Chicken Summit offers up advice for raising Juneau hens

In our household, eggs are a major staple. Like many families, we look forward to our morning scramble, to that frittata of perfection filled with leftovers and topped with melted cheese.

Easily, this family of four devours more than two dozen eggs each week.

Yes, we love our eggs.

We also love the versatility of a perfectly roasted hen and the many meals that can be made thereafter.

But we’re picky about our food, especially where it comes from, how it was handled and what went into creating it. I don’t feel completely comfortable until I can shake the hand of the provider.

In Juneau, that opportunity is a long shot.

That’s why this winter I made an appeal to my husband: Honey, it’s time to get chickens.

As a family, we eat simply and live off the land whenever the opportunity arises. I saw this as one more way to take control of our food choices.

His response was simple.

“Only if we can eat them,” he said.

So, I launched onto the world wide web and did some hunting, so to speak, and found many forums and plenty of information on how to purchase chickens. Very little of that material pertained to Juneau, or even Alaska.

I was looking in the wrong place.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks 4-H Extension Service offers a wealth of information on this topic. In fact, this weekend, local experts are coming together to host the second annual Juneau Chicken Summit on Saturday, April 6 in the library at the University of Alaska Southeast.

The agenda outlines a full day of poultry, from the basics to more advanced topics such as those to be presented by state veterinarian Dr. Robert “Bob” Gerlach, who will talk on flock management, disease and parasite detection and egg handling. Wendy Smith will also present a how-to on butchering a chicken. The day culminates with a tour of local coops around town.

Perhaps most importantly, attendees will get a chance to talk first-hand with those that have successfully raised hens in our challenging climate.

UAF Cooperative Extension Agent Darren Snyder said the summit is perfect for just about every level of interest.

“There’s a whole spectrum of interest, and this is just one more step to making it a reality for some folks,” he said. “This is a tool that will help to confirm or dispel the idea of raising chickens. The morning portions will be great for the details. The panel will be a super-local think tank.”

Snyder said space is limited for this event and preregistration is encouraged. To do so, go online to http://www.uaf.edu/ces/districts/juneau and click on the link under the chicken. Interested individuals can also register at the event. Cost to participate is $10. All students are admitted for free.

“Anytime you raise your own food, you appreciate it that much more,” Snyder said.

For more information call 796-6221.

Contact Outdoors Editor Abby Lowell at abby.lowell@juneauempire.com.

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