Photo by Anthony Mathenia
Laura Funk and daughter Gracie feed a variety of chicken breeds along with Eleanor Pigby, a teacup pig.
BETHALTO — At a distance, the Funk home in Meadowbrook resembles a typical residence, with a modest back yard, swing-set and storage shed. So a rooster call, a pig snort, or the clucking of hens may surprise visitors upon approaching.
Lauren Funk calls her backyard “The Funky Farm,” a play on her name. It houses 14 chickens along with two bunnies, two dogs and an 80-pound teacup pig named Eleanor Pigby.
“It’s a happy little farm,” Funk said.
Funk’s enthusiasm for raising chickens stems from a desire to pass her love to her child.
“I wanted to teach her about responsibility, sustainable living and getting food from home,” Funk said.
“I’ve always loved pigs and chickens,” she said. “I would take my daughter to Family Farm & Home when they had their Chick Days. I told myself that a year later I wanted to have chickens and a teacup pig. So three months after that, I started with three chickens and a pig.”
In short time, the three fluffy chicks turned into a small flock of 14, with more on the way. The collection contains eight breeds, including Silkies, Bantams, Polish, Barnevelders and Easter Eggers. Funk attributes the growth to “chicken math.” It’s an inside joke in the chicken-raising community, where the initial purchase of a couple of chicks turns into a lifetime passion.
“I became slightly addicted,” she said.
Funk hopes to eventually acquire more land to expand her farm and add other animals, like goats. Her next goal is to acquire an incubator and show her daughter how to hatch eggs.
With the backyard farm in operation, Funk learned more about caring for chickens. She now shares her knowledge with others. She recently took on a new job providing customer service at My Pet Chicken. The online retailer provides information and products for chicken enthusiasts.
“I’ve designed some chicken shirts that will be going on sale soon,” Funk said. “I’m really excited about it.”
Funk is planning a “Chicken 101” class Saturday, April 18, at Liberty Prairie Farms.
“It will cover how to raise a chicken, from hatching to transitioning to the coop, lots of tips and helpful information,” Funk said. “It’s information I wished I had when I first started.
“It’s very important before buying chickens to check with town and subdivision ordinances,” Funk explained. “Many are allowing a certain amount of backyard chickens now.”
Alton allows five hens per household and prohibits roosters.
“A myth is that chickens are dirty,” Funk said. “Like any other pet, you have to maintain their living area and clean it. If you take care of the coop and feed the chicken properly, they’ll be healthy.”
Her upcoming chicken class is available to anyone interested in learning about home chicken farming. The Chicken 101 class is $40 and will be held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 18, at Liberty Prairie Farms, 7003 Route 140, Edwardsville. Individuals interested in attending can register by calling Laura Funk at (618) 444-2525 or emailing email@example.com. For information on Funk’s farm, search Facebook for “Eleanor Pigby and the Funky Farm.”
Tractor Supply even recognizes the importance of “backyard chickens.”
“No matter where they are, families, who want to eat better and live life ‘out here’ on their own terms, are learning more about fresh, local eggs and driving interest in raising chickens,” said Ken Wilmes, senior vice president, general merchandise manager at Tractor Supply. “Our survey shows that more than a third of Americans personally know someone who owns chickens.”
The retail company focusing on the needs of farmers and the rural community also has an annual “Chick Days” event recognizing the importance of fresh egg practices.