He runs! He jumps! He tackles! He…raises chickens?
That’s right. NFL Pro football player Jamell Fleming, #30 cornerback for the Kansas City Chiefs, resides in Phoenix with his wife and young son, where they are responsible for 24 chickens roaming freely in their backyard.
Fleming was originally drafted to the NFL by the Arizona Cardinals from the University of Oklahoma in 2012. His wife Ashriel Osgood is a Bikini Pro and personal trainer, so it goes without saying that good, wholesome food is a priority in their household.
While he’s probably typically interviewed about his field performance, I asked him if we could chat about his experience being a dad to a handful of chickens and he was thrilled to share.
About a year ago his family went down to the local feed store, worked with a knowledgeable store-clerk, and came home with chickens and everything they needed to take care of them.
“There’s a big difference having fresh eggs: the color of the egg, the color of the yolk, they even smell different when you boil them,” Fleming said.
He described the varieties of egg colors his mix of chicken breeds produce, everything from light shades of copper to dark brown. He explained that the only difficult part of this job is learning the chickens’ unique personalities and getting them to all get along when new ones are introduced, but even this becomes easier with time.
Fleming uses all Organic-feed, and claims they’re still cheaper to feed than a typical family dog. Fleming stated proudly “my chickens are happier”, and their treatment and quality feed is to thank for that.
Many consumers don’t understand the differences between different types of eggs, though take note of the dramatic price difference between these cartons at the store.
First, all eggs have identical nutritional-value. The only difference between white and brown eggs is their color, as the type of chicken (specifically their breed, earlobe and feather color) is what determines the pigment of the egg shell. Similarly, grades AA, A and B are given based on the presence of exterior spots, amount of air between the yolk and the shell, and thickness of the yolk, all of which are hardly indicative of the egg quality and not at all of chicken treatment.
Some egg cartons will market themselves “hormone-free”, however this is true for all eggs because the FDA prohibits administering hormones to egg laying hens.
Free-range simply means the chickens aren’t kept in traditional battery-cages and must be given some kind of access to the outdoors, but there is no regulation on how often they get to soak up the sun or how humanely they’re treated. It’s entirely possible they are kept primarily indoors in such cramped quarters that they are still unable to engage in natural behaviors.
Battery-caged chickens are on average given 67 square inches of space, less than the size of a piece of letter paper and thus unable to spread their wings most of their life. The Humane Society reports that in many cases the chickens’ beaks are partially burned off, they’re deprived of food and water, and killed before they reach two-years old and/or shortly after laying a sufficient quantity of eggs, which is far shorter than their natural 5-11 year lifespan. When a group of chickens become sick, a farmer may choose to slaughter them as a cost-effective practice.
Organic eggs means they came from chickens who were not given antibiotics. However, these farmers are required to treat the animal if it becomes ill and in this case, the chicken is vaccinated and those eggs are no longer sold with that seal. Although, the FDA only allows three different kinds of antibiotics to be given to any chicken, and the U.S. Egg and Poultry Association claims there is no residue of antibiotics left in the egg to reach the consumer even when they are used. While most Organic eggs are cage-free, there is no caging regulation in place for Organic eggs.
If you’re interested in getting fresh eggs from your own backyard, I encourage you to do so! Friendly reminder: you may want to consult your homeowners association, lease or similar for any rules on owning chickens. If you’re not sure where you local feed store is located, I found a couple links where you can learn a little more about raising your own chickens that may be helpful for you: here or here.