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?


Related Posts with Thumbnails