Terry Golson grew up dreaming of farm animals — “I was a horse girl,” she says — and studied animal science in college. Yet her professional life took another direction, first to the kitchen, then to the writing desk as a cookbook author.
Along the way she moved to the Boston suburbs, married, had kids, and then not quite 20 years ago, a new animal arrived. “A neighbor had one leftover chicken from a 4-H project,” Golson said. “I said, ‘If you ever want to get rid of that chicken, I’ll take it.’ The next day it was on my doorstep.”
That first backyard chicken soon became part of a flock (a requirement for these social animals, Golson says) and a new calling that combined her love of animals, good food, and writing about both.
“Many paths ended up in the same place,” Golson said of a career that includes a book for kids (“Tillie Lays an Egg”), a website (hencam.com) so that her 70,000 monthly visitors can see what all the ladies in the henhouse are up to, and her just-released, “The Farmstead Egg Guide & Cookbook.”
Raising backyard chickens has surged in popularity for good reason, Golson says. “There’s nothing more wonderful than an egg that’s fresh from a chicken you know.” And the hens can be great company. “They are very gratifying animals to have,” Golson added. “They’re endlessly curious; they’re very optimistic: They think that anybody they get to know is going to bring them something to eat.”
Still, novices should know a few things: “If you’re looking to reduce your grocery bill, do something else.” Chickens don’t lay consistently year-round (Golson’s best months are February, March, and April), and they take work.
“Because these are living animals that need to be related to and cared for daily, if you don’t care about the animals, just support a local farmer,” Golson added. “You can get eggs other places. The reason to go into backyard chickens is because you want to have chickens.”
Prospective backyard farmers should always check with their local towns to see what’s legal. And beware: when asked whether chickens are a gateway to other farm animals, Golson laughed heartily: “Now I have goats!”
Golson will read at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Porter Square Books.Kate Tuttle, a writer and editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.