Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Top Five Urban Chickens Posts of 2008

2008 has been a great year for us here at, both in the backyard and online. The chickens in our own backyard have been faithful layers all year long, and we seem to have survived our first molt relatively unscathed.

I never could have imagined this blog about urban chickens would be visited almost 37,000 times over the course of 2008, nor could I have foreseen amassing over 50,000 page views in that time, either.

Based on where folks were clicking, these were the five most popular posts here at
5. nine books for newbies to urban chickens - My good friend Peter Steinberg over at Flashlight Worthy Books asked me to pull together a list of books on raising urban chickens for him and I got some great input from this blog's community to make it even better than my first draft. Even though the post debuted late in the year, it's oft-visited.

4. instructions for the chicken sitter - This post holds the instructions for our neighbors who'd agreed to look after the chickens while we took a vacation. Not only did I show how easy it is to keep chickens day-to-day, but I also picked up some tips on how to do things better (see post #2, below) by sharing how I care for chooks.

3. raising chickens: the one year recap - seeing the influx of people coming to the blog as the interest in raising chickens began to swell last Spring, this orientation post seemed to make sense, and the traffic proved it.

2. how to clean urban chicken eggs - evidently I'm not the only one confused as to how to deal with these delicious backyard-fresh eggs. Who knew that the intuitive "wash and refrigerate" is actually not the best way to treat them?

1. where to buy baby chicks - By far, this was the most popular post of the year. It only makes sense, right? If you want to get into raising your own chickens, where do you get them? I drove a lot of miles back in 2007 trying to find a place that not only had chicks but the breed of chicks I wanted. Glad to be able to share an online resource for others to save the miles.
Thanks, all of you, for visiting this past year, and I look forward to seeing you here again in 2009!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Urban Chickens in the Great White North

As I've learned more about raising chickens in the city, I've been keeping my eye on the plight of urban chickens up in Canada. After all, it was the CBC show Spark that gave us our radio debut.

What's surprised me most is how unwelcome urban chickens seem to be, at least in eastern Canada (see the efforts to keep urban chickens out of Ontario or the forced movement of Hanavan's Halifax chooks).

Now, there's news in the Ottawa Citizen that the tolerance for urban chickens is growing in western Canada, at least.

At least thirteen municipalities in British Columbia have allowed urban chickens and if Bonnie Klohn has her way, Kamloops, BC will be joining the list soon.
In Kamloops, B.C., city council is taking a careful look at the urban chicken movement. Bonnie Klohn, a 21-year-old university student, has asked Kamloops council for permission to conduct a pilot project with 32 families that want to keep urban hens. The families would take courses about hen husbandry, public safety, disease prevention and how to build a chicken coop. Each family would keep three hens for six months starting in March.

Ms. Klohn says she was inspired to work in the urban hen movement by two years she spent in France, where she said municipal officials have never outlawed chicken coops and people are much more in tune with their food sources and nature.

Next door in Alberta, folks are gathering signatures on a petition to the Calgary City Council:

Chickens have existed in cities since the dawn of time, and they still exist all over the world. Benefits to raising hens in the City of Calgary include:
1. Fresh, healthy, delicious eggs, free of pesticides and antibiotics.
2. Chickens eat table scrapes, reducing municipal organic waste.
3. Chickens produce a rich fertilizer by-product, high in nitrogen, eliminating the need for petrochemical fertilizers.
4. Educational - teaches children where our food comes from and demonstrates responsible pet ownership(chores).
5. Great pets - Chickens are people-friendly.
6. Chickens eat bugs, reducing our backyard pest population.

We, the undersigned, citizens of the City of Calgary, urge Calgary City Council, to update the Calgary Municipal Code in order to permit the responsible raising of backyard chickens.
If you're reading this up in Alberta, please add your signature to the petition today!

(Full disclosure: we're die-hard Sharks fans down here in Silicon Valley and if our chooks could wear sweaters, they'd be teal and white.)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Urban Chickens across LA and Chicago

Susan Carpenter does us all a favor by sharing her cautionary tale of getting chickens in her Los Angeles backyard.

Anyone getting swept up in the momentum of urban chickens and wanting to dive right in would do well to read her story to learn the value of a little virtual legwork to get the lay of the land:

What I am here to tell you, though, is that raising chickens doesn't have to cost nearly as much as what I spent, which was $100 for two birds at an animal shelter, $379 for the hutch and run, $31 for a feeding system and $34 for a few months' worth of grit and mash.

I could gobble the most expensive, free-range, organically fed, hand-massaged Whole Foods eggs for years and still not spend the $500-plus I put out for my rig.

If you're wondering why I spent so much, the answer is motherhood. I don't have a lot of free time, so I bought gear online and had it delivered to my house. I compounded the mistake by taking my son to pick out chickens at the shelter. He already had named them and they were packed in the carrier when the lady at the counter told me the adoption fee, which was "just the same as a rabbit." A hundred bucks is a lot, but it seemed a small price to avoid a child meltdown.

$100 for two chickens? eesh. To our benefit, Carpenter then details how and where she could have picked up all the gear in LA for less than $150.

The news is much better in the Midwest with Sara Olkon's story about urban chickens in Chicagoland.

Olkon profiles several urban chicken farmers across Chicago to find out the why and the how of their having chickens in their backyard.
Martha Boyd, program director for Angelic Organics Learning Center, offered a workshop in Chicago's Woodlawn neighborhood on basic backyard chicken care for city residents last month.

Within 48 hours, the 30-spot workshop had sold out. Angelic plans to hold another class March 21.

Tom Rosenfeld, one of the workshop instructors, said he is floored by the amount of interest.

“We've finally gone over the top in this corporate food delivery system,” he said. “It's about connecting much closer to (one's) food.”

An organic apple farmer, Rosenfeld has kept hens at his Rogers Park home for more than three years. But unlike many of the urban chicken enthusiasts he meets, Rosenfeld does not name the birds. For him, the birds are not pets.

“I wanted the eggs,” he said.
Unfortunately, it seems Chicago Alderman Lona Lane is back at it again trying to make urban chickens illegal in Chicago (for all the standard "smell, noise, rodent" reasons). At least this time, she's narrowing her attempt to be solely in the geographic area she represents.

Seen any other stories about Urban Chickens in the paper where you live? If so, share the links in the comments!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Supermodel Chickens in the Tropics

A dear friend of mine recently returned from a three week trip through Malaysia, Singapore, Borneo and other tropical delights (she's European, they can do these kinds of things).

While traveling, she happened to spy some urban chickens in a Kuala Lumpur backyard and took this picture to share with me.

The first thing that came to mind when I downloaded the picture? These rail-thin chooks must be what supermodel chickens look like.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Missoula urban chickens law: what went wrong?

Have all the "end of the world" fears come true in the year since the Missoula (Montana) city council voted to allow urban chickens within city limits? It turns out, no, not even close.

Back when the chicken ordinance was being debated (see this video for great comments on both sides from the locals), all kinds of fears surfaced about neighbor-on-neighbor conflicts and the consequences of bringing the farm into the city with chickens everywhere. Unfounded fears, that is.

Sutton Stokes breaks it all down in his great recap of Missoula in the Year of the Chicken over on the New West:

“All in all, we don’t see any huge problems with the chickens,” Missoula County Animal Control Supervisor Ed Franceschina told me this week. Franceschina’s records show a total of just 14 complaints about chickens in the last year.

Considering this record, Wilkins says he’s changed his mind. “I was worried that there would be a lot of complaints, but it seems to be going all right,” he says.

In fact, more than one chicken owner I spoke to said that having chickens had improved neighbor relations, like Julie Gilbertson-Day, who used to keep chickens at her house in the University District.

“It actually helped us get to know our neighbors better,” she says. “Families stopped to show the chickens to their kids. People knew who we were because we were the people with the chickens.”

Leigh Radlowski, another Missoula chicken owner, agrees. “Most people are really positive,” she says. “They may not want chickens wandering into their yards, but that’s fair enough. It’s what you’d expect with a dog, too.”

This positive reception mirrors our own experience with keeping urban chickens (minus the one neighbor who mistakenly reported us to the authorities) , and I'm glad to see we're not alone.

So, congratulations to the Missoula City Council on doing the right thing, and to the Missoula urban chicken farmers for taking advantage of the opportunity afforded them.

Read the full article here: Missoula in the Year of the Chicken

See the original video reportage here:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hi WalletPop readers: showing you the $$

I see we've got a bunch of new visitors coming over from Geoff Williams' WalletPop article on 20 unusual ways to save money: Raising chickens. Welcome to!

Boiling it down to return on investment (after buying the coop and chickens):
  • 50 pounds of chicken feed = $15, enough to feed two chickens for six weeks
  • two chickens lay about a dozen eggs a week
  • you're paying $2.50 per dozen fresh eggs from your own back yard (compared to $4.50+ for farm fresh organic eggs in the store)
  • bonus: your birds will eat the weeds and bugs in your backyard and give you rich manure for next year's garden.
In terms of time costs, it takes about 5 minutes a day to check food/water/clean the poop tray and 20 minutes a week for a more thorough cleaning of the coop. For a more detailed list of what it takes to raise chickens on a daily basis, see my instructions for the chicken sitter post

Still interested in learning more? See my one-year recap of raising urban chickens or dive into the list of recommended chicken-raising books.

Thanks for stopping by, and feel free to leave any questions you may have in the comments below.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

got illegal chickens? get a HenCondo

I'm not normally an advocate for harboring illegal urban chickens, but from the mail and comments I get here on the blog, there are many of you keeping your chooks on the down low and looking for ways to keep it that way.

So for those of you unlucky enough to live in a jurisdiction that's not evolved enough to allow for urban chickens, this HenCondo is an amazingly crafty way to house your illicit egg-layers.

Follow the link to the HenCondo product page and you'll see just how ingenious this enclosure is.

While I'm a big fan of our own bright orange Eglu that announces our membership in the urban chicken farmer club loudly, if I had to hide my chooks, they'd be in a HenCondo (I'd just have to figure out how to keep them quiet)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

help: how did my chicken die?

I just got an email from a friend of a friend whose flock suddenly shrank from six urban chickens to five overnight, and she's wondering why her chicken died.

I haven't yet suffered this experience, so I'd love to find out from you, dear readers, what you'd recommend she do to find out how her chicken died.

Here's her story:
[I live in ] Brooklyn heights and I have six pet chickens in my backyard, or rather I did until one didn’t wake up. Now I have five, and I am wondering if you have any resources for me to help figure out why my chicken died!?

I wouldn’t have been surprised if it died a few nights ago when it was below freezing in NYC (although I rigged a heat lamp) but last night was a balmy 57 degrees.

She was a red Cochin, and seemed to be in the prime of health. There are no signs of injury, and she was locked in the coop overnight with the remaining five chickens, who all seem robust and unconcerned.

I guess I’m wondering if there’s a resource for self-diagnosis so I don’t have to pay some crazy sum to an urban vet to do a post-mortem.

Or maybe chickens just die?

I’d hate to miss something and then find all the rest of my flock dropping like flies too.

Thanks in advance for any guidance, and feel free to forward this email to whoever might have any information for me.
I already suggested she check out the forum on over on where else might she look for help figuring out what happened?

UPDATE: Oh yeah! I just remembered my "chicken doctor is in" post from a couple months ago. I'll pass along the contact info for Dr. Cummings to see what he says. Still would appreciate hearing from others if you've got similar leads.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Rescued hens: the perfect holiday gift

If you live in the Bay Area, there's a great opportunity for you to adopt a hen recently rescued from the slaughterhouse.

Amelia Glynn shares the news over on Tails of the City:
More than 600 California hens destined for the slaughterhouse are now looking forward to being home for the holidays (maybe even in yours).

The hens were rescued from an egg-producing factory farm over the weekend as part of a joint effort spearheaded by Animal Place of Vacaville and supported by the Marin Humane Society, The Humane Society & SPCA of Sonoma County and other local agencies. They hope to adopt out the now homeless (but happy) hens to suitable families as egg-laying pets.

According to Suzanne Golt, the Marin Humane Society's executive director, each year more than 250 million hens are killed after the age of two because their egg production no longer supports the bottom line. Of the 140 birds her organization took in she says, "These hens now have the opportunity to spread their wings and enjoy a dust bath for the first time."

If you'd like to start raising your own small flock of egg-laying hens, this is a great opportunity to pick a few up in time to have your own fresh eggs for the holidays. Contact The Marin Humane Society at 415.506.6225 or the Humane Society & SPCA of Sonoma County at 707.542-0882. Hens are also available for adoption through Animal Place in Vacaville.

Thanks, Amelia, for the tip!

Monday, December 8, 2008

mail call: what of chickens and dog poo?

Got a nice piece of email from a prospective urban chicken farmer who's looking to do the right thing introducing chickens into the backyard that's shared by three dogs. I'm sharing the question here (and my response) in hopes that someone who knows differently can chime in and set us all straight. (See my post on cleaning eggs and the follow-up to show the wisdom of this crowd).

Here's the question:
Do you have any information regarding the hazards of exposure to canine feces on chickens? We have three sighthounds that, in addition to running around in, also poo and pee in our 1/2 acre backyard. We plan on purchasing an Eglu for the chickens. But in the event that I would let the chickens free-range, I wanted to know if I should start planning a designated corner of our backyard that the dogs can never enter, and subsequently, poop in.
And my response:
We let our chickens and our Great Dane, Argus, share the same backyard for the 15 months they overlapped, and we never had a problem with the chickens getting near the dog poop or the spots where he'd peed. We let Argus pretty much go wherever he wanted, so we had no control over where the poop or pee my show up, and the chickens seemed to be pretty good at staying away from it. Granted, we only had a single dog, and we were pretty good at not letting the piles accumulate, but unless you get really far behind cleaning up after the dogs, I don't think there'd be a problem.

From what I've seen, it's the birds that actually do more pooping on the lawn than the dog... they just spread it out all over instead of leaving it in one place.

We're training our new puppy, Kairos, to only go on the mulch, not the grass, so I'm hoping that helps keep the grass clear for the chooks to do their own defacating.

Our vet, at first, wasn't sure it was appropriate for Kairos to be in the backyard with the chooks until he had all his shots, just in case there was some disease that the birds might transmit. She did some research and concluded nothing the chickens might have could jump to canines, so now he's having fun in the backyard along with the chooks, stepping on lots of chicken poop hidden in the grass, I'm sure.
Anyone know any different about exposing your chickens to dog poop? (or vice versa) Please let us know!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Puppy meets our Urban Chickens

showdown by the Eglu

We're trying to slowly introduce our new puppy, Kairos (he's a golden doodle), to Sophia and ZsuZsu, our two urban chickens. For the most part, they've been admiring each other through the wire of the Eglu's run, but now we're letting them both run free at the same time.

Bet you can guess who got his nose pecked shortly after this picture.

All part of the socializing process.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

stoopid chicken tricks: head tracking

I'd noticed this ability to keep their heads in one place no matter what the body does in my own chickens, but I think it's great to see it called out in isolation in this video.

As stated in the video, the ability to isolate the head from all other body movement is quite handy hunting for bugs and moving quickly over changing terrain. This ability has also been transferred via technology to steadycams and the same principle is found in our cars' suspension systems, yes?

What other useful applications for this ability are there?

Thanks to LaughingSquid for the find!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Orwell was an urban chicken farmer

And, per his now-blogged diary, an obsessive one at that:
30.11.38: Two eggs.

29.11.38: One egg.

28.11.38: Two eggs.

27.11.38: One egg.

25.11.38: Two eggs.

24.11.38: One egg.

As for our own chook's egg production, we're in a dry spell right now as Sophia is heavy into her molt and I suspect ZsuZsu's not far behind. Back to the store bought eggs for a bit... sigh.

FWIW, I like Steve's Egg Record 2008 both because it's on a wiki, and the format's pretty cool, too. He shared it with me in response to my recent molting post.

Hat tip to boing boing and Ed Vielmetti for the Orwell egg post.

Monday, November 24, 2008

molting chickens are ugly chickens

re-feathering the back So, at eighteen months of age, Sophia has finally started to molt and what an unsettling experience it's been for all of us! (She's hiding her head in shame in the picture to the right)

Why do the chickens molt? Courtesy the fine crowd over at Wikipedia:
The process of moulting in birds is as follows: First, the bird begins to shed some old feathers, then pin feathers grow in to replace the old feathers. As the pin feathers become full feathers, other feathers are shed. This is a cyclical process that occurs in many phases. In general, a moult begins at a bird's head, progresses down the body to its wings and torso, and finishes with the tail feathers. It is usually symmetrical, with feather loss equal on each side of the body. Because feathers make up 4-12 percent of a bird's body weight, it takes a large amount of energy to replace them. For this reason, moults are frequently timed to occur right after the breeding season, but while food is still abundant. The plumage produced during this time is called postnuptial plumage.

Our first clue the molt was coming to our was Sophia's starting to look a little threadbare around the neck and we could see some small feathers littering the mulch in and around the coop and run. Then, egg production dropped to one a day and we had our first zero-egg day in I can't remember how long.

And then it happened: Sophia lost all the feathers on her back and from her tail, from between her wings down to her tail bump (not the technical term, but you know where I'm talking about).

While I'm sure she's as mortified by her looks as a chicken can be at her state, I have to admit I am intrigued by the feel of a chicken's bare back: the skin is warm and a little clammy, quite a change in temperature from the carcasses we get from the butcher.

close-up of the new feathersBut the bareback phase lasted only a day, as pinfeathers (seen at left) are sprouting up all across her back. I'm amazed watching how quickly these things grow. In the picture, you can see the newest are on the left and the oldest are on the right. Evidently, our Barred Rocks are "late molters" and this shedding/re-growing is going to last 2-3 months total and then Sophia will be back in full production, per Mississippi State University Extension's info on molting of laying hens:
Each year chickens molt, or lose the older feathers, and grow new ones. Most hens stop producing eggs until after the molt is completed. The rate of lay for some hens may not be affected, but their molting time is longer. Hens referred to as "late molters" will lay for 12 to 14 months before molting, while others, referred to as "early molters," may begin to molt after only a few months in production. Late molters are generally the better laying hens and will have a more ragged and tattered covering of feathers. The early molters are generally poorer layers and have a smoother, better-groomed appearance. Early molters drop only a few feathers at a time and may take as long as 4 to 6 months to complete the molt. Early molters are usually poor producers in a flock. Late molting hens will produce longer before molting and will shed the feathers quicker (2 to 3 months). The advantage of late molters is that the loss of feathers and their replacement takes place at the same time. This enables the hen to return to full production sooner.
Things we need to pay attention to as the molting progresses are to keep the protein intake high so as to make regenerating the feathers easier on the girls. I'll try and toss in some dairy, too. Although I've read in some other chicken blogs that the owners have given their girls raw meat, I'm a little squeamish at the thought of my chickens being meat eaters.

For those of you who've been through a molt or two, what experience can you share to help us first timers make it to the other side with our wits about us (and fully feathered chickens, too)?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Are you an urban chicken expert?

I discovered, through the mundane-yet-critical-task of looking at the web stats for this blog that I've been outed as an expert on Urban Chickens over on "The Blogger's Secret" a blog written by Edward Vielmetti (you may know him from another blog: Vacuum).

Of course, I'm honored to be on the short list of "here's how to become an expert in a niche topic" but I also want it on the record that I'm nowhere near the smartest one around on the subject of raising chickens.

Just take a look at the blog roll and the comments to see where the great advice really comes from.

I've just been the lucky one to blog what I've learned from you all.

Thanks, everyone, for making such a great resource!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Urban Chickens written up in Newsweek

Don't miss this week's's article "The Craze for Urban Chicken Farming" which I think does a nice job covering the urban chicken territory. The author of the article, Jessica Bennett, does a great job capturing all the reasons we, as a group, are into urban chicken farming, and she calls out the usual suspects where we gather as a community online:
Chicken farmers are finding each other on sites like, and logs some 6 million page views each month and has some 18,000 members in its forum, where community members share colorful stories (giving a chicken CPR), photos (from a California chicken show), even look to each other for comfort. "I am worried that non-BYC people won't understand why a 34-year-old woman would cry over a $7 chicken," writes a Stockton, N.J., woman, whose chicken was killed by a hawk.
And a BIG congratulations to KT Labadie over at (what a great name!) for her paragraph in the story:
Over at, which launched this year, founder K. T. LaBadie, a master's student in community planning, provides updates on city ordinances, info about local chicken-farming classes and coop tours and has been contacted by activists hoping to overturn chicken bans around the nation. In Albuquerque, where she lives with her husband and four chickens—Gloria, Switters, Buffy and Omelet—residents can keep 15 chickens and one rooster, subject to noise ordinances, as well as slaughter the chickens for food. In July, LaBadie wrote in detail of her first killing: she and her husband hung the bird by its legs, slit its throat, plucked its feathers and put it on ice. Then they slow-cooked it for 20 hours. "It's not pretty, it's kinda messy, and it's a little smelly," she writes. "But it's quite real."
I remember when I first met K.T. last year when she reached out to me doing research on urban chickens as part of her studies. I'm so amazed at what she's pulled together over on her .org site to help the entire urban chickens movement.

Here's hoping there are many more urban chicken farmers about to join us!

Monday, November 17, 2008

chicken peacekeepers captured on video

They're breaking up a fight between bunnies. All we need do is outfit the chooks with little blue helmets (they've already got the attitude)!

BTW, my filming session with Carol went wonderfully smooth, at least in my eyes. She promises a quicktime of the results once her editing is complete. Rest assured, I'll share her craft here on the blog.

(Are you interested in helping her out? Drop her an email at and tell her sent you!)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Calling all East Bay urban chicken farmers

If you live in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area here in California, please consider saying yes to this filming request from Carol:
I'm working on a short piece for a project on people who keep chickens for food or as pets here in the Bay Area, especially in more urbanized areas.

So I'm looking for folks willing to let me film them talking about their experiences keeping chickens. And I'd really love to get some footage of someone sitting down to an egg breakfast, fresh from their backyard!
Are you interested in helping her out? Drop her an email at and tell her sent you!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

window shopping for chickens

Was inspired by the chicken pictures posted by Lauren over on the Dropstone Farms blog to do some window shopping on Flickr today. And by window shopping, I really do mean admiring without the intent to purchase (relax, LeftCoastMom).

My favorite place to look? Why, the Urban Chickens Flickr group, of course. (the chickens tag on Flickr seems to have been used a little, um, liberally)

Where do you go to get your fix on chicken pix?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Long list of urban chicken ordinances

The folks over at The City Chicken are compiling a long list of laws from US cities regarding keeping (urban) chickens.

I lost track of counting at 112, and the list could be ordered a bit better, but wow, what a fantastic resource!

If you find your own urban chicken-friendly city isn't listed, drop them an email so they can put your info on the list and tell them sent you.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Bureaucratic runaround re: urban chickens in Chicago

Chad Kimball's video exposes the confusing system stacked against anyone trying to get information about keeping urban chickens in Chicagoland. This voyeuristic trip through the bureaucratic maze of Chicago is pretty damning in its exposing the general ineptitude (bordering on hostility?) of the government workers who are supposed to be working for us, right?

Never fear, the outcome is ultimately a good one:

While the City Clerk's office thinks there's an ordinance against chickens (they just can't find it no matter how much they research), the folks in their law department (at the City of Chicago) confirm there is no such ordinance forbidding chickens in the city.

Does this mean urban chickens are legal in the Windy City? Yes, I do believe it does.

Hear that Windy City Gal?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Urban Chicken news out of Ontario

Thanks to a tip from @DougSuerich, I found the story Bylaw Comes Home to Roost on about a good news/bad news situation for urban chickens up in Canada.

Seems that a couple (illegal) urban chicken farmers up in Hamilton, Ontario (located southwest of Toronto) were busted for keeping three hens within city limits. It seems chickens are illegal for the typical (misinformed) reasons:
The city cites noise, smell and risk of diseases such as avian flu and salmonella poisoning as reasons to ban the birds.

“Chickens do create guano and there is an odour associated with this animal,” said Paul Buckle, manager of the city’s animal control department.

(As usual, I find it useful to substitute "dogs" for "chickens" in these things to see if the reasoning stands the same... it usually does, but chickens get the raw deal)

In any case, the illegal chicken farmers got the support of all but a single neighbor for their chicken-raising ways, and you can guess who's suspected of turning the chickens in. After code enforcement was called in, the chickens were given a month to move out. The chooks are now living out on a farm.

Luckily, there's a silver lining to the story with good news for aspiring urban chicken farmers in nearby Waterloo:
Hamilton isn’t the first city to grapple with the demand for urban chickens. Back-yard hens are legal in Niagara Falls and London, and Waterloo is in the process of revising its animal control bylaws to legalize chickens, said David Calder, general manager of corporate services at the city of Waterloo.

“Our animal control bylaw was antiquated in a lot of ways, not just about raising chickens.”

Calder is drafting a bylaw that would allow Waterloo residents to have hens on their properties. It stipulates that no more than 10 hens could be kept on one property, that chickens could only be kept in the yards of detached homes — no townhouses or apartments — and that chickens must be kept in backyards that measure more than 12 metres by 30.5 metres. Council will vote on the bylaw in November.

I look forward to reporting the good news when the bylaw is passed!

Monday, October 27, 2008

$100 billion for three eggs?

Granted, these are not US dollars, but all the sudden I have a much deeper appreciation for the egg-layers in our own backyard. They're cranking out $400 billion (Zimbabwe) in eggs each week!

Thanks, JP, for the photo!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

where to buy baby chicks

Want to buy a specific breed of chick but the local Feed & Fuel store doesn't carry them? I found a promising online resource for purchasing small quantities (read: backyard-friendly quantities) of specific breeds of chicks: My Pet Chicken.

One of my biggest challenges in starting out as an urban chicken farmer was deciding on which breed to get and then actually finding that breed of chicks for sale. Sure, the big guys like McMurray Hatchery are happy to sell you whichever breed you want, but only with a minimum order of 25 chicks. So, the aspiring urban chicken farmer is left at the mercy of the staff at the local feed store who, in my experience, aren't too concerned about placing a bulk order of chicks to satisfy the particulars of such a low-margin item.

Thus, the opportunity that My Pet Chicken is helping with in selling small quantities of chickens via mail order:

Baby chicks can now be shipped in quantities as small as three, depending on location (see below). All baby chicks are shipping via USPS Express Mail on Mondays, but due to hatching availability they might not be shipped for one to four weeks. We will notify you by email so you know exactly when to expect them.

How to determine the best minimum for you:
Our smallest order size of 3 chicks applies to major cities only, such as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Miami, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, Portland OR, etc., due to the speed with which they can be delivered. If you live within 30 minutes of a major city, the best minimum is 5 chicks. For any town or rural area that is more than 30 minutes from a major city, our minimum is 8 chicks. This is to protect the chicks due to increased time in transit. If you are ordering Bantams, we strongly recommend that you add two chicks to any of the above quantities. We love our babies too much to let anything happen to them!

While they're out of Barred Rocks for 2008, it looks as though they've got some White Leghorns, White Plymouth Rocks and Silver Spangled Hamburg available in the next few weeks for those who want to get started on their urban chicken farming right away. (fresh eggs in February!)

I wish I'd known of these folks back when I was getting started in Spring 2007, they've definitely got a one-stop-shop thing going that'll make it easier for new urban chicken fans to get going. Oh, and they've got a free handy guide to chicken care, to boot!

Has anyone else used the My Pet Chicken site? Good experiences? bad? let us know!

(DISCLAIMER: As with all reviews here on, this review is simply my impression of their online store, not any kind of a paid endorsement. As of this writing, I don't know anyone at My Pet Chicken.)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Boing Boing co-founder an urban chicken farmer, too

I'm a long-time reader and a big-time fan of the Boing Boing Blog, and I was giddy with delight today to find out today that one of the cofounders, Mark Frauenfelder, is raising five Plymouth Rock chicks!

He revealed as much in his post this morning about finding the Plymouth Rock Monthly featured over on the Homegrown Evolution blog:
What magazine had 40,000 subscribers in 1920? Answer: the Plymouth Rock Monthly, a periodical devoted to our favorite chicken breed. We have two "production" Barred Plymouth Rocks in our small flock of four hens, and we've found them to be productive, friendly and, with their striped plumage, an attractive sight in our garden. While the internet is an amazing resource for the urban homesteader, there are a few holes in this electronic web of knowledge. In short, would someone out there please get around to scanning and putting online the Plymouth Rock Monthly? All I can find are images of two covers lifted off of ebay.
Mark (jokingly?) muses about relaunching the periodical with a goal of 200 subscribers. I've already let him know he's got at least one subscriber waiting here in Redwood City.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Nine books for newbies to urban chickens

With the recent down-turn (nose dive?) in the economy, there seems to be renewed interest in raising our own food as a way to hedge against the rising costs at the local supermarket. Good on you for thinking beyond just growing your own veggies, but looking to see how to raise your own source for eggs. With the help of other urban chicken farmers visiting this blog, I've pulled together this list of books to help you go into urban chicken farming with eyes wide open.

Even if you don't want to buy them from Amazon, you can print out this post and take it to your library to check the books out for a short time. Come on back to the blog and share with us your own experiences with chickens in your back yard (or why you chose not to get some).

  1. Raising Chickens For Dummies Yes, the urban chickens movement has our very own "for Dummies" handbook. If you're a fan of the for Dummies format (I'm not embarrassed to admit that I am), you won't be disappointed with this book dedicated to explaining how to raise healthy and happy chickens in your backyard. If you've spent any time on, you'll recognize co-author Rob Ludlow's name, as he's been a font of wisdom at BYC for years.

  2. Keep Chickens! Tending Small Flocks in Cities, Suburbs, and Other Small Spaces by Barbara Kilarski. Like home-grown vegetables, home-raised chickens put us in touch with our rural past, give us a sense of self-sufficiency, and provide food - eggs! - for the table that is a lot tastier than anything we could find at the supermarket. And chickens are fun! Like dogs, they bond with their owners, and like kids, they do the darnedest things. Kilarski regales the reader with tales spotlighting the joys of raising chickens, while at the same time explaining the nitty-gritty details of how to be a successful chicken keeper.

  3. Chickens in Your Backyard: A Beginner's Guide by Rick and Gail Luttmann. As they learned to raise chickens, Gail and Rick Luttmann came to realize the need for a comprehensive but clear and nontechnical guide. Their book covers all the basics in a light and entertaining sytle, from housing and feeding through incubating, bringing up chicks, butchering, and raising chickens for show.

  4. Success with Baby Chicks: A complete guide... by Robert Plamondon. Like Storey's Guide, this isn't explicitly about backyard chickens, but you'll get all the information you need to understand how to choose, order and raise chicks (if you choose to go this route).

  5. Chicken Coops: 45 Building Plans for Housing Your Flock by Judy Pangman. The title's a bit misleading, but it's still chock full of ideas for coops for your chooks. Use this book as inspiration for building your own coop, not for plans with a step-by-step guide to building the coop.

  6. Hen and the Art of Chicken Maintenance by Martin Gurdon. This is a memoir of growing up with chickens and then raising a backyard flock as an adult. While there's some good info packed into the stories, it's less on the side of reference tome and more on the side of a story well told. (all apologies to Robert Pirsig)

  7. Living with Chickens: Everything You Need to Know to Raise Your Own Backyard Flock by Jay Rossier. reader Steven Walling says: "Wonderful style, up to date and practical advice on all aspects of small flocks. Definitely my favorite introductory book on chickens. Plus, beautiful photos, a great list of further reading, and a forward from the American Poultry Association."

  8. How to Raise Chickens: Everything You Need to Know by Christine Heinrichs. Steven says: "A solid book, especially for people who might be interested in breeding. Unlike Rossier's book, it's got a lot of interesting history and breed info, but it also covers the basics well. This is the best alternative to the Storey's book on your list, since it works for larger flocks without leaving backyarders in the dust."

  9. Choosing and Keeping Chickens by Chris Graham. Steven says: "British, but still a delightful introductory book for backyard keepers."

BONUS: Storey's Illustrated Guide to Poultry Breeds by Carol Ekarius. Per Steven, it's the best breed book on chickens, hands down.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Urban Chickens in the Christian Science Monitor

Saw a spike in traffic to this blog, and I was more than happy to discover a rather detailed blogpost/report on's Bright Green blog by Eoin O'Carroll about the Illicit urban chicken movement growing in US (he's crafted a very good post with lots of good resources linked throughout).

So why the traffic coming here? The content of my publicly posting instructions for our chicken-sitters last summer was used to illustrate just what's involved in keeping urban chickens. Another great example of why it's sometimes better to post innocuous content like this where everyone can see instead of going with the traditional leave-a-printed-copy-on-the-counter approach.

For those of you new here to, welcome! I've been chronicling our own adventures in raising chickens in our backyard in hopes the information is more readily at hand for others wanting to join the urban chicken movement. If you can't find what you're looking for, don't hesitate to ask a question in the comments and we'll answer as best we can.

We're glad to have you here!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Albuquerque well-suited for urban chickens - News

Great to see our good friend KT LaBadie featured in the University of New Mexico's Daily Lobo story Student: City well-suited for urban chickens - News

I grew up in New Mexico, so I've got a soft spot for things happening there, and to see KT championing the urban chicken movement so well is a source of great pride.

Way to go, KT!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

urban chickens now easy in Wake Forest!

As previously reported here, Emily Cole, David Bissette and others have been urging the Wake Forest Board of Commissioners to relax the rules around keeping urban chickens.

So it's with great pride I can say that Em and co. have been successful in their efforts!

The new amendment allows for the keeping of up to ten chickens inside the town limits, excluding roosters without a permit.

David's got the post on their WFchickens blog with the details if you want them.

Congratulations to Em, David and everyone who helped the Board reach this outcome. Glad to see yet another example of smart rulings to allow the spread of urban chickens.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

urban chickens almost legal in State College, PA

Great to see this report of chicken sense and sensibility coming from the State College (Pennsylvania) Borough Council.

Borough staff have been instructed to draft an ordinance allowing for urban chickens, thereby solving the conflicting regulations already on the books dating back to the 1920s.

I'm especially glad to see cooler, practical heads prevail in this one story:

College Heights resident Lisa Baumgartner, who does not now keep chickens, said she would like to keep a few in a secure, sanitary and well-maintained pen.

Another College Heights resident, Linda Hendrickson, said chickens “do smell” and “do carry diseases.” She asked why regulations should be changed “to suit one person” and said chickens could devalue the property of neighbors.

Two borough residents who already keep chickens in pens, Chris Uhl and Diana Malcom, said the chickens help build positive neighborhood relations.

“The folks that do come to our neighborhood to see them love them,” Malcom said.

I wonder how many folks like Ms Hendrickson have a stereotype about mass-produced chickens cooped up by the thousands in one shed that they can't let go of when thinking of a half dozen chooks in the backyard? Or is it all the talk of flock eradication overseas as preventative measures against bird flu that they automatically assume holds true for small backyard flocks in the States?

In any case, I look forward to reading about urban chickens being legal in State College. It'll be nice to see some pictures of Penn State Nittany Lion eggs on the web!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Urban Chickens picks on Flashlight Worthy Books!

A friend of mine from back when I worked at AOL (many moon ago) has created a new site of book recommendations called Flashlight Worthy. (cute name and great validation to know I'm not the only one that snuck in some extra awake time as a kid with a book and a light under the covers at night)

I was honored when he asked if I'd help him pull one together about chickens, so here's my list of book recommendations for aspiring urban chicken farmers.

I think I picked a good set, but I'd love to hear if anyone has others they think should be there (or, heaven forbid, ones I should take off).

Oh, and if you'd like to create your own list of book recommendations for Flashlight Worthy, here's how.

Monday, September 8, 2008

the chicken doctor is in

Caught a great little article on how chickens are raised written by Dr. Tim Cummings, a poultry veterinarian at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Mississippi State University. He's been a "chicken doctor" for almost 25 years now and it would seem he's heard just about everything.

They biggest myth busted for me while reading his article? The issue of hormones used to make chickens grow fast:
When people find out that I work with poultry, it's amazing how regularly I get asked the same questions. For instance, it's fairly standard to get asked about all the hormones used to "make the chickens grow so fast."

After I inform the curious individual that hormones are not injected or fed to the birds, I often see this funny look come over their face.

It's almost like they don't believe me.

After all, one poultry company even advertised that they don't add hormones to their chickens! That was nice of them, especially since no other poultry company in the world does either.
Well, I'll be!

UPDATE 12/11/08: Per Dr. Cumming's request, I've removed his contact info from this post, so he's not overwhelmed by requests from outside the region. Read the linked article above if you're still interested in contacting him.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Our noisy urban chickens get busted

We live in a typical urban neighborhood: lots of babies, kids and dogs contributing to the soundtrack of families growing up. The traffic is light, and we can hear the sounds of the Caltrain as it pulls into Redwood City station about a mile away. In all, it's a pretty quiet place with the few odd punctuations of nuisance sounds: sirens, loud car mufflers... our chickens.

It seems one of our chickens, Sophia, has fallen in love with the sound of her own voice. And I'm not talking about her soothing little cluck-cluck-cluck sound. I'm talking her alarmed-hen sound as if she's trying to warn others that some threat is near by: a loud "Caaaaaaaw!" And it's never just one Caaaaaw!, there's got to be a whole series of them one after the other after the other.

Depending on how much energy she's got, she could go on belting out a caw every 10 seconds or so for minutes on end before finally getting it out of her system. I've found I can help short-circuit these loud sessions by walking down to the coop let her see I'm near, but I'd rather not have her learn to call me to her coop by doing this.

And unlike prior fears that she was just making a ruckus because she's cooped up instead free-ranging the yard, Sophia's also stopped in the middle of the yard while I'm out there with her and raised her head up to belt out a couple CAAAAWs for no particular reason.

So I've learned to just let her go at it, even though it seems that about three mornings a week, just after dawn, she'll starting belting them out in the crisp morning air. No doubt to the extreme pleasure of our neighbors trying to sleep in. Heck, even I'm bothered by it some mornings.

Over the summer, we've noticed there are a couple dogs in the neighborhood that bark and bark and bark until past midnight. Laying awake in bed one night, after cursing the dogs I told my wife that I was sure our chickens were going to get in trouble with the neighbors well before those dogs were hushed. And wouldn't you know I was right?

Last week, a city zoning inspector showed up unannounced at our door to check on our chickens. Left Coast Mom was the one home at the time to receive this visit, and she let him down into the backyard to show off the girls and even pulled out two eggs from the nest (thank goodness it was a double-egg day!) to underscore the point that we're well within code here in Redwood City (four hens per household, no roosters).

The inspector asked if the chickens fought with each other (no), if they had enough room (yes), regularly tended (yes).

And so we were deemed completely in compliance with code. Thank you. Have a nice day.

It's taken me so long to write this post because there are several issues this brings up and I'm still wrestling with how to deal with them:
  1. Why didn't the neighbor come knock on our door to talk to us about it first? Or is this the same passive aggressive person who left a note on our door about our own dog barking too much last summer (we got him an anti-bark collar after that). Wow, they must be going friggin nuts with the way those other dogs are carrying on at night this summer.
  2. Sure, our chickens are legal, but it seems they're a noise nuisance. I think part of why we got "busted" is the fact that folks aren't used to hearing chickens in their neighborhood (not just ours, but any neighborhood). In running down the list of "sounds you'll hear from your backyard" I don't think "chickens calling" makes the top 40 responses for most folks. It'll take a while to get used to the chickens being acknowledged as part of the 'hood
  3. What can I do to quiet my chickens? As mentioned above, Sophia's content to sound off whether she's inside the run or out free-ranging the yard. It seems like she's telling off the squirrels that run rampant around her or the jays or crows that fly over, but I can't tell the source of her perturbation. I really just think she likes the sound of her voice.
And finally, why is it that the dogs are getting the free ride where my chooks are not? There seems to be no consequence to their barking and barking and barking at all hours. As the Mrs was walking the city code inspector to the door after we scored our "meets code" rating, she asked if he was the same one who got called in to deal with incessantly barking dogs.

"No," he said, "for them you have to call the police."

Talk about busted!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

another use for chicken poop?

From the "I think I've seen everything" department:

My Google Reader alerted me to this fine product this morning: Chicken Poop Lip Balm. Really. Follow the link and you can buy your own tube of it.

Now, my eldest has a challenge with chapped lips, so maybe I can take some of what Sophia and ZsuZsu are excreting daily and put it to better use than simply tumbling it into the compost bin.

Oh wait, there in bright blue at the bottom of the product page it says "THIS PRODUCT CONTAINS NO POOP!!"

All is not lost though, I've at least got a good story to share with my daughter when her own lips are cracked:
The Name....Chicken Poop comes from Jamie’s goofy grandpa replying to her complaint of having dry lips. He’d say, “I know how to fix those dry lips, I’ll rub some chicken poop on ‘em so you won’t be lickin’ ‘em.” Brilliant, don’t you think?

Brilliant indeed.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Opinions on Urban Chickens in Wake Forest?

Can any of you help respond to this post from Emily Cole over on the Urban Chickens fan page over on Facebook? (I've inserted the links in the post)
The Wake Weekly is looking for opinions on Backyard Chickens in Wake Forest. Could you please email the editor your opinion? The Wake Forest Board of Commissioners is discussing the issue August 19th, and I sure could use all the support I can get! The email address is below. If you need more information about this issue, check out my blog at Thanks! Emily Cole
Not sure if there's a geographical limit to the folks they're looking to hear from, but maybe us owners in towns that are more progressive toward urban chickens can share our own experiences?

Send your note to

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

saying goodbye to our kind soul

2 of 3: Argus and the girlsWe arrived home with heavy hearts last night from our 13-day road trip to Canada.

Argus, our beloved Great Dane, passed away at the kennel in his sleep Saturday night.

I never did get that picture of him with our two chickens walking between his legs, so this picture will have to do to show just how friendly he was with our urban chickens (more perplexed by them than anything else).

I'm still trying to come to grips with his being gone, and with his passing while we were gone, away from him.

Argus was only eight years old (yes, that's old for a big dog, but still he came from a long-lived lineage), and he'd shown no signs of distress or discomfort anytime before our going on vacation. Yes, he was slowing down, but his appetite was as good as ever, and we'd just chased each other around the yard a couple days before we left. He loved the kennel he stayed at, and they loved him, too, so it's not as though he wasn't enjoying himself (he was, wasn't he?).

So Argus's passing came as a real shock, and hearing the news early on a Sunday morning in some distant, generic hotel room didn't make it any easier to hear.

Argus was (and always will be) a great dog all around, and I'm thankful for all the lessons he taught me in patience, in love and in compassion. He helped blow away all stereotypes I'd formed about big dogs and taught me the true meaning of a gentle giant. You can also read Left Coast Mom's tribute to Argus.

Today's a day of "dealing with the details" as we go to the kennel to handle the paperwork and then to the Humane Society to say one last goodbye.

I'll climb back on the chicken-blogging wagon a little later this week.

I'll miss you Argus, and I'll carry you in my heart, always.

Friday, August 1, 2008

drawings of a chicken growing up

Greetings from the road to Alberta! Found this little gem thanks to the good folks at boingboing:

A (very talented) science illustrator, Mieke Roth, has posted to her blog drawings of a chick growing up (one each week) from day 20 to day 68 of its life.

A sample of the work (day 31) is shown to the right.

Great to find this little gem on the web. Click on the image to see her whole series.

Monday, July 28, 2008

on chickens crossing the road

Rediscovered this photo I took while at the Newseum in Washington, DC, last month (click to see the full picture).

all about the chickens

EDITORS NOTE: My posts will likely be slowing over the next couple weeks as we go on our longest vacation ever, a road trip up to Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. I'll have my c and laptop with me so you can rest assured I'll be posting to my Flickr stream.

I'll do my best to share any chicken-related adventures here in the blog, too. Until then, may you be flooded in eggs!

(and wish our chicken-sitter luck!)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Are urban chickens really "pets"?

Is it accurate to call a small flock of chickens in your backyard your "pets?"

On the one hand, it seems easy to quickly answer "yes, they are." But if we're to honor the wisdom of the wiki-editors over at Wikipedia, a pet is:
A pet or companion animal is an animal kept for companionship and enjoyment, as opposed to livestock, laboratory animals, working animals or sport animals, which are kept for economic reasons. The most popular pets are noted for their loyal or playful characteristics, for their attractive appearance, or for their song. Pets also generally seem to provide their owners with non-trivial health benefits; keeping pets has been shown to help relieve stress to those who like having animals around.
When I see the main defining characteristic in the "as opposed to" list as being kept for economic reasons, my chickens fail the definition. But when I look at the characteristics of "the most popular pets" I see my own chickens fulfilling each one. And the health benefits of keeping chickens for the privilege of consuming their eggs can't be understated. At least until they're too old to lay. Hmmm.

More practically, it looks like the folks over in Clay, Alabama are struggling mightily with the issue of chickens as pets.
The city's low density residential zoning does not allow livestock but does allow household pets. The ordinance does not define household pets. Commissioner Debby Clayton said the Alabama Law Code does not define pets either and does not include poultry in livestock. In one section, the law says "livestock is defined as equine or equidae, cows, swine, goats, and sheep."
oops, someone forgot about the chickens (and ducks and geese and...)

Maybe they didn't forget about poultry when writing the code and instead are sending a clear signal that urban chickens, even low-density residential chickens, shouldn't be prohibited. Given the biggest complaints about the chickens in Clay are due to the noise the roosters make, I'm inclined to think the code was unintentionally incomplete in banning roosters.

Maybe we can help the Clay commission settle this: are chickens to be considered pets? if not, what are they?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Portland Tour de Coops this Saturday!

Wow, I wish we had a vibrant urban chicken scene here in the Bay Area like they've got going on up in Portland.

Back in March, they had Chicken Fest and this coming Saturday (11a-3p) is the 5th Annual Portland Tour de Coops.

If you attend, you can visit 18 coops on a bicycle tour and enter a raffle to win your own coop! (see link above for details)

So jealous.

And trying not to be too disappointed that my timing for passing through Portland on our road trip to Canada means I'll miss the Tour by a week!

(any chicken-related goings-on in Portland on July 31/Aug 1? let me know as I'll be in the area)

Help Bring "Mad City Chickens" to San Francisco

As we all know (or at least we should know), the Documentary Mad City Chickens premiered at this year's Wisconsin Film Festival to much applause and acclaim. Wouldn't you like to see it yourself?

Now, the producers are submitting the film to other festivals throughout the country and the world. If you'd like to see the documentary screened at a festival near you, you'll need to provide a little help by expressing interest in the film to the Festival screening folks.

As you can imagine, I'm most interested in getting a screening of Mad City Chickens added to the San Francisco Documentary Festival which takes place October 10-23 here in SF.

Robert and the folks at Tarazod have already submitted the film for consideration (deadline was earlier this month).

UPDATE: Turns out the festival folks aren't interested in hearing from us as they think it's something that Tarazod's put us up to. (see YL's comment below) So, thinking it might actually hurt MCC's chances of getting here to SF, please don't contact the festival folks.

I'm so disappointed to see it's such an opaque selection process.

In the meantime, any other folks know of a grassroots way to help get the film in?

so now it's up to us to help convince the judges to include MCC in the lineup.

A film's chances of getting in to any festival are helped if folks express a strong interest in seeing it, and I'd encourage you to join me in expressing such interest.

Below is the email I've sent to the kind folks running the festival (at and I invite you to cut-n-paste it into your own email program to send along in support (bolded bits should be replaced with your own personal details):

Dear Festival Coordinator,

I've learned that the documentary Mad City Chickens has been submitted for inclusion in the San Francisco Documentary Festival. As an owner/enthusiast of urban chickens here in Redwood City just south of you, I'd love to be able to see a screening of the film here in SF.

As reported in the SF Examiner and in the SF Chronicle, there are quite a few of us in the Bay Area who have chickens in our backyard, so I'm sure the showing would sell out quickly if you did screen Mad City Chickens.

Thanks for your consideration, please let me know if there's anything else I can do to help your decision.

Best Regards,
Thomas Kriese

Even if you're not in the Bay Area, can you help us out by sending your own note to If we're successful in getting it added to the Festival, I'll buy the popcorn for every urbanchickens reader who joins me at the screening.

Thanks, in advance, for your help. And keep your fingers crossed!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

chickens are like a gateway drug?

So, for the umpteenth time, I've just finished reading another online article/post describing the inherent bias against legalizing urban chickens as being based on precedence. The latest comes in a post over on Hispanic Trending, a blog dedicated to Latino Marketing & Advertising:
Councilman Linwood Mann said he has heard from many constituents who don't want chickens as neighbors. They worry, he said, that newcomers from rural areas of Latin America will bring in their own favorite farm animals.

"This is just one of many ordinances put on the book to help people trying to live in harmony," Mann said. "So far, it has worked very well."

Tony Asion, executive director of El Pueblo, a Latino advocacy group in Raleigh, was mystified.

"What in the world would make them think that all Latinos want to have chickens in their backyard?" Asion asked. "Here's the deal: It has nothing to do with culture. It has to do with where you came from. If you came from a rural area where you had animals in your back yard, that's what you're used to. The same is true in the United States. Maybe in rural Alabama they might have them, but not in Montgomery. I don't think this has anything to do with ethnicity."
These biases all seem run along the lines of "well, if we let chickens in here, pretty soon we'll have goats and pigs and horses and cows and..." Yes, hyperbole runs rampant, but I've heard this kind of reasoning before somewhere.

[Almost exactly a year ago (coincidentally?) I posted about a similar dust up in the DC suburbs reported by the Washington Post. And while there are parallels in the ethnic target, I'd rather not touch the not-so-subtly racist aspects of the arguments in this post.]

Oh yeah, the hyperbolic argument is the same argument that's used to discourage changing anything because of the slippery slope that we'd unknowlingly slide all the way down to the nasty worst-case bottom. Kinda like sex ed is the gateway to teen promiscuity. Or marijuana is the gateway to cocaine abuse. (or credit cards are the gateway to bankruptcy?)

I'd better watch out or soon I'll have a backyard full of promiscuous drug-addicted cattle in my backyard. How will I ever stop myself? ;^)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Wake Forest urban chicken update

Nice to see Em's letter is generating some Mainstream Media coverage of the urban chicken issue, too. Here's the segment from NBC-17's news coverage:

Thanks to David Bissette of Catawba Converticoops for alerting me to the video on his WFChickens blog (now on my blog roll).

David's Catawba site's got some great info on building a coop, AND you can sign up to receive his (and Mitzi's) entertaining AND informative eBook "How Two City Slickers Got Chickens Inside the Town Limits":
Growing up as an only child in the country of North Carolina’s Brushy Mountain foothills, I had some best friends even though the nearest kid my age was a quarter mile away. Tex the Rooster and his flock of Ameraucana hens provided me with hours of entertainment. Each chicken had its own personality. Tex would even follow me around like a dog and would hitch a ride in my backpack when I walked down to the pond.

30 years later, those fond memories are still intact. I have three children of my own now. We live one block from downtown and the former Wake Forest College in the heart of our town’s historic district. Short of selling the house and moving to the country, how could my wife and I have urban chickens in a town with regulations and laws about the keeping of livestock inside the town limits?

This eBook is about how we did it.
So visit Catawba Converticoops today to get your copy. Nice to see David's such an advocate for Urban Chickens, too!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Bucky Buckaw's second Backyard Chicken Broadcast

Yikes, can't believe it's taken me this long to share the news... The folks over at Deconstructing Dinner have put up another episode of Bucky Buckaw's Backyard Chicken Broadcast.

In this episode, Bucky covers
  • Breeds
  • Cleanliness
  • Poop
  • Pre-Manufactured Chicken Coops
  • The Economics of Commercial Backyard Chickening
As with the first episode, this one's both informing and entertaining and well worth the listen.

update: urban chickens now legal in Winona, MN

Back in January, I'd blogged about the struggle to update urban chicken ordinances in places like Winona and how the struggle seemed to follow a pattern (see the original post for details).

I'm happy to see (thanks, ponylass!) that Winona has broken the cycle and on July 8, by a vote of 5-1, the city council approved keeping chickens as pets.

From the Winona Radio web site:
It's ok to keep chickens as pets after Monday's Winona City Council's meeting.

The council voted 5 to 1 in favor of allowing chickens within the city limits.

Stacy Blair Nelson of Winona has pet chickens and was one of several people who spoke in favor of the ordinance during a public hearing. Nelson said the birds are a beloved part of the family, like any other pet, and a great source of fresh eggs.

Council member Tim Breeza voted against the ordinance.

The changes will limit the number of chickens to 12, no roosters, no slaughter, and they must live outdoors.
Can't wait to start reading the blogs of urban chicken owners in Winona!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

urban chickens in Wake Forest, NC

Em has written a great article published on to help folks in Wake Forest, NC (pop ~23,000, see larger map) learn the benefits of keeping urban chickens and how they can help her petition to ease the rules around keeping chickens in city limits.

The benefits she outlines are ones we urban chicken farmers already know well and are applicable to any municipality: eggs, fertilizer, companionship.

I think Em's created a great template for anyone to send in to their local paper to help get the word out to folks that urban chickens aren't miniaturized versions of the dirty/smelly/messy Big Ag operations where hundreds of thousands of chickens are kept under one big roof (usually upwind from wherever you've noticed them).

If you'd like to help Em and other potential and existing Wake Forest urban chicken farmers out, please sign their petition!

Great job, Em, keep us posted on your progress!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

roundup: urban chickens in the news

I've been away on travel and came home to find a whole bunch of news items regarding urban chickens in my mailbox. Here's a quick overview of urban chicken news from all over the USA (geographic names linked to sources):
  • Arkansas: legality of owning hens varies from city to city while roosters seem universally banned. A resident in Green Forest actually paid for radio ads encouraging neighbors to ban urban chickens altogether!
  • Asheville, NC: Trying to change law to allow chickens as close as 25 feet to neighbors (current law requires 100 feet), limit to nine hens per household and no roosters. You can subscribe to the forum to follow along.
  • Colorado Springs, CO: celebrating the spread of backyard chicken farming. Up to ten hens allowed in city limits. Longmont considering following Ft Collins (see above) in dropping their bans.
  • Ft Collins, CO: City Council to vote in September whether to allow up to six chickens per household within city limits. Chickens may need licenses (just like cats and dogs)
  • Houston, TX: a cautionary tale of following the rules on keeping chickens in the city limits or face forfeiture of your flock.
  • Lexington, KY: Highlighting the Waynes family's experience raising urban chickens as part of the larger urban chickens movement (that's us!)
  • Lihue, HI: urban chickens of another sort: feral chickens all over the island of Kauai. The story hypothesizes how they got there (hurricane aftermath?) and what's being done to try to cull the several-thousand-strong flock.
  • Salt Lake City, UT: a run-down on the June 28 "Tour de coops" in which 100 people toured coops across the city. No word on how much overlap there was between the tour takers and the 80 people who attended an urban chickens workshop earlier in the week put on by the Wasatch Community Gardens.
If I didn't know any better, I'd say keeping urban chickens is quite the widespread phenomenon and not some obscure indulgence as others might make it out to be!

Friday, June 27, 2008

more advice: how to handle fresh eggs

Got a great comment on my post "how to clean urban chicken eggs" from Bad Wolf and it's worth bringing out here to stand on its own because he's helped me see just how wrong my intuition about handling the fresh eggs has been:
You probably already know this but eggs have a natural coating called "bloom" which basically seals them, keeps the various bacteria out and keeps them fresh. That's why people will see eggs sitting out at a market in Mexico (something that bothers the gringos). It's also the reason a hen can lay a clutch of a dozen or so yet have them all hatch about the same time. Until she starts sitting on them, keeping them at a constant temperature, they are in a stasis.

Once washed, the coating is gone and the eggs can't be left out as the shell is porous. Eggs bought in the store have to be washed (and are usually in a corn based detergent, then covered in a corn based coating) according to the rules so would go bad quickly if left out. They also turn quicker in the fridge than unwashed.

Here's a great article Mother Earth News did on various techniques of storing eggs and the results over a year.

We use a fingernail brush like deal to clean off dirty eggs before storing. The eggs I used to buy at the farmers market would often have a little dirt and even a downy feather or two attached but I loved that as it showed the origins. We are so freaked about sanitation in North America often causing more problems with our obsessions.

For instance, just as the cold water draws in the germs to the eggs, that's what is currently believed to be the issue with the tomatoes. Warm toms from the fields are being dunked in ice water to firm them up so they'll be tougher for the rest of the processing before hitting store or restaurant. That temperature shock is sucking the germs in through the stem end which has been compromised in the picking.
Thanks, Bad Wolf, for the great info.

I'm no longer of the mindset "the eggs out of the bird, must get it washed and into the fridge ASAP!"

How do others handle their own backyard-fresh eggs? Leave them out? Refrigerate same day? Straight into the frying pan? I'd like to get a sense of how the group's handling their golden yolks.

Friday, June 20, 2008

how to clean urban chicken eggs

Thanks to my sharing the instructions for our chicken sitter before I left town on vacation, I got some great feedback on my chicken-raising technique.

Most specifically, Granny Annie commented on my egg-cleaning technique, gently tsking me for washing the poop off our eggs instead of simply taking a damp paper towel to them.

Sure enough, Granny Annie's right about not washing the eggs with water (not that I doubted her). Doing a little digging, here's what I found out about so-called "wet cleaning:"
The basic issue is that dirty eggs are covered with bacteria, which have trouble getting through the shell so long as it's dry. As soon as the shell is wet, they pass through the shell more easily. Also, if you cool the egg, the contents shrink a little, causing a partial vacuum inside that tends to suck foreign matter into the egg.

The upshot is that you should always wash eggs in water that's warmer than the egg is, and you should sanitize the eggshells to kill any bacteria on the shell.

So, it seems my prior technique of washing the eggs in tepid water and then popping them into the fridge was likely the worst thing I could have been doing! I'm so very glad I decided to be open about how I do things to invite people smarter than I to correct me openly.

What's the best way to clean eggs? From the same source:
You can clean up lightly soiled eggs with various abrasives. Sanding sponges from 3M and others are good, and can be found in any hardware store. Loofas are also good. Some people use sandpaper or steel wool, but these aren't as good as the first two.

Basically, you rub the egg until it's clean, or you give up, or it breaks in your hand. This happens more often than you'd think, because dirty eggs are often cracked as well.

Dry cleaning doesn't work very well to clean up eggs that have been smeared with the white or yolk of broken eggs in the nest.

Whatever you use to clean the eggs, it's best to wash and sanitize it from time to time. Clean loofas or sanding sponges in soap and water, sanitize them in water with a little bit of bleach, then allow to dry.

Thanks, Granny Annie for the tip on how to clean my eggs!

Oh, and Steven, I'll be getting to your question about "why crumbles?" in another post. I think I'm about to change another habit...


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