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!


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