Nestled on a hillside in East Davenport, Eastern Iowa Community Colleges (EICC) Chancellor Don Doucette’s yard provides a small oasis for he and his wife, Lynn Drazinski.
Lynn is a master gardener, so it’s no surprise that plants, trees and even a hillside vegetable garden fill their property. But what some may not expect in the middle of the city is the coy fish pond, chicken coop and beehives that complement the scenery, adding a splash of life beyond the plant variety.
Doucette said taking care of these creatures is a labor of love for his wife, Lynn.
“We do this because of Lynn,” he chuckles. “But like with anything that needs to be done, we work together.”
“You know it’s just fun,” Lynn said. “I myself enjoy outside work, so I don’t mind taking care of them.”
She said they had chickens for years while their kids were growing up and the way they got started is actually a funny story. An elderly woman at their church began selling them eggs and would often bring over five dozen or more – for their children of course, growing kids needs to eat eggs!
Not being able to eat them all, Lynn and Don began handing them out at church, labeling the activity their “egg ministry.” That’s when the woman decided they ought to have their own chickens.
“She said ‘if you are going to be eating this many eggs you need your own chicken,’ so she brought us a hen who was sitting on eggs and those eggs hatched and became our chickens. It just went on from there and we started raising our own,” Lynn laughed.
Despite being well versed in taking care of chickens, when they decided to build a chicken coop in their backyard a year and a half ago, they had to fulfill some city requirements first.
“You have to get a license, so Lynn had to become a certified chicken handler,” Doucette said. “And guess who offers the class?”
Eastern Iowa Community Colleges, of course. It’s one of hundreds of Continuing Education classes offered by the college.
“The person teaching the class is very experienced, so she could tell you a lot about chickens. She was great, she brought baby chicks to the class. It was very informative,” Lynn said.
As for those aforementioned beehives, Lynn learned all about beekeeping through the Quad Cities Beekeeping Club that holds its monthly meetings at Nahant Marsh, where EICC plays a key role as one of several partnering organizations.
“I had been reading about the problem with the bee population in this country,” Lynn said. “And I was noticing my garden wasn’t really pollinating quite in the way I wanted it to. Not all of the vegetables in my garden need bees for pollination, but some of them do, so I decided to try it.”
After doing some research and connecting with neighbors who keep bees, the couple ordered 20,000 Italian bees from Kentucky, adding “beekeepers” to their list of attributes. Watching the bees work and determining how to keep the hive healthy is something both have found absolutely fascinating.
“I’ve come to realize it’s sort of a science and sort of an art,” Lynn said.
“It does make me happy,” she said. “Honey bees look different than other kinds of bees – there are solitary bees and honey bees – and I go out in my garden and I can tell that’s my bee on that flower. It’s a real thrill when I see them in my flowers and in my vegetable garden and drinking from my bird bath. I get a real kick out of it.”
Want farm fresh eggs in your backyard?
Visit eicc.edu/chickens to register for our upcoming Continuing Education “Chickens in Your Backyard” class and to explore other course options.