Growing up in Maryland, Elizabeth Beller was surrounded by gardens and animals.
Her father — a naturalist — was into sustainable agriculture long before it became a buzzword. Her grandfather raised Rhode Island reds, and had a compost garden long before it became popular.
Elizabeth was the weeder. She loved the fresh vegetables, but the rest — meh.
For many years as an adult, Elizabeth did not have a garden. But after moving to Westport 4 years ago she got into yoga and massage therapy. She saw connections between the human body and what goes into it.
She wanted her children — now 17 and 11 — to understand the food they were eating. “They needed to know that eggs came from chicken’s bottoms,” she says.
Her kids’ reactions: “Eeew!”
Undeterred, Elizabeth researched the most effective ways to raise chickens. A crucial idea: putting the coop no more than 25 yards from the back door.
Which is how — right outside her West Ambler Road house — Elizabeth is raising 6 adult chickens, and 9 baby chicks.
The 8×8 coop — with an attached 8×16 run — plot is completely deer-proof. (Woodchuck-proof too, thanks to her dogs.)
The birds are hardy, bred to survive harsh winters. “They all huddle together,” Elizabeth says.
Her families eat the chickens’ eggs — every day. So do the dogs. Theirs are fried — resulting, Elizabeth says, in “beautiful coats.”
Leftovers go to the Bellers’ friends. They are grateful — but they often have questions.
Most common: “Where’s the rooster?”
“There is none,” Elizabeth replies. “You need one to make baby chickens — but not eggs.”
A while ago Elizabeth and her daughter Brie decided to chronicle their life. The result is Simply Chicks, a blog dedicated to all things chicken.
“We share our adventures, misadventures and problems,” Elizabeth says. “It’s nice to hear different perspectives.” The blog has attracted readers as far as California, Australia and New Zealand.
“Chickens are great pets for kids, especially if they have dog or cat allergies,” Elizabeth notes. “Chickens are affectionate. They’re fast too. Watching kids run after them is better than a swing set. It’s a game, and kids get totally exhausted.”
Chickens serve another purpose, Elizabeth says. They allow her family to be part of the food process “without the hassle of a vegetable garden.”
Once you start raising chicks, she adds, you want more. “It’s like eating potato chips,” she says.
But much healthier.