Dear President Obama, Mrs. Obama, Sasha, Malia, Chef Comerford and Chef Kaas,
Hello, my name is Orren Fox. I live north of Boston in Massachusetts's's smallest city. It is an awesome place where the Merrimac River and the Atlantic Ocean come together. Oh! I think President Washington often visited Newburyport and maybe even went bowling in the basement of The Dalton House on State Street. Really. We have a little downtown, a beautiful beach, and some ocean cooled farmland. In fact one farm was founded in 1683! I have met with some of our local farmers to understand their methods and I often take my most social birds to our farmer's market, so that I can introduce these cool birds to more people. I think farmers are awesome, actually one of my hero's besides Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics is Will Allen. I know he was at the White House last week to help with Let's Move. He is great isn't he! Congratulations.
I first became interested in chickens when I was in fifth grade. I think I just woke up one day and loved chickens. A little different, I know. Well, in fifth grade at my school we have to prepare a year long research project. Not surprisingly mine was on chickens. I find them fascinating animals and have over the last 4 years have learned so much. When I first started raising chickens I kept an online journal. That journal has now evolved to a blog. My blog is - happychickenslayhealthyeggs.blogspot.com. I have so much to learn, I have made mistakes, but I am doing my best and I would be happy to share what I know. Oh, by the way I am also going to be raising bees starting this spring. Bee School starts in about two weeks.
I am so happy that you have a White House garden and White House bees. It is really inspiring. One thing though. You are missing something: happy chickens.
I believe that adding a small chicken coop to the White House garden would provide you and your chefs with tasty, nutritious eggs, and I am sure all of you would love the hens. Aside from super tasty eggs, the hens could help "weed" and fertilize your garden and hoop houses. I let a few of my hens into the garden and they like to eat the weeds and sometimes the pear tomatoes... It is really fun to listen to them march around the garden while I am working. Actually they are all really hilarious. I have one hen, Paprika, who is The Boss. I do whatever she says. They all have very diverse, interesting and individual personalities. I have some shy chickens, some bossy ones and one very protective rooster.
For the White House garden I would recommend about a dozen hens. If all goes well, most days you'd go out to the coop and have a dozen eggs! Collecting the eggs is awesome. I actually think it is sort of like treasure hunting. Somehow, despite the fact that I have had hens for 4 years now, I still find collecting the eggs really exciting. A few of my hens lay blue eggs. Yup, blue. Those hens are called Americaunas (also a similar breed you may have heard of are Arucaunas). Obviously there are many interesting breeds to consider for the White House garden. I would choose one heritage breed and focus on that one breed - I suggest Buff Orpingtons. Orpingtons first came to the United States in 1890, they lay large brown eggs, are very mellow, quite durable and very beautiful. While I didn't know to do this when I was starting out, I have learned that this is a good thing to do. The reason is, each breed is a little different and may have different requirements. It is good to become an expert at one breed. Once you are comfortable raising hens you might consider branching out and adding a few fancies.
There are many great fancy breeds such as Polishes, Hamburgs, Cochins, Sultans, Sumatras, Silkies, Modern Games and many more. Those are better when acquired after the farmer has had chickens, because by limiting the number of breeds one can learn the specific needs of each breed. I actually think it is very respectful to just have one breed. Heritage breeds are breeds that have been around forever. These breeds are all reflected in The Standard of Perfection, the American Poultry Association's book of pure breeds, - Many Heritage breeds are actually very rare, so it is worthwhile to try and help these breeds.
There are many details about keeping chickens that I would be happy to discuss with you - the coop, the food, perching, dust bathing, health, etc. There are many people who know a lot more than I do, so we can ask them for some advice, too. I wish I knew everything, but I don't. What I do know is that eggs from happy chickens will make you happy, the chefs happy, your garden happy, and honestly, me too. I think when the chickens are happy, their eggs must be healthier (http://www.gourmet.com/foodpolitics/2009/04/egg-prices)
(There is a bit of confusion currently as to whether chickens are legal in DC, however, officials in the Mayor's office say there is currently no law prohibiting raising chickens within city limits if residents follow guidelines on proper animal care and shelter. Washington, D.C. Section 902 of the Animal Control Code requires hens to be 50 ft. from any residence.)
Thank you for reading this letter, I sure hope you will consider this. It is bound to make the White House organic garden very happy.