickens in her backyard.
Gibson says the hobby started when her daughter became a vegetarian and wanted to start eating free-range eggs. Gibson and her husband decided to try their hand at raising backyard chickens and collecting their eggs. They’ve continued the hobby for about nine or 10 years.
Bexley doesn’t allow male chickens, due to their tendency to crow early in the morning, and Bexley residents are only allowed a maximum of three chickens at a time. Gibson decided to get the maximum number of birds allowed because they’re easy to lose to predators, and they tend to get lonely.
Gibson has two different kinds of chickens: one Australorp named Ruby and two Rhode Island Reds named Patty Longtail and Lucy. She says they each have unique personalities.
Although her husband grew up on a farm, Gibson had no experience with raising farm animals before adopting her “half-wild pets.” She got a lot of help and information from the internet, where there is a plethora of blogs on raising suburban chickens.
Gibson says the chickens are fairly easy to take care of because they’re free-range, which means they don’t stay in a cage all the time. This is both good for the chicken’s health and good for the owner, as there’s no messy pen to clean up.
The chickens get to roam free during the day, but they do get put into their pen at night. This keeps them safe from predators such as coyotes and hawks.
When the chickens do happen to get hurt, Gibson says it’s almost impossible to find a vet that can properly care for them. She’s had to do most of their medicine herself, including nursing Ruby back to health after she was attacked.
Although Gibson says she would never eat her pet chickens, she does collect the eggs they produce. Each chicken lays once about every 25 hours. This equates to around six eggs per week per chicken during the spring and summer.
Because chickens require a certain amount of sunlight to lay eggs, they tend to lay fewer in the winter. To keep their strength up, Gibson feeds them cheese, yogurt, and other food scraps during the cold months.
Gibson has two dogs who she says get along with her chickens and protect them from predators. She said maybe someday when she retires or moves to a bigger place, she will get a goat too.