O’Toole understands the appeal, given people’s interest in saving money and their desire for natural food.
“It’s such an easy activity and gratifying to grow a little food, it’s kind of like a vegetable garden,” he said.
People often convert a shed to a coop, O’Toole said. “Startup costs for a dozen chicks, equipment and feed can run as little as a couple of hundred dollars.
Most customers want chickens for the eggs they produce, but he said some want them for meat, too.
His advice to people who want to raise chickens is to check with their town office to learn the rules, because they do vary.
“There are not a lot of real solid ordinances. Towns are usually dealing with an individual complaint, so there’s not a real clear-cut law,” O’Toole said. “So find out what the zoning is.”
Gail McWilliam Jellie, director of agricultural development for the state, serves on the “Agriculture in the Classroom” advisory board.
Any farm topic could be picked in a given year, she said.
“But the thinking was it was time for chickens,” she said. “There was discussion about the interest in backyard production.”
The state doesn’t have hard numbers, but anecdotally the conversation in farm circles is more people are doing it, in part because of the economy, Jellie said.
“There does seem to be more interest,” she said.
The New Hampshire effort to teach youngsters about chickens pleases O’Toole.
“Poultry is really up and coming,” O’Toole said. “It’s simple, easy to get into and doesn’t cost a lot of money. I don’t see it waning.”