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!


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