When Reec Swiney handed me a baby chicken, my heart melted. It was the first time I had held a baby chicken. I cupped my hands together to make sure it didn’t fall and stared into its tiny beady eyes. I instantly felt better, like the baby chicken could feel my love. The little guy chirped loudly for its siblings as it tried to flap its underdeveloped wings and fly into my lap.
Reec had just brought four new chicks home and getting them strong and healthy enough to join the flock wasn’t going to be easy.
Swiney, who is a Black man, is the founder of BlackYard Chickenz, a family company dedicated to teaching everything there is about raising healthy and happy chickens in an urban space. Swiney built a chicken coop in the backyard of his Atlanta area home and for the past year has been growing a small business dedicated to the beautiful bird. BlackYard Chickenz is an amazing resource for anyone interested in learning about raising livestock in their backyard. They also sell fresh tasty eggs to the community daily.
Swiney uses the hobby to teach his daughters the importance of quality food and building a self-sustaining lifestyle. The mini-farm also comes with a homesteading tax exemption, which allows him to write off things like coop expenses, food, as well as other livestock expenses.
NewsOne had the exclusive opportunity to tour BlackYard Chickenz and pick the owner’s brain about why he’s partaking in such an interesting hobby. Check out the Q&A below:
What made you want to start raising chickens?
The pandemic hit and my life changed pretty drastically. I needed something to motivate me. I was kinda bored with life and was looking for a spark. I was hanging around a farming supply store grabbing some food for the dogs when I saw a chicken coop for sale. I made an impulse buy and now I have 10 chickens. But mentally it’s been the best thing for me. It’s certainly manual labor, but it’s my escape from the bullshit ya know. When I’m feeding the chickens or cleaning the coop, nothing else matters. I can take that time to clear my mind of any negativity I had before I started. It’s almost like therapy.
What did raising chickens teach you?
It taught me to value livestock and to appreciate what we eat. There can be a lot that goes into it. The quality of the eggs I get from my chickens is a lot different than the quality of store-bought eggs.
It also taught me what to look for when you buy store-bought eggs. There’s nothing wrong with store-bought eggs, but the words organic, cage-free, and free-range can be tricks. You want to make sure you find eggs that say pasture-raised. That means the chickens are walking around free, eating bugs, and are happy.
You might have 100 chickens in one big cage, but since they aren’t in individual cages the FDA allows them to be called cage-free, it’s really a trick, but you can always tell the difference in the egg quality.
How much space do you need to get started?
As long as you have 3-6 square feet per chicken, you’re good. So you don’t need a whole lot of space, just enough for them to walk around. It is a really fun hobby. If you can raise them from babies it’s better, but you can always start with an adult chicken that’s already laying eggs. Just make sure it’s from an ethical farmer.
One of my first mistakes was buying chickens from a bad farmer. The chickens were of poor quality, some were even sick. Just make sure you do your research on any sellers before making your purchase. These are live animals and they should be cared for as such. Some sellers just wanna make a buck and sell sick chickens cause it is profitable.
I know everything my chickens eat. All fresh stuff and no pesticides and it makes a big difference.
How did the chicken community embrace you?
I didn’t know what to expect when I first started. But I was very surprised to get so much positive feedback, especially from social media. When I first started I posted a couple of videos about what I was doing and out of nowhere I was embraced by the chicken community wholeheartedly. It’s a bunch of people that raise chickens or do livestock and farming in urban communities. There are also a lot of Black people in the community as well, all types of people. We all share information and help each other out when we did it. It’s pretty dope.
What’s also dope is that it’s encouraging some of my friends to start urban gardens. The biggest goal is to become as self-sustaining as possible when it comes to food. I’m just really proud of them. My homegirl grows peppers now, and I trade her my eggs for her peppers.
How many eggs do your chickens produce?
Typically, I get one egg a day per chicken. It’s rare but sometimes a chicken will produce a couple of eggs within 20 hours. But usually, I’ll get one egg from each of my chickens between 7 am and 11 am every day. There is no better feeling than picking an egg right from the hen and cracking it right on the frying pan!
So what’s next after chickens?
I think I’d like to own some goats. Also a donkey or a mule. Donkeys are great protectors and they will watch over your yard. I’m definitely getting some turkeys, and I’d like to get a peacock. Who you know in the hood got a peacock lol? I’ll definitely be getting a few more exotic chickens as well.