A few weeks ago at the Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market in Ashland, someone greeted Jacqueline Milikien with a cheerful, "Hello, Chicken Lady." Milikien was only mildly surprised.
"I never thought of myself as the Chicken Lady, but I guess I've been talking a lot about chickens lately," she said.
Indeed, Milikien, who raises hens in her small Ashland backyard, has quickly become an expert on the practice. It was only after many months of research and conversations with organic farmers, breeders and coop builders that she even decided on a breed and a coop design.
The chicken rearing is only part of her move toward local sustainability. Milikien also has a small garden that produces a goodly amount of vegetables for her, her family and lucky neighbors.
Milikien spoke with the Daily Tidings about her passion for local, organic food and of course, chickens.
DT: How long have you lived in Ashland?
JM: I've lived here about 12 years now. I love it. Ashland is wonderful.
DT: What brought you here?
JM: The plays. I met a friend here and fell in love with Ashland. I walked through the park, saw the flowers blooming and decided this is where I wanted to retire, so I did. Before that I was an adult education teacher, teaching adults who were mentally handicapped, in Sacramento.
DT: How did you get involved in the local sustainability movement?
JM: I've always had a garden and my philosophy is that this is something whose time has come, and it's the right thing to do — it feels right for me.
DT: What made you decide to raise chickens in the city?
JM: I found out that I could keep hens, not roosters, in Ashland. I thought it would be neat as part of the sustainability movement. The chickens work with my idea of sustainability and I wanted to have my own eggs, to know where they come from — organic and everything. My yard had a grape arbor and it was a perfect area for a coop. I had the area wired in and I got some plans to make a coop and a friend helped me build it.
DT: Tell us about your chickens.
JM: I did a lot of research on chicken breeds. The hens I have now are Australorps, an Australian breed, real pretty. They are also good egg layers, very friendly and docile, they run around the yard, but they don't need a lot of space. And they don't dig up the garden so much. They are just good hens.
DT: Have you had any concerns or challenges with the chickens?
JM: Not really. I was concerned about my cat, Domino, and how he would be with the chickens. He's a big hunter, but he's more afraid of the chickens than they are of him. He snuck around the coop the other day, but they chased him off.
DT: Do you have advice for people who want to raise hens in the city?
JM: I'd tell people to make sure they have enough space for the chickens, research coops and coop designs to find out what works best for you, and research chicken breeds. Read everything you can and talk to other people. Also, don't do it to save money. If you think you're going to save money on eggs, forget it. If people are going to raise chickens, they should do it for the satisfaction of raising chickens and knowing where their food comes from — being more connected to their food.
A Web site I strongly recommend is www.BackyardChickens.com. It has everything you need in terms of information, coops suggestions, a blog, photos. It's a great site. I just ordered a T-shirt; it has a picture of a chicken on it and the caption says, "My pet makes me breakfast."
Post your chicken questions to Milikien in the Backyard Chickens group at www.ConnectAshland.com.