Mary Louise Nechtman, who has been raising chickens for nearly three years now, said the hens have become a part of the family.
"I started with my first chicken when my twin daughters were in first grade," said Nechtman. "I had always wanted chickens. I don't know why, but I had."
From that first chicken, her west Augusta menagerie has expanded to eight hens, which she said she raises "mostly for the eggs."
Neighbor Betsy Ristroph had frequently seen Nechtman's chickens roaming the area and was drawn to them. She wanted to raise chickens of her own, but knew that the time needed to commit to the hobby wouldn't come until after retirement.
"I bought a book on chickens and thought they'd be really interesting to raise, especially after I saw Mary Louise's and they were really cool," said Ristroph.
When retirement finally came, Ristroph placed an order for some chicks. Today, she has seven chickens that are kept in a pen in her backyard.
Nechtman allows her hens to roam free for an hour or so each night. She said they keep her yard clean of all kinds of bugs, but she has to watch them or they will uproot her plants.
"They love pansies," she said.
Raising chickens can be quite challenging at times, but both women said it's an enjoyable pastime.
"What Mary Louise and I both have are dual-purpose breeds," said Ristroph. "They lay enough eggs to keep us in eggs and have enough meat on their bones so you can eat them if you want."
While neither Nechtman nor Ristroph have plans to slaughter their hens, they delight in gathering the eggs each day.
"My kids will run down and come get the eggs every day after school," said Nechtman, noting a "fresh eggs" sign on the coop. "The eggs can stay on the counter for 30 days or in the refrigerator for 90 days. They have no hormones or chemicals, so they stay fresher longer and are better-tasting."
The hens can lay eggs for five to six years before they begin to slow down on their egg production.
"We have had a couple of double yolks," said Nechtman. "It's very exciting. It's like Easter every day. It's so much fun and well worth it."
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