SARANAC LAKE - A hen will lay an egg every 28 hours or so when it's at its laying peak, usually at about 18 months old.
Visitors learned facts like this, and many others about growing and eating your own food, at this year's Farm 2 Fork festival, held Saturday at Riverside Park.
In addition to a series of tasting stations made by local chefs with food from the farmers market, the festival included talks on raising goats in the Adirondacks, growing herbs, making sauerkraut and Holly Huber's talk on raising chickens in your backyard.
Holly Huber talks about how to raise chickens in your backyard at the Farm 2 Fork Festival Saturday in Saranac Lake, while her daughter Ivy holds a chicken next to her.
(Enterprise photo — Jessica Collier)
Huber brought several of her own chickens along and placed them in front of her in a pen as she used an iPad to give her presentation, dressed in a yellow-and-green apron covered in cartoon mushrooms. Her daughter Ivy stood by and held a red comet chicken named Ella.
She explained to the handful of people gathered for her talk that the village of Saranac Lake recently considered temporarily outlawing chickens and other livestock in the village, but board members decided not to. Some home-owners insurance doesn't allow for chickens, though, so people should check that before getting them, she said.
She explained what people will need if they want to have chickens on their property, including a coop, nesting boxes and a rubber bowl, which is important here in the winter because water will freeze and stick to another type of bowl if it isn't heated and doesn't have a bubbler.
The chickens can generally survive on kitchen scraps, but she advised people to supplement that with chicken feed pellets or crumbles.
The first egg a chicken will produce is going to be soft, misshapen and discolored, Huber said, showing a picture of one.
"It's still edible," she said. "Inside is OK, but the shell is totally whacked."
She talked about some of the different types of chickens and the differences in the color of their eggs, but she said she can't taste a difference between any of them.
Her family cleans the coop about two times a year, because the chickens turn it over frequently, keeping it fresh. She uses their waste to fertilize her garden.
In the winter, Huber said she puts a lightbulb in her chicken coop. It keeps them warm, plus it forces them to lay more eggs. Without it, she said egg production would drop off significantly.
Chickens keep laying until they are 5 or 6 years old, but the number of eggs they produce will taper off after their peak at 18 months, she said. Though she noted that she had some hens that were 3-and-a-half years old, and they started to produce more when she added three younger ones to the mix.
Huber said her family isn't fond of keeping roosters around. They tend to be mean and loud, and hens are loud enough on their own, she said.
"When they lay an egg, they're very proud, and they let everyone know," she said.
Huber recommended a website, backyardchickens.com, to anyone who is starting to grow chickens for the first time. She said she used it a ton when she first got chickens.
Gail Brill, who heads up organizing Farm 2 Fork each year, said this year's theme was "slow food, long life." Everything focused on taking time to slowly cook the food people buy at the farmers market.
"Fast food is not healthy food," Brill said.
Despite rain early in the day, Brill maintained optimism that it would dry up later. She said she always enjoys the event.
"It's a fun day," Brill said. "It's a chance to showcase the food the farmers are selling."
Contact Jessica Collier at 891-2600 ext. 26 or firstname.lastname@example.org.