Randy Statham, proprietor of Scarsella’s Flowers Greenhouses and Home in the village of Laurel Hollow for the past 24 years, certainly knows a thing a two about planting vegetables, raising chickens and going green. In fact, he is a certified Green Guerilla, the result of years of workshops studying biodynamics and organics.
I met Statham a year ago when he opened his home in Huntington to the annual Family Service League house tour. I was taken by the beauty of his Zen-like home and gardens and impressed with the elegant chicken coop next to his oversized, fenced in vegetable garden. I recently spoke with him about his gardening philosophies and raising chickens.
All the food in Statham’s house is 100-percent organic. Most everything else, like furniture, beds, linens and curtains, are also organic. “If it’s not,” says Statham, “it is usually made of wool or something natural.” That includes his backyard, with beautiful views of Huntington Harbor.
“I took classes in biodynamics and organics where I learned a lot about composting and creating a healthy environment,” says Statham. “Biodynamics is about enriching the soil without man-made fertilizers … having all the organisms grow. It’s really healthy. By having healthy soil, you’re going to have healthy plants. Insects and diseases will be at a super minimum, so it attracts birds and other wildlife, which is good.
Biodynamics has to do with the seasons and the constellations. There are certain days and times during the week you can plant a root vegetable or a flower.
“Biodynamics has to do with the seasons and the constellations. There are certain days and times during the week you can plant a root vegetable or a flower. If you’re growing a flower you’ll want to plant on a flower day. If you’re planting lettuce, you’ll want to do it on a leaf day. It’s an ancient philosophy that was actually re-started again in Germany, I believe, in the 1940s. It has a strong following now. There is an actual calendar which gives you the dates of what you can plant when. It’s fascinating. It’s truly amazing.”
As far as raising chickens, Statham learned from the Green Guerilla workshops as well. “I wanted to do it so I could have fresh, organic eggs daily,” he says. “I know what I’m feeding them, and it’s actually very fun.”
He bought a few baby chicks five years from Agway in Riverhead. He did a lot of research on what chickens to buy, and from there he made plans to build the chicken coop and surrounding area. Statham recommends getting four to six chicks to start, and make sure they are handled a lot while young. It’s a good idea to purchase chicks around March. They will need to stay in a cardboard box, filled with woodchips, and covered with a heat lamp for at least a month and a half. When they’re bigger, they can go in the coop, and by late September or early October they’ll start laying.
Statham currently has six chickens in three varieties: light Brahma, buff Orpington and Sussex. Since he has handled them from birth, they became members of the family; each has a name. There is Thelma, Louise, Charlotte, Wilma, Wanda and Penelope. The type of chickens you buy determines the size and color of your eggs. Bantam hens, for instance, are small and lay small blue eggs. Other chickens lay white, cream, brown or even green eggs.
On a scale from one to 10, with 10 the easiest, Statham says raising chickens is a nine. “Once you’re set up it’s actually very easy,” he says. “I clean out the coop about once a month. I use pine shavings for bedding, and it smells nice. I rake it right into a garbage pail, and then it goes into my compost. It’s such a great cycle. Plus, I crush up all the eggshells and that goes into the compost.
“As for the chickens, they haven’t had any health issues,” he adds. “They keep really well and they eat well. I feed them organic, soy-free feed, and for a treat, I feed them organic cracked corn and black sunflower seeds. I go heavier on the corn and sunflower seeds in the winter because it helps build up their fat. Most of the time they’re in their coop, but I do let them out in the evening for an hour or so and they enjoy looking for worms.”
You don’t need a huge space to have chickens, and you can start off with two to four hens. Coops can range from $400 to over a $1,000 depending on how fancy you’d like to get. Chicken feed will cost you about $20 a bag and it usually lasts for about a month and a half. If you need help in planning you can visit Statham at Scarsella’s for advice or a consultation. Scarsella’s specializes in landscape design and floral design for weddings, events and retail; they grow their own flowers.
To learn more about raising chickens for eggs, you can also attend the North Fork Hen House Tour on Saturday, June 27 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Participants can pick up maps for $5 at Cornell University’s Long Island Horticultural Research & Extension Center at 3059 Sound Avenue in Riverhead.