Saturday, May 31, 2008

how does a chick develop inside the egg?

Thanks to Mark over at, I found this great photo series on chronicling the development of a chick inside the egg.

(warning: those squeamish about these detailed things should steady yourself before clicking through to the series)

I'm surprised to see how the embryo grows in the albumen (white) of the egg and how it feeds off the yolk repleat with blood vessels into the yolk over time. Yet all this sliminess ends in a cute little peeping fluff-ball we call a "chick."

For the curious: the whole process takes 21 days from fertilization to hatching.

Amazing what you'll find on the web, no?

Friday, May 30, 2008

chicken coop envy

I just discovered pictures of Green Frieda's chicken coop down in LA.

Wow, I'm so impressed. If we didn't already have our Eglu (which is more than enough for our hens), I'd be begging for Green Frieda's plans so I could try and build one for us up here in Redwood City.

Oh, and their two Rhode Island Red pullets (Jackie and Lisa) seem to like it, too.

Welcome to urban chicken farming, Green Frieda!

Now to find some urban chickens in San Diego and Sacramento...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Urban Chickens in the SF Examiner

On Sunday, we hosted Michael Procopio, SF Food Examiner, here at the house to show him around our yard and share with him our experience raising chickens in Redwood City. He took lots of photos (he's much better than I in that department, witness his picture shown on this post) and asked all the right questions and wrote up his experience getting to know the girls.

I'm pleased to share with you the story he wrote about his experience. It's been posted to the SF Examiner web site as Urban Chickens: Do-it-yourself hen party.

My favorite section of the article is the one we weren't around to witness: Michael's experience eating the hours-old egg we'd given him as a sample.

There was very little I wished to do other than eat it. But how? A light scramble, with just a little butter in the pan and a slight sprinkling of sea salt when it hit the plate. I cooked up a store-bought (though still organic) egg exactly the same way and compared the two. Everything about the ür-fresh egg was richer-- the color of the yolk, the flavor, and the feel on the tongue. The store-bought egg was still good, but... you know where I am going with this, surely.

The thought of returning to my tiny, chicken-free apartment suddenly depressed me a little. Then I took another swig of beer, another bite of scrambled egg, and moved on.

Here's hoping many others are inspired by Michael's words to join us in our urban chicken farming. What's stopping you from getting started?

Monday, May 26, 2008

LA rooster complaints go unanswered

Yesterday's LA Times carried a story by Jessica Garrison examining the proliferation of barnyard animals in South LA.

While chickens seem to be the star of the show, she also notes there's more goats, ducks, geese and pigs showing up as the demographics of the area change from predominantly African American to mostly Mexican.

Unlike here in the Bay Area, the ordinances in LA allow for keeping (noisy) roosters:
The rules about keeping animals in Los Angeles are complicated. For the most part, Animal Services officers rely on distance requirements, which vary from animal to animal. Roosters, for example, must be kept in an enclosed pen 20 feet from their owner's house and 100 feet from any neighbor's house. Other chickens, on the other hand, can be 35 feet from a neighbor's house, while horses must maintain a distance of 75 feet.

Because many Los Angeles lots are no larger than 100 feet long, it is physically impossible for many property owners there to legally keep roosters.

Hen-pecked by constituent calls about rooster noise, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn recently proposed limiting each household to one rooster and setting up new procedures to deal with loud birds.

But animal control officers warn that they have a lot on their plates already, including vicious dogs, feral cats and thousands of stray animals crowding shelters, not to mention the occasional snake or bobcat.
So it seems that enforcing the rooster ordinances isn't at the top of the pecking order down south given the resources they've got available.

Glad we don't have the same situation here in the Bay Area (and glad we don't have the noisy roosters around us, either).

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

making urban chickens legal in Fort Collins, CO

Dan Brown's chronicling his efforts to make urban chickens legal in Fort Collins, Colorado (pop ~130,000,see larger map) over on his blog Fort Collins Urban Hens.

So far, he's made it through the Planning and Zoning board (5-2 vote), and now it's on to the City Council for a vote.

I especially like his call to action to mobilize folks to show up at the Council meeting to make their voices heard:

Now I really need help getting to the next step. If you want to support this initiative, I need people to:

1. Get the word out to the community - get conversations going to educate others about urban hens. Feel free to use my slideshow.

2. Contact your City Council representative - you can find your rep here:

3. Contact me with your suggestions or questions -
phone - [redacted]
e-mail -

4. Go to the City Council meeting on June 3rd and voice your support
Looking forward to seeing the turnout he gets at the meeting on June 3. Here's hoping Dan (and the urban chicken movement in Ft Collins) is successful!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Oakland baby chickens need homes!

Thanks to @krob on Twitter (are you following @urbanchickens yet?), I was alerted to this story about hundreds of baby chickens needing a new home after they were seized at the Oakland Airport earlier this week.

From the story:

More than 400 chicks were being shipped from a hatchery in Santa Cruz County to a slaughterhouse in Washington State. Postal workers alerted the shelter, worried that the birds were in distress.

It's legal to ship birds, as long as they just hatched and are delivered within 72 hours.

Some of the birds died, which the animal care officials blame on the recent heat wave. "They are packed usually in these small boxes that do have air holes but no food or water, which is why they have to be shipped so quickly," said Martha Klien, an animal care coordinator with the Oakland Animal Shelter.

The surviving birds are currently being housed in a room at the animal shelter that has been set up to meet their needs. The next big challenge is finding the young birds homes. Currently the shelter is working with several animal rescue groups in the Bay Area in an effort to place the chicks.

Shelter officials say the birds, while very small now, will reach their full adult size within the next five weeks.

Anyone interested in adopting should contact the animal shelter at (510) 535-5602 or visit
If you've been looking for an opportunity to get into urban chicken farming (or expand your flock), this could be an inexpensive way to do so.

BEWARE, however, that these chicks are likely not sexed, so you may accidentally wind up with a cockerel instead of a pullet.

Friday, May 16, 2008

pleading the case for urban chickens in Calgary

Thanks to Angela Rout for posting the text of her letter to Calgary Aldermen requesting they consider allowing urban chickens in Calgary (where she lives).

Angela is seeking feedback on whether she's done a good job speaking to conservative Calgarians, and I think the following is a pertinent excerpt in the urban chickens debate anywhere/everywhere:
Concerns such as hens making noise, attracting pests, becoming a nuisance, or attracting disease can all be addressed. Noise is not an issue with hens as it is roosters that make noise. The risk of attracting pests is minimal – equivalent to people keeping a bird feeder in their yard. As long as food is kept in a plastic sealed container, there is no risk. The size of a coop can be quite small (smaller than the needs of a larger dog run) and the number of hens can be restricted by by law. Also concern about avian flu or disease is a much lower risk than large bird farms - where, if there is a single case of the flu, thousands of chickens have to be slaughtered. In this case, the disease can only affect a couple hens, and cannot have as great an impact. Hens as pets means that families can give the animals personal attention, which is bound to be an improvement on the animal rights issues concerning hens living in cages in large scale egg factories.
Assuming the "conservative Calgarians" moniker can be transfered to anyone wary of the thought of urban chickens, what else is Angela's plea missing?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

delightful guests at the Urban Chickens coop

We were thrilled to be able to host our little friend Mali in the backyard yesterday. She got a chance to spend a little quality time with the chooks, and her mom has a great write-up of the experience from her point-of-view.

You must go read it now. (there's a priceless picture to accompany the post). The passage that I like most?
Mali has heretofore refused to eat eggs. Scrambled, coddled, tamago'd, absolutely not. But when she found out that it was those chickens right there who laid her eggs and that she could eat those eggs? NOM NOM NOM.
So Mali's eating eggs again now that she knows the chickens they came from... hey, isn't that how it should be?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Ann Arbor urban chickens are one step closer

WEMU radio reports that the Ann Arbor city council has approved by a vote of 7-2 the first reading on changing the ordinances to allow residents to raise chickens in their backyards!

Council will hold a public hearing on the issue next month before taking a final vote. Council member Marcia Higgins voted for the ordinance changes, but says she still has questions regarding inspection and run-off issues.

The public hearing will be held during council's first meeting in June.
Those of you who've been following along, know this is great news, indeed.

I hope to be able to find (and publish here) a transcript of the public hearing during the June council meeting, it's sure to be enlightening as to where folks line up on the issue of urban chickens.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Bay Area Silkies looking for a new home

Turns out that one of my fellow urban chicken farmers here in Redwood City has decided that seven chickens is a few too many to have in her backyard. So, she's looking to place three of her chooks with a caring home.

The kind of chickens she's got are a special breed called Silkie Bantams, and as you can see in the picture to the right (one I grabbed off the web, this is not one of the chickens up for adoption), they're not your prototypical run-of-the-coop egg layers (no offense to Sophia and ZsuZsu, our Plymouth Barred Rocks).

If you like the look of Silkies, be forewarned that they're more for looks than for egg production. So, you'll have a good looking flock in your backyard, but not so many fresh eggs in the kitchen. Why? From the American Silkie Bantam Club web site:
Because of [Silkies'] gentle and docile nature, they make wonderful pets and adapt quickly to attention and handling by people. Their tendencies towards broodiness or setting re unsurpassed and Silkie hens will hatch and raise most any kind of poultry or game fowl. Many breeders of quail or pheasant who prefer to hatch naturally as opposed to an incubator will keep a flock of Silkie hens for this purpose. Once a Silkie hen has decided to set her eggs, there is very little that will bring her from the nest until those eggs have hatched. They will even go broody without the presence of eggs.
If you ask me, there's something delightfully Dr. Seuss-ian about Silkies. If we didn't already have our two chooks, I'd be really tempted to pick up another chicken (that, and LeftcoastMom would rather we kept our flock at two.)

If you're interested in adopting these two-month-old chickens, please send an email to Aaron at aaronowie [at] yahoo [dot] com and let him know Urban Chickens sent you. :-)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

May 4 is International Respect for Chickens Day

What, you didn't buy a card for your chooks?

If not for a Google news alert, I never would have known today is the day in which we're supposed to show respect for our chickens. Per the press release at
International Respect for Chickens Day, May 4, celebrates the dignity, beauty and life of chickens and protests against the bleakness of their lives in farming operations. Launched by United Poultry Concerns in 2005, International Respect for Chickens Day traces to famed star of The Simpsons, Harry Shearer, who proclaimed Sunday, May 14, 2000 -- Mother's Day -- National Respect the Chicken Day to honor the devotion of mother hens to their chicks.
To celebrate, Minneapolis-based Chicken Run Rescue is holding its Third Annual Chicken Calendar Photo Contest to capture the beauty of chickens in a photograph. See the details here, you have until May 15 to submit your picture (of your chickens) for consideration.

Of course, the entire month of May is International Resect for Chickens Month, so the folks at United Poultry Concerns have ideas for how to celebrate including:
  • leafleting on a busy street corner
  • holding an office party or a library display
  • writing a letter to the editor
  • doing a radio talk show call-in
  • tabling at your local school, church or shopping mall
  • holding a classroom celebration
  • showing the movie Chicken Run
  • hosting a vegan open house – or simply talking to family, friends or strangers about the plight of chickens.
Or maybe, just maybe you can write an urban chicken ordinance for your local Council to enable chickens to be kept in backyards near you.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Yes, the price of chicken feed has gone up!

As I'd mentioned earlier this week, I had to stop by the local feed store to pick up another bag of layer feed for the girls and was prepared for a price increase given all the rising costs of everything these days.

And after filling my car up at $4.09 per gallon this morning, I knew to brace myself to pay more for the chickenfeed even as I walked in the front door of the store.

Sure enough, the price of a 50 pound bag of layena crumbles has risen 25% in the last four weeks to a total of $14.99 per bag.


Luckily, it takes about six weeks for our girls to go through that much feed, and maybe even longer now that they can spend so much time free-ranging for bugs, grubs and weeds in the yard during the summer.

I'm just glad we've only got two chooks to feed. Imagine multiplying the 25% increase in price for enough food to feed 10,000 chickens in an egg-laying farm. No wonder the price of eggs at the store has gone up so much!


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