Thinking about raising chickens in your backyard?

Raising backyard chickens has become a popular trend in the urban farm movement. “Buy local” takes on a new meaning when you can raise your own small flock of chickens to provide fresh, healthy eggs from your own backyard. Keeping a mini-flock of chickens has many benefits for you and your family including healthy eggs from well cared for chickens, free fertilizer for your garden and lively pets for your children to help care for.

I keep a small flock in my backyard. We enjoy the nutritious eggs and we enjoy the entertainment they can provide. I don’t exactly know what it is but, my chickens make me happy! I can talk to them and they communicate back to me in a soft coo. I watch them forage for worms, insects and devour fresh weeds and they make me laugh. We call them “The Girls” and we are proud to show them off to our family and friends.

I had to research how to select my flock, house them, feed them and maintain a healthy hen house. A great place to start was the library. I also searched for information on the Internet. The University of Kentucky has a guide for getting started with small and backyard flocks. I have my favorite websites I refer to: or

My first question to answer was,  do I want chickens that lay white eggs or brown eggs? I chose brown eggs. There is no difference between the colors. Next I had to decide what breed is best for our hot humid summers and freezing winters. I chose Rhode Island Red. I learned through my research that I did not need a rooster for egg production. So I only keep hens for fresh eggs to eat. If I wanted to hatch my own flock every year I would need a rooster to fertilize the eggs. When you purchase your chicks in the spring you can expect your first fresh eggs by the time fall begins.

What do your feed backyard chickens? A balanced diet of commercial feed and a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits should be given to chickens daily. Table foods like oats, bread, beans and cooked pasta can be given as treats. Kitchen scraps such as lettuce leaves, cabbage, carrots, apples and watermelon are great to toss in the chicken yard. They love to scratch and forage the ground if you spread out cracked corn. In the warmer months worms and insects don’t stand a chance when a chicken is within their range. If you have chickens for egg production the commercial feed contains calcium they need for eggs but you will probably need another source. Ground oyster shells are easily absorbed by chickens as a calcium supplement. Offer it separately from their feed. You should also have a separate feeder or pan of grit to aid in their digestion. Grit? What is that? Grit is tiny rocks chickens need so their gizzards can grind up food. Chickens require fresh water daily. Make sure the water is clean and covered to prevent your chickens from drinking dirty water.

Today you can find pre-built chicken coops for sale at home centers and farm supply stores. You can also build your own with plans found on the internet or in books from the library. We built our own “Chicken Shack” that serves as a coop for the chickens but also houses supplies and tools for taking care of the girls.

If you are considering starting your own backyard flock, read all you can on the care and maintenance of chickens. Talk to anyone that has cared for chickens to get some practical advice on what has worked for their flocks and perhaps you will be enjoying your own backyard chickens this spring.

Some books from Boone County Public Library that can help you started:

A Chicken in Every Yard: The Urban Farm Store’s Guide To Chicken Keeping by Robert Litt

Choosing and Keeping Chickensby Chris Graham

Chicken Coops: 45 Building Plans for Housing Your Flock by Judy Pangman

Chickens: Tending a Small-Scale Flock for Pleasure and Profit by Sue Weaver

Chick Days : An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Raising Chickens from Hatchings to laying Hens by Jenna Wogenrich

~ Vicki

Vicki Durham is a Public Service Associate at the Main Library. She is a certified horticulturist and spends as much time with Mother Nature as Father Time will allow her.


Capturing the Beauty of Kentucky: Gary Akers Artwork at the Library

Boone County Public Library is home to some great artwork including some prints at the Scheben Branch in Union which were presented to the Library by well-known local artist, Gary Akers.  Akers is a Boone County resident with a love for Kentucky that pours out in his work. The inspiration for Gary’s artwork can be found throughout Kentucky in coal fields, covered bridges, and general stores, as well as landmarks such as Churchill Downs. Gary captures the beauty in our state that makes us proud to be Kentuckians and the Library is pleased to be able to display his work.

Gary is a contemporary realist, painting in watercolor, dry brush and egg tempera.  Because egg tempera is a difficult medium to master, his level of detail is all the more impressive.  Early on, Gary received a Greenshields Foundation grant secured by his painting “Barns” (print on display at Scheben) that allowed him to further his egg tempera work.  He has been featured on Kentucky Life, a weekly KET television series, and had an image appear on 60 Minutes.  His paintings have been accepted by some of the most highly acclaimed art shows in the country and he has won the Kentucky Watercolor Society’s top award.

Born in Pikeville, Kentucky, Gary knew from a young age that he wanted to be an artist.  He graduated from Betsy Layne High School and went on to study art at Morehead State University. He married his high school sweetheart, Lynn Rita Keathley, after receiving his Masters degree in art in 1974, and together they moved to Boone County. Gary’s studio is a restored 19th Century log cabin in Union, Kentucky that sits among the trees on his property.

Gary and Lynn also spend time in Maine enjoying their ocean-front summer home, another inspiration for Gary’s artwork. They purchased the Georges River Road School, also known as the Green Schoolhouse, which they restored to its original 1926 state to serve as Gary’s gallery and studio while in Maine.

Listed below are a few of the Gary Akers prints on display at the Scheben Branch, 8899 US 42 in Union:

1974 Tempera on Panel
Barns secured Gary an international grant allowing him to further egg tempera work and studies for one year.

Winter’s Grays1976 Watercolor
The farm can be found in Independence.  Gary was inspired every time he drove past the property and decided after a big snow that it was time to paint it.

Rabbit Hash General Store
1983 Drybrush watercolor
The general store can be found in Rabbit Hash along the banks of the Ohio River.

Cellar House Apples
1988 Drybrush watercolor
Cellar House Apples was painted in the cellar of the Borders brothers’ farm located in Burlington where three bachelor brothers lived and farmed.

Borders BlueBorders Blue
1999 Tempera on panel
Borders Blue was the living room door inside the Borders farmhouse that took on a new color brought out by the red apples and the sun pouring in.

Reflection in Time
1998 Daybrush watercolor
The Oldtown Bridge can be found over the Little Sandy River south of Greenup.

Red Buds in the Mountains
1998 Watercolor
The red buds can be found in Prestonburg near the cliffs in eastern Kentucky.

In addition to Gary’s artwork, Dancing Iris, created by Ashley Akers, the daughter of Gary and Lynn, is also on display at the Scheben Branch..

Stop by the Local History section of the Main Library, 1786 Burlington Pike in Burlington, and take a look at Kentucky: Land of Beauty, a coffee table book that compiles Gary’s paintings of Kentucky.  For more information about Gary Akers, visit his website:


Jennifer Cheek has worked for Boone County Public Library for four years, currently in Public Relations.  A graduate from the College of Mount St. Joseph focusing on English and Communications, she previously worked in Advertising/Media Buying and still continues as a freelancer.