Tired of those ‘fowl’ egg prices? Here is a solution

by Len Lear
Posted 3/2/23

Eggs, which nature conveniently delivers as perfectly formed little packages of protein, are perhaps one of our healthiest and most versatile foods. 

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Tired of those ‘fowl’ egg prices? Here is a solution


Eggs, which nature conveniently delivers as perfectly formed little packages of protein, are perhaps one of our healthiest and most versatile foods. 

But according to Federal Reserve Economic Data figures, the average price of a dozen eggs in the U.S. is currently $4.82 (in Hawaii, $9.73), up more than 150 percent from one year ago when the national average was $1.79, which constitutes a price hike greater than in any other food commodity. The skyrocketing increase has been caused by inflation and an avian flu outbreak that led to the death of more than 50 million chickens.

Maureen Breen, who will teach a two-session course for Mt. Airy Learning Tree starting March 23, at 7 p.m., has a solution for this "fowl" dilemma. Breen, who for 14 years served as president of Weavers Way’s Philadelphia Backyard Chickens initiative, will explain how to select chickens, how to care for and feed them, and how to protect them from predators.

“Eggs are an excellent source of protein,” Breen said last week in a Zoom interview, “and like tomatoes, the fresh ones from your backyard taste much better than the ones in the supermarkets. My dog even knows the difference and will not eat store-bought eggs anymore.”  

The huge hike in egg prices is inspiring more people to consider raising their own chickens, Breen said, but the practice takes a lifelong commitment to an animal. 

“Once people realize what it requires, they won't necessarily jump into it,” she continued. “I have been a vegetarian for 14 years because when I started raising chickens, I just could not eat their body parts.”

Breen grew up in Fox Chase and now lives in Cheltenham. She graduated from Cardinal Dougherty High School and Temple University as an accounting major, after which she earned a master's degree from Drexel University in finance and a doctorate in public administration from West Chester University. For the last six years, she has been an assistant clinical professor of accounting at Drexel.

One question people often ask about backyard chickens is whether or not it is legal to have them? Many towns and suburbs in the Philadelphia area do have ordinances permitting backyard chickens. (The state legislature in Texas is even currently considering a statewide law permitting them.) Philadelphia, on the other hand, has a city ordinance against having backyard chickens, but traditionally the city turns a blind eye to that ordinance, unless one or more neighbors complain.

“There is really nothing for neighbors to complain about,” Breen said. “I would give the poop from the coop to a neighbor, which made him happy because it makes a really good fertilizer. I only have hens, which are not noisy, like dogs. And I really do believe they know they taste good because they are good at protecting themselves. The only legitimate reason for a complaint would be if you had a really large flock or a rooster. Half a dozen chickens in your backyard, though, are fine. I have two chickens now, and one is 10 years old, but I want more.”

In their prime, chickens will generally lay one egg a day, Breen said, adding that she got her flock from a local farmer.

“But you can even get them through the mail,” she said. “I got an adult that way. I went to the post office to pick up the cardboard box. It was $75 for an adult chicken and $75 for the shipping.”

Jillian Gonzalez, a realtor who recently took over for Breen as president of Philadelphia Backyard Chickens, which shares chicken-keeping resources, told us, “I have had my girls for about four years. I raise chickens for multiple reasons. Being able to control as much of my own food is most important. I like the fresh eggs and also grow lots of fresh fruits and veggies. They are also pets to me and are very, very spoiled ladies. I am a certified therapy hen handler, so I take them out to summer camps and events and educate people on backyard chickens.”

In November of 2016, the Local published an article about Anna Herman, a Mt. Airy resident  and coordinator of the Penn State Extension Master Gardener program who had a backyard teeming with vegetables and fruit trees. She also had been raising chickens for 12 years, ducks for five years and bees for their honey for eight years. None of the neighbors complained, she said, but she did share some of her eggs and produce with them.

“Hundreds of folks in Philadelphia have backyard chickens, and community garden apiaries,” she told the Local. “All animals require care and feeding and can pose problems if they are not well cared for. You do want to make sure to be scrupulous with coop cleaning in proximity to neighbors.”

For more information about the classes, which will be held at Mt. Airy Axis, 520 Carpenter Lane, call 215-843-6333 or visit mtairylearningtree.org. Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com