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!


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