“They had a chicken coop and we’d all fight over who got to gather the eggs,” said Buse, a pharmaceutical rep in the diabetes division of Eli Lilly. “Then my great-grandmother would cook them for us. I wanted that for my kids. I’m not necessarily so much into the fresh or organic as I just wanted my kids to know where their food comes from.”
So on Ash Wednesday, the 27-year-old Buse went to Lowe’s and bought treated lumber, wire, screws, brackets and some tin, and in three days she had built her own chicken coop.
“I got the idea from a friend who has one,” said Buse, who lives in Tupelo with her husband, Dennis, and their two children, Tripp and Foley. “Then I did some research online, but it was pretty expensive to order one, so I decided to build my own. The coop I wanted was $500 and I paid half of that in materials.”
One of the physicians Buse calls on knew someone who raised chickens and on Good Friday, three Rhode Island Reds were delivered to the Buse’s backyard.
On Easter Sunday, Buse collected her first eggs.
Buse, her husband and her son took turns naming the chickens. Buse calls hers Earsela, named for her father. Dennis picked Larry Byrd, after the basketball player. And two-and-a-half-year-old Tripp named his Donkey, in honor of the character in “Shrek.”
“We get about two eggs a day or a little over a dozen a week,” said Buse. “The eggs are really rich and the yolks are yellower than store-bought eggs. I use them when I bake, especially.”
A hit with the neighbors
According to Tupelo’s ordinance, residents can keep hens in an open area as long as they have at least one acre to roam, and a minimum 250-foot buffer separates them from neighbors. Otherwise, residents must pen the chickens. Coops can’t exceed 200 square feet and must be kept clean at all times.
Buse’s coop is six feet long and 32 inches wide and sits in her large backyard, fairly close to the house. Every day, Buse scoots the coop over a couple of feet, so the chickens don’t ruin the lawn and have a fresh area in which to scratch around.
“You can tell where it’s been because the grass is bright green underneath,” she said. “The chickens actually poop in their water, so I change it every day and dump the water in my garden. You should see how well my tomatoes are doing.”
She feeds the chicken 22 percent layer pellets, which cost about $10 a bag, and a bag lasts about a month. She also gives them a fresh head of lettuce every now and again and sometimes table scraps or biscuits (but no meat).
“They’ve been a real hit with the children in the neighborhood,” said Buse, whose family raised pigs and cows when she was growing up. “They come by every day to see them. My running group has come by here. I let my neighbors and friends take turns coming by to collect eggs when I’m out of town. Several of my friends are wanting to build coops now. I think you’d be surprised how many people in town have chickens now.”
Buse said when Earsela, Larry Byrd and Donkey get to old to lay, she’ll purchase some new hens.
“I don’t know what we’ll do with the old ones,” said the former 4-H member. “We haven’t come to that part yet. We’ll probably cook them. I don’t know. I’m sensitive, but I’m practical, too. And I do love me some chicken and dumplings.”