Click on link for photos with this story. Text copied below. http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/08/new_jerseyans_raise_chickens_i.html N.J. residents raise chickens in effort to be self-sufficient, reduce carbon footprint Friday, August 20, 2010 Vicki Hyman/The Star-Ledger Vicki Hyman/The Star-Ledger Police in Millburn recently came close to issuing this rather unique "be on the lookout for": female, brown, heavy breasted, skinny legs, about 12 inches tall. Answers to the name Cracker. One of the four chickens that Elizabeth Bolland and her family keep in their typically petite Essex County backyard had flown the not-so-proverbial coop. After scanning nearby yards, Bolland called police to give them a heads-up. "No, Im not asking you to look for my chicken," she told the dispatcher. "If one of my neighbors calls and says theres a brown chicken in the backyard, its mine, and Ill come and get it." Bolland did track down Cracker, though the bird had to be lured home with a bit of luncheon meat. "Im walking through Millburn with a chicken wrapped in a towel eating bologna," she laughs. "Who ever would have thought my day would go this way?" But theres more to backyard poultry than cheep thrills. Banned by many municipalities decades ago, chicken-keeping is making a comeback, even in the heart of suburbia. Neighbors may cluck, but chickens make for quiet neighbors, as opposed to roosters, which are almost always banned. Theyre delightful, inexpensive pets Bolland spent $120 on books on raising chickens, and $1.90 per chick and each chicken can produce up to an egg a day during her prime laying years. Gathering eggs from your own backyard dovetails with the growing desire to lower ones carbon footprint by eating locally (though these chickens dont fly here on their own; theyre shipped from hatcheries via the U.S. Postal Service). And some of these extremely small-scale chicken farmers look on it as a return to a more self-sufficient lifestyle. Call it keeping up with the McDonalds. "Ive just had this weird homesteading feeling thats come over me since Ive had children," says Jodi Rothfeld, whose playhouse-sized chicken coop is tucked discreetly behind her 5-foot-tall white picket fence in the corner of her Livingston backyard. "Its calling me to the roots of my grandmothers time. Im sewing. Im canning. I have a big garden." Rothfeld gingerly places Lizzie and Mustard, two weeks-old chicks, in the grassy square bordered by her raised planting beds. Her daughters, 2 and 3, cuddle the downy-feathered birds. "Say, Hi Lizzie! How are you?," Rothfeld coos. Rothfeld grew up in Californias Central Valley and moved to New Jersey after meeting her future husband, a Livingston native whos allergic to most pets and was originally dead-set against the chickens. She admits that in her ideal universe, "Id have a goat and a cow, four-plus acres, great neighbors, and a husband who entertains eccentric behaviors." chickens-homestead.jpgMatt Rainey/The Star-LedgerGrace Grund keeps chickens in her backyard in Montclair. Suburban homesteading, of which backyard chickens is one manifestation. Grace has been keeping chickens behind her Montclair home for about 8 years. Now she proudly points out the self-pollinating peach tree she planted in one corner of the yard, and shows off her high-grade compost bin, which soon will be enriched with chicken droppings. When asked whether shes ever considered beekeeping, her eyes light up: "I would have bees tomorrow." Does Livingston not allow it? "My husband would divorce me." In fact, interest in many "old-timey" homesteading skills is growing. Membership in the New Jersey Beekeepers Association has more than doubled in the last three years, to 850 members today, from all 21 counties. The number of households who grew their own food in 2009 grew 14 percent from the year before, according to the National Gardening Association. Jarden Home Brands, the maker of Ball brand ho me-canning products, reports that sales of preserving equipment is up nearly 10 percent over last year. The number of people who are foraging for wild edibles, or say, tanning leather or making their own flints is a bit harder to quantify, but Elyssa Marie Serrilli, who lives at the cooperative Green Quest Farm in Andover, says she gets great turnout at the periodic homesteading skills workshops she holds. "Part of it is the economy right now," she says. "Money is running short. The environmental tragedies just keep happening. I think people are just sickened by it." The recession has certainly played a role, says Grace Chow Grund, a member of the impishly-named Montclair United Chicken Keepers collective. "I think people really felt like, Okay, if I can grow something, Ill be able to feed some portion of my family. We Americans have come from a place where we knew how to do everything from scratch. We were pioneers. Weve lost that." Grund started raising chickens eight years ago to educate her four children, now aged 12 to 18, about where food comes from. The whole family still pitches in to care for the chickens, of which there are currently 15 in the 35-foot-wide yard. "The muck is a little ... mucky sometimes, especially in summer," she says, "but they will never eat another store-bought egg." And speaking of eating, what happens to the chickens when their best egg-laying days are behind them? "We havent been brave enough as a family to cross that place yet," Grund says. "They die and we bury them. We should harvest them and use them for soup." She sighs. "Maybe this year. The children walk away and say, "Mommy, we really dont want to talk about this." Raising chickens in N.J.Matt Rainey/The Star-LedgerGrace Grund keeps chickens in her backyard in Montclair.Suburban homesteading, of which backyard chickens is one manifestation. Grace has been keeping chickens behind her Montclair home for about 8 years. There is an element of trendiness in the backyard chicken movement (reality show mega-mom Kate Gosselin just installed her own coop) and maybe even a whiff of suburban one-upsmanship you can spend a mere $300 for a plastic coop, but a $1,300 Craftsman-style edifice available in a dozen colors will make your birds the envy of the neighborhood. But Jenna Woganrich, who penned "Made From Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life" (Storey, 2008), a practical ode to butter churning, banjo plucking and bunny grooming, attributes that to beginners fervor. "The nature of homesteading and country living is no matter what kind of person you are, you go full throttle," says Woganrich, who now lives on a farm in Vermont, where she raises chickens, geese, turkeys and angora rabbits, and just put down a deposit for five Scottish black-faced ewes. "Youre going to learn what to do and what you like to do and naturally be drawn to things ... Theres no Bible of homesteading. Its what makes you feel better in the world." About a mile outside Boonton, theres a Depression-era log cabin tucked in a grove of trees and overlooking a pond. There Landy Simone, the only female master beekeeper in the state, makes her own honey and beeswax-based cosmetics and soaps and tends to her chickens. She grows kiwi, currants, pole beans, rhubarb, lettuce, cucumbers and strawberries in a lush 17-foot-by-60-foot patch at the Montville community garden, about two miles away. Her husband hunts and fishes. "Were not going off the grid anytime soon," she says over a glass of freshly-squeezed lemonade. But if, heaven forbid, disaster strikes, she says, "I think wed be fine. Im perfectly happy to take advantage of electricity and all that" she shakes her glass, the ice rattling "but if I didnt have it, I think wed be okay. Im a firm believer in having skills that you might need." Bolland, the Millburn woman with the errant poultry, didnt turn to chicken-keeping out of some "Little House on the Prairie" fetish. "I said no to a dog," says the mother of three. Her kids wanted a pet, and after extensive lobbying, her fourth-grader presented her a flash drive containing a Power Point presentation on the pros of backyard chickens. So she promised to call the town, certain that shed get an automatic no from Millburn the town requires a zoning variance to install a ceiling fan, she jokes. The animal control agent said fine, but told her to check with the health department, which directed her to zoning. When the staffer there heard the chicken coop was about the size of a doghouse, and not a permanent structure at that, she gave Bolland her blessing. "I said to her, Really?" But she and her family have grown to love the eggs, with hard brown shells and intensely orange yolks so stiff they need to be stabbed repeatedly with a fork to scramble. Rothfelds chicks wont start producing eggs for another couple of months, but come fall, shell be making a lot of omelets. She also expects to be distributing the bounty to wary neighbors as peace offerings. "Heres eggs," she will say. "Dont hate us."