VILONIA — Backyard farmer Bobby Clements of Vilonia doesn’t see a downside to raising chickens. As they cluck in his backyard, they provide him with fresh eggs every morning, fertilize his yard and control insects and bugs. His roosters also serve as a sure fire alarm clock every morning, which he says is music to his ears.
"The more food you can get from your own backyard, the better," he said.
About six months ago, Clements began his backyard operation in a Rubbermaid tub fashioned into a temporary home for two hens. Today, those two, along with several others, live in a homemade chicken coop designed by his dad, Glenn. The hen’s daily chores include laying fresh eggs. As well, they free range a couple of hours a day, handling the fertilizing and bug eradication.
Clements’ chickens are not just any old broilers either. There are six breeds including 27 hens and five roosters. Each rooster boasts an individual crowing tone. Roosters crow for many reasons, Clements explained, including reacting to a disturbance, responding to almost any kind of sound, guarding their territory, feeling threatened or just communicating with other chickens.
Some of the names of his birds are exotic, and most, such as the Wyandotte have add-on descriptions at the end of their breed like Silver Lace and Red Lace. There are also flashy ones with special head gear such as rose combs or others with special feathers.
Clements has given the individual birds names also to match their breeds or moods. He introduces one rooster, Pretty Boy, as the inquisitive one. Another, he said, is the bossy one. His name is Mr. "Rooster" Cogburn.
As a young child, Clements discovered his love for chickens. At age five or six, he was tending to the 40 or so baby chicks that "he just had to have" and purchased from a flea market, according to his mother Sherry.
While it is a hobby, Clements said he is taking advantage of every education opportunity available to him. He also believes that hobby growing of chickens as well as vegetables may be a practical way to deal with the raising costs of grocery items. He is signed up to attend a session next month where he will become certified to test birds for potential diseases. His goal in five years is to have 200 or 300 hens and to be selling eggs and chicks.
A first for the Vilonia area, he has set up the Vilonia Poultry Swap for sunrise to 11 a.m., March 16 and 30; April 13 and 27; May 11 and 25 and June 15 and 29 to be held at the old Clements Farm on Vilanco Lane in Vilonia.
"They can buy, sell or trade poultry or just talk poultry," Clements said. "We welcome equipment such as feeders, waterers, nesting boxes and anything to do with poultry. Our goal is to eliminate birds from catching diseases so we will have a poultry tester on site."
The directions are to take Highway 64B going towards El Paso. Turn left onto Vilanco Lane—about .6 of a mile on right. The cost to set up is $3. Admission is free to the general public. For information, contact Clements at 501-733-1073.