Wednesday, April 29, 2009

social media means Urban Chickens now legal in Asheville, NC

Very happy to see that the news that urban chickens are now legal in Asheville, NC (pop ~220,000, map). The city council approved the measure just last night, in front of a crowd of 120 citizens who'd shown up to urge the ruling.

What's most exciting to see about this particular effort to legalize urban chickens is how the group Asheville City Chickens was able to leverage social media to mobilize their cause.

In addition to coming up with a cute logo as an identity, the folks (Cathy, Josh, et al) pulled out all the stops in setting up a digital toolbox to rally the troops and equip people to dive in.

Among their social media portfolio:
  • a blog to announce their progress and needs and act as the platform for sharing news
  • a Twitter account (@avlcitychickens) for those bite-sized updates that can mobilize folks away from their computers
  • A Google Sites wiki to facilitate rapid collaboration and editing of content the group created together to press for the change
  • A Facebook group and a Yahoo! group to tap into the already-existing social networks of Asheville citizens and broaden the reach of their messages
  • Online petitions and bumperstickers, too.
Each of these social media tools is powerful in its own right (in the right hands) and to see the Asheville City Chickens group pull them all together in a potent mix of making their voices heard and advocating for change is fantastic.

The best part of all of this effort? All the tools they used are free for anyone to put to work on their own efforts to legalize urban chickens. That's right: the tools are free, you just need to apply effort, just like Clay Shirky has written in his book Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations (I highly, highly recommend it if you haven't yet read it). It's almost as if the Asheville City Chickens crew used it as their playbook.

Please join me in dropping a quick Tweet of congrats to the Asheville City Chickens crew!

Monday, April 27, 2009

protecting urban chickens from avian flu (Part 1)

With all the talk of swine flu in the last couple days, it's a great reminder that, as keepers of small flocks of chickens, we MUST pay attention to bio-security practices not only to protect our own urban chickens, but our community at large.

This past weekend, I had a chance to attend a Meetup of the Santa Cruz Pet Chicken group hosted by Cheryl Potter where we learned how to protect our flocks from infectious diseases and, more importantly, how to draw blood from our birds to provide to the authorities for screening should an outbreak occur near us.

The class was taught by Mark Bland, DVM, a very knowledgeable poultry veterinarian who consults with small- to medium-sized poultry farms in California from the Mexican border to Santa Rosa, and then in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.

Believe me when I say Bland's seen a lot of things happen to chickens in his days on the farm(s). Even better, he's a great story teller and really knows how to talk to us backyard chicken folks in a way we'll understand. Sure, he's used to dealing with flocks of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of birds, but his knowledge applies directly to our own scale of urban chicken farming. What we lack in numbers, we more than make up for in care (dare I say love?) for our few hens.

But, you say, the closest I get to a big chicken farm is when I buy a shrink-wrapped bone-in breast at the supermarket, why should I care what they do at the big farms? My girls will never get close. They don't have to because you just might without even realizing it.

Backyard flocks get infected from human cross-contamination. Full stop.

Whenever you visit other chickens in your neighborhood, at a store, at a show or on a farm, there's a chance you'll pick up a strain of a virus and take it back to your own flock.

Yes, when you visit another friend who's an urban chicken owner, you're putting your own chickens at risk of contracting whatever disease the other chickens might have, whether it's manifest itself in recognizable symptoms or not. And if you don't transfer a virus, you might just be transferring mites, instead.

All kinds of invisible goodies can make the hop to your flock via you as a human carrier, so here's what you do to reduce the risk:
  1. Keep a set of chicken clothes to use exclusively to interact with your flock: in the picture above, you can see Mark's got one of those great blue overalls getups to wear. You should have something similar (or a complete set of clothes, including shoes) that you wear when tending to your chickens and ONLY when tending to your chickens.
  2. Assume all other chickens are infected: If you find yourself in the company of other birds for whatever reason (they're at the local feed store, you see some at a farmer's market, you stop by a neighbor's coop), assume you've picked up something on your clothes or person that's danegerous to your own flock. Don't rush home and out to the coop first thing. Take precautions, as in...
  3. Clean up well (self, clothes, tools): Just as you wouldn't dream of leaving the restroom without thoroughly washing your hands, you shouldn't dream of getting near your birds with your street clothes on. Believe it or not, it's possible to pick up mites/viruses from contaminated delivery vehicles that have been out to a processing plant and parked next to you while delivering the goods to a store.
  4. Keep a closed flock: no co-mingling of chickens. And if you introduce new chickens to your flock (either to expand or replace), quarantine the new birds in a different part of the yard for a couple weeks just to make sure they aren't sick before introducing into your existing flock. Even if you got a new chick from the same store you got your others just a few weeks before, they came from different flocks and you'd do well to protect the ones you have by taking this quarantine precaution.
The good news in all this? It's rather difficult for chickens to get the flu from coming in contact with it (they're low on the totem pole, well below ducks and turkeys and other fowl). Couple this fact with the knowledge that our backyard flocks have very low stress levels (out in the elements, enjoying their lives scratching around our backyards) compared to their agri-business-raised sisters, and it'd be difficult for our birds to get a high-path flu.

In the next post, I'll explain the difference between high-path and low-path avian influenzas and what to do if you suspect one of your birds is sick.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Defanging four arguments against urban chickens

On this Earth Day, it's great to see efforts to overturn ham-fisted ordinances banning urban chickens cropping up all over the country (just take a look at the Google News search for "urban chicken laws").

The benefits to backyard chickens are many (pest control, fertilizer, eggs, entertainment), so it makes perfect sense that rational people would seek to legalize the keeping of small flocks of hens (not roosters!) on their own property.

Time and again, however, the rational pursuit of changing the law runs into an emotional barrier thrown up by NIMBYs and others who see urban chickens as a retreat to less sophisticated times. The lack of sophistication, however, is typically found in the arguments against urban chickens that, no matter how specious, still grab the imagination and make perfectly rational members of city government act in irrational ways.

After watching two years' worth of battles to legalize urban chickens, I've identified the four most common myths introduced as fact in the argument against chickens in the backyard:
  1. Chickens produce too much poop - the fact of the matter is that dogs and cats produce way more excrement in a week than a flock of four hens. And while the chicken manure can be converted easily into fertilizer to help your garden grow, for health reasons, you cannot do the same with dog and cat poop.
  2. It'll cost too much to enforce an urban chicken law - the kind of people who want to raise chickens in their backyards for eggs are doing so (mostly) out of a sense responsibility for taking control of their food sourcing and reducing their carbon footprint. These are not the kinds of folks who'll be requiring animal control to come out and bust chicken owners for too many animals making too much noise (see: dogs).
  3. Owning chickens means hosting salmonella in your backyard - the food safety folks have done a great job sensitizing the public to take care in handling chicken so as to avoid salmonella. The simpletons spreading salmonella fears as an argument against urban chickens don't seem to understand that salmonella is a problem of safe food handling, not of responsible pet ownership.
  4. Backyard chickens will spread the bird flu - the fact is, it's through backyard flocks that we might insulate ourselves from the spread of the H5N1 virus and the like that tear through the million-bird in-bred flocks of large-scale agribusiness. But, of all the arguments against urban chickens, this is the point most often deployed as an end-of-discussion "so there."
So, if you find yourself up against any of the above arguments in your own efforts to get urban chickens legalized in your city, read the posts and use the research to help steer the argument away from the sensational and back to the rational.

If you've got other arguments you're hearing against urban chickens, please let me know so I can help you counter them with fact.

Oh, and keep an eye on the "law" tag here on this blog. Whenever I post about a struggle to legalize urban chickens in one city or another, I always apply the law tag to it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Chicken Poop for the Soul

Got scooped by my better half on this story over on the Washington Post about converting chicken poop into energy (really!) and lots of it.

Evidently, it's a process called pyrolysis that super-heats the poop, converting it into three products: oil (for heating), slow-release fertilizer and a gas to power the pyrolysis machine itself, or so the researchers hope.

Head on over to her blog, Left Coast Mom, to read the rest and see a bonus chicken portrait from our own backyard (no poop harmed in the taking of the photo).

NOTE: the clever title for this post is blatantly stolen from her post. She's a much better writer than I'll ever dream of being, and she actually makes money from her craft!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

urban chickens: solving the spread of bird flu

This is the fourth post in a series exploring some of the more common concerns I see raised in the debate to allow urban chickens. (see previous installments: salmonella fears, what to do with the poop and the cost to enforce urban chicken laws)

Today's topic is the argument I see thrown earliest and most carelessly by any naive naysayer in the discussion of legalizing urban chickens: "brilliant idea! Chickens in the yard next door. Hasn't anyone heard of bird flu?!?"

the best response to this is to take a few minutes (four, to be exact) to watch the embedded movie below to make you more educated about bird flu than 98% of the population. I'll see you once you scroll below the flick:

So, as the movie says, and as the research, some of which I share below, shows: our backyard flocks are actually part of the solution, not part of the problem of spreading bird flu throughout the world.

The Origins of Bird Flu

Dr. Michael Greger has written a wonderful book, Bird Flu -- A Virus of Our Own Hatching, that delivers a meticulously detailed, yet highly readable, examination of bird flu and what it means to us. (Those of you who've seen Mad City Chickens will recognize him from the vignette covering bird flu in the movie).

Here's his brief recap of how the flu came about and why it's coming out of Asia:
Experts think human influenza started about 4,500 years ago with the domestication of waterfowl like ducks, the original source of all influenza viruses. According to the University of Hong Kong’s Kennedy Shortridge, this “brought influenza viruses into the ‘farmyard,’ leading to the emergence of epidemics and pandemics.” Before 2500 B.C.E., likely nobody ever got the flu.

Duck farming dramatically spread and intensified over the last 500 years, beginning during the Ching Dynasty in China in 1644 A.D. Farmers moved ducks from the rivers and tributaries onto flooded rice fields to be used as an adjunct to rice farming. This led to a permanent year-round gene pool of avian influenza viruses in East Asia in close proximity to humans. The domestic duck of southern China is now considered the principal host of all influenza viruses with pandemic potential.

This is probably why the last two pandemics started in China. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), China is the largest producer of chicken, duck, and goose meat for human consumption. It accounts for 70% of the world’s tonnage of duck meat and more than 90% of global goose meat. China has more than two dozen species of waterfowl. As Osterholm has said, “China represents the most incredible reassortment laboratory for influenza viruses that anyone could ever imagine.”

Extensive sampling of Asian waterfowl in the years following the Hong Kong outbreak seems to have tracked H5N1 to a farmed goose outbreak in 1996, the year the number of waterfowl raised in China exceeded 2 billion birds. The virus seemed to have been playing a game of Duck, Duck, Goose…then Chicken.
If you take a look at any of the World Health Organization (WHO) maps showing the spread of H5N1 avian influenza, you'll notice right away the Western Hemisphere is missing from the map. Why? Because the H5N1 virus has never been found in North or South America.

Since 2003, H5N1 has infected at least 411 people in 15 countries and killed 254. It has killed or forced the culling of more than 300 million birds in 61 countries in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe. When you look at the Google News bird flu stories, you'll see where they're not coming from: North and South America.

Factory Farming and the Fragile Flock

In order for the flu virus to mutate, it has to have plenty of infected host bodies to use to evolve from one strain to the next as it find the best way to exploit the host body.

Factory farms, where hundreds of thousands of birds are kept in close proximity in their battery cages, are the perfect breeding ground for viruses to mutate and spread. The economics are simple: if we want cheap eggs and cheap chicken meat, the conditions must be crowded which lead to stressed birds and suppressed immune systems which further enable the virus to mutate and jump.

And it's just these kind of conditions that make it easy (and necessary) for the culling of millions of birds in a short period of time to prevent an influenza from spreading from just a few infected birds to millions. Great fodder for headlines.

When you look at our backyard flocks of six, twelve or even twenty chickens, there simply isn't a sufficient pool of bodies for the flu virus to mutate enough to make the leap from affecting the intestines of the fowl to infecting the lungs of a mammal (or human).

Moreover, the fact we're keeping our chickens in free-ranging (or close to it) environments means the flu virus is likely exposed to sunlight which quickly kills the virus and prevents it from spreading. Compare the sunlight exposure of even the most crowded narrow backyard to the cavernous dank and dark conditions inside a factory farm chicken house, and you can easily see which environment is more likely to contribute to the flu's spreading.

Dr. Gerger continues:
All bird flu viruses seem to start out harmless to both birds and people. In its natural state, the influenza virus has existed for millions of years as an innocuous, intestinal, waterborne infection of aquatic birds such as ducks. If the true home of influenza viruses is the gut of wild waterfowl, the human lung is a long way from home. How does a waterfowl’s intestinal bug end up in a human cough? Free-ranging flocks and wild birds have been blamed for the recent emergence of H5N1, but people have kept chickens in their backyards for thousands of years, and birds have been migrating for millions.

In a sense, pandemics aren’t born—they’re made. H5N1 may be a virus of our own hatching coming home to roost. According to a spokesperson for the World Health Organization, “The bottom line is that humans have to think about how they treat their animals, how they farm them, and how they market them—basically the whole relationship between the animal kingdom and the human kingdom is coming under stress.” Along with human culpability, though, comes hope. If changes in human behavior can cause new plagues, changes in human behavior may prevent them in the future.
The Mythology of Urban Chickens and Avian Flu

Everyone remembers that lone cow that kicked over the lantern in the O'Leary's barn to start the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 which killed hundreds and destroyed four square miles of buildings. Well, it turns out the cow causing the fire was a myth, created by Michael Ahern, a Chicago Republican reporter, to sell the story of the fire better.

It seems urban chickens are getting the same fanciful treatment when it comes to fear-mongering about bird flu, specifically the H5N1 virus which is regarded as poised to become the next pandemic.

What people don't seem to realize is that our urban chickens are the solution to stopping H5N1, not the problem!

I close with this last quote from Dr. Gerger's book:
To reduce the emergence of viruses like H5N1, humanity must shift toward raising poultry in smaller flocks, under less stressful, less crowded, and more hygienic conditions, with outdoor access, no use of human antivirals, and with an end to the practice of breeding for growth or unnatural egg production at the expense of immunity. This would also be expected to reduce rates of increasingly antibiotic-resistant pathogens such as Salmonella, the number-one food-borne killer in the United States. We need to move away from the industry’s fire-fighting approach to infectious disease to a more proactive preventive health approach that makes birds less susceptible—even resilient—to disease in the first place.
Sounds like a ringing endorsement of urban chickens to me. Why some cities still refuse to legalize them seems all the more insane to me now.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Automatic urban chicken coop door opener

Mark Frauenfelder has a wonderful post up over on the Dinosaurs and Robots blog showing off the automatic chicken coop door opener he's created.

Frauenfelder's solved the problem of having to get up at the crack of dawn to let his anxious chooks out of the coop and into the run: the door operates on a timer that opens promptly at 6:30am to release the girls to go about their day in the run.

He's also got the timer set to close the door again at 9pm after the girls have gone to sleep. It's perfect for those of us who aren't close to home at dusk due to work or other activities.

Want to make one of these for your coop? The complete instructions (including diagrams and photos) are posted over on BuildEazy: Automatic Chicken House Door.

If necessity is the mother of invention, I think it's only a matter of time before someone creates an automatic egg butler that will collect eggs from the coop and bring them to your table, cooking them to order on the way.

Know of any other cool urban chicken technology? Share the lead and I'll write it up here in a future post with a hat-tip to you.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

upcoming urban chicken coop tours

This past weekend's Funky Chicken Coop Tour in Austin is a good reminder to pull together a list of other chicken coop tours around the country this Spring.

The chicken coop tours I know of so far are:
And tours that happened in 2008 but I don't yet see 2009 dates for include Albuquerque and Madison (Wisconsin).

Whether you're still at the planning stages of urban chicken farming or have had your own coop for years, going on chicken coop tour is a great way to see how others look after their chooks, get some inspiration for changes you might make to your own urban chicken setup or just meet your fellow backyard chicken fans on a beautiful day around the city.

If you know of a coop tour I've missed, please drop me a line or add it in the comments and I'll update this post to include it. Thanks, and have fun on your tours!

Monday, April 13, 2009

600 Urban Chicks Given Away in Atlanta

About 600 chicks were given away to people in Roswell, Georgia (metro Atlanta) last Saturday as part of the Chicken Stimulus Package giveaway.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that over 130 people took home up to four 3-day-old chicks from the event after making a donation to a cancer research center in Florida.

Over 900 chicks were on hand for the event, and the remaining chicks went to local feed stores (who made donations, too).

On the one hand, I'm happy to see the self-described "Chicken Outlaw" Andy Wordes (his label for himself, having been cited by the city for raising 13 chickens on his suburban land) was able to organize this chick giveaway as it means more people will get a chance to experience the joys of raising backyard chickens.

On the other hand, organizing the giveaway so close to Easter when there's quite the history of people buying Easter chicks to give as gifts only to have them pass away like so many un-tended gold fish is unfortunate timing, at best.

The Humane Society of the United States opposes giving chicks to children on Easter —- many of the animals aren’t well cared for and die quickly —- and had criticized the giveaway and its timing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reminds parents this time of year that young birds often carry salmonella bacteria and that children are especially susceptible by touching a bird and putting a hand in their mouth.

Wordes said the chicks, donated by hatcheries, were intended to be pets and he wouldn’t give them to people who wouldn’t care for them. Volunteers set up information stands and examples of broods, coops and show chickens. Sandy Springs “Chicken Whisperer” radio host Andy Schneider was on hand to answer questions.

“If anyone here wants Easter chicks, they’re in the wrong place,” Wordes said.

I wonder how Wordes screened the aspiring urban chicken owners to make sure they weren't just in it for the Easter chick.

What kind of questions would you ask to test the mettle of a wannabe urban chicken farmer?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Four Efforts to Legalize Urban Chickens

A quick roundup this morning of news on efforts in the East to get urban chickens legalized in a smattering of cities, as well as some of the amusing acronyms groups are adopting to organize their efforts under.
  • Philadelphia: The Inquirer talks of Chicks and the city where folks are trying to change Section 10-112 of the Philadelphia Code. There's a poll about keeping chickens yea-or-nay on the page for the story, so be sure to take that while you're reading it. And also check out the group Chicken Owners Outside Philadelphia (COOP) which has a list of the local codes dealing with chickens in the metro-Philly area.
  • Las Cruces (NM): The Sun-News has a story about the petition circulating by the group Citizens for Legalizing Urban Chicken Keeping (CLUCK) in this town at the southern end of my home state. They've been at it for a year and are finally in dialog with the city.
  • Buffalo: The Buffalo News Editors in Seed the East Side are urging the the mayor to Farm Buffalo (the third-poorest large city in the nation). There's been a lot of talk about chickens in Buffalo recently due to Monique Watts getting busted for keeping five chickens on her property. What's surprised me is how quickly the City Council seems to be pivoting to re-examine whether urban chickens should be illegal to begin with.
  • Carson City (NV): The Nevada Appeal's story Fresh Ideas: Carson City should allow urban chickens even cites the movie Mad City Chickens to calm concerns about bird flu (go, Tarazod!).
So, lots of efforts afoot to get more urban chickens in backyards across the country in towns big and small. Here's hoping they're all successful!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

urban chickens outlawed in Waterloo, Ontario

Disappointing news out of Ontario this morning. The city council cast a tie vote (4-4) which means the urban chickens ordinance allowing up to ten hens per household did not pass. has the full details of why the council voted the measure down, but the net-net is that the most vocal residents had their fears about smells and noise and rodents win out over the interests of the urban chicken set. The Mayor herself said she was concerned about the rights of "people who don't want to live beside people who have chickens."

What's most interesting about the Waterloo situation to me is that, technically, urban chickens were not outlawed prior to this council action. With no law on the books about chickens, residents of Waterloo weren't breaking any laws if they set up a coop. With the recent push to get them legalized, the council was forced to address the issue, and unfortunately, they chose emotion over logic and placed chickens under a bylaw regulating fowl, pigeons and other like birds currently prohibited.

This presents a bit of conundrum for those of us wanting to raise urban chickens in our backyard: if there's no law on the books explicitly dealing with chickens, do we raise our urban chickens in the grey area of "nothing tells me I can't explicitly do this"? Or, as the folks in Waterloo did, do we try to get our elected representatives to do the sensible thing and explicitly legalize small flocks of hens (no roosters) in our backyards.

If we do the latter, we risk what happened in Waterloo where the council seemed to be doing the correct progressive thing but instead took a surprise backward turn and banned the ability for residents to raise their own food.

What do you think is the better option? Living in limbo or forcing the issue?

EDIT (4/7 @10a): Just learned via the London Free Press article that "Residents who already have backyard coops will be able to continue the practice." This presents an interesting option for others facing a similar Waterloo quandry: build your coop first inside the legal grey area, then press to get the laws on the books and if you're unsuccessful, get grandfathered in.

Monday, April 6, 2009

chickens do math

Just a quick story from Ars Technica this morning that's got me appreciating how smart chickens are (again):
Another case of eerily intelligent birds. This is [a] case of some clever experimental design. The authors managed to get newly hatched chicks to imprint on plastic spheres, which has an interesting consequence: apparently, when faced with collections of identical spheres, they'll head for the larger group. With the chicks properly trained, the authors then determined they could count by moving two sets of the spheres behind opaque screens as the chick watched. Once released, the chicks consistently headed for the screen that obscured the larger number of items. To test for math skills, the authors then started moving items between the screens as the chickens watched, and found that they still went to the location with more of the items.

No wonder they outlasted the dinosaurs.
I'm sure this has something to do with seeking (and finding) protection from predators by playing the numbers game in a bigger flock: if there are more of us, the chances of me getting eaten by a predator are smaller.

Come to think of it, I use the same kind of thinking during our open water swims in the ocean: the more swimmers in the group, the better odds I have against a shark attack. No need to imprint on plastic spheres for me!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

buyer beware: chicks in high demand

Given all the interest in urban chickens this Spring, I shouldn't be too surprised at the news coming in from across the country that hatcheries are scrambling to keep up with demand (Missori) and local feed stores are seeing their shipments of chicks disappear quickly (Oregon).

While it used to take six weeks to sell 800 chicks, the folks at Grain Growers sold out within ten days of the last shipment arriving. And looking at the pricing at some of the bigger hatcheries (like McMurray Hatchery), it's looking like getting chicks in the next month will cost you more than waiting until May. Of course, dealing with smaller batches from online retailers (like doesn't yet seem to reflect the price increases.

No matter where you get your chicks, if you're in the market for getting your first urban chickens, be careful you don't get caught up in the emotion of the moment and over-pay for your chicks to have them now-now-NOW!

And whatever you do, make sure you pick the right chick and don't settle for "what's left in this shipment." Remember, you're going to have this chicken with you for years to come and eating the eggs it lays. Don't settle for second best.

In the meantime, why not spend a little more time working on building the coop?

Friday, April 3, 2009

5 ways to tap the urban chicken support network

One of the biggest challenges of making the leap into raising urban chickens (especially when you think you're the first one in your neighborhood to do so) is having someone to turn to for assistance when the hundred-and-first little doubt creeps in about whether you're really ready to do this.

Thanks to the internets and Google, it's relatively easy to find content online that'll answer some (most?) of your questions. One of the reasons I started this blog was to try and synthesize all the information I was gathering (and producing by trying things myself) so that others could make better informed decisions when they followed a similar path.

But how do you find a local support network? Here are a few things you can do to find others nearby:
  1. Join in the forums: In addition to being a treasure trove of all things related to raising small flocks of chickens, there's a wonderful social side to the forums and you can search the user profiles for folks posting from somewhere near you.
  2. Join a Pet Chicken Meetup group: If there's not already a meetup group going, you can toss your name on the "I'm interested" list and when there's a critcal mass, start your own!
  3. Post a flyer at your local feed store: If you're buying your supplies from a local store, chances are great that you're not the only customer keeping them in business and making it worth their while to stock chicken feed. Ask if you can post a flyer encouraging the other urban chicken farming customers to meet for coffee at the local coffee house to swap stories.
  4. Check into local 4-H activities: I'd love to have a link here to the national 4-H website, but I'm disappointed to see you can't really use the site to find local chapters. Thankfully, a lot of the local 4-H groups have created their own sites, so a Google search is rather robust in finding local chapters. Try this one on "4-H poultry" and add your location to refine the results further.
  5. Make it easier to be found by others: Comment on chicken-related blogs (see my blog roll on the right as a starting point) or visit and join our Urban Chickens fan page on Facebook (we're about to cross over 1,500 fans!) or even start your own blog or Twitter account or Flickr photo stream and tag your stuff "urban chickens."
How have you found other chicken-loving folks to build your own network? Got a chicken blog you want me to add to my blog roll? Share in the comments below!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Can You Win the Chicken Photo Contest?

Think your urban chicken is the fanciest or the funniest? Let the folks over at Purina Mills know, as they're holding America's Fanciest and Funniest Chicken Photo Contest. If your photo wins, you could get a years' supply of feed for your lucky bird.

They even put together a contest video promotion.

From a quick spin I just took through the photos already submitted, I know that any of you dear readers already have better looking photos published to your blogs and/or facebook albums. Why not enter to win?

In addition to the photo contest, Purina Mills is also hosting a series of "Chick Days" at dealers across the country where experts will be available to offer advice and guidance on how to raise chickens from freshly hatched chicks through laying, including details on proper nutrition to provide the best eggs.

To find a participating dealer, check the store locator and give them a call to see when they're holding their own Chick Day.

I just checked to see which Purina-stocking store's closest to us, and it's Concord Feed way over in Concord (about 40 miles away). Maybe there's one closer to you?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

starting out: unboxing and brooding your chicks

Found this delightful video posted to YouTube wherein Sarah shows us how to unbox new chicks and set up the brooder in which they'll spend the first few weeks of their lives.

The video's pretty comprehensive, covering how to set up a small brooding area, the recipe for chick food, how to mix the water with electrolytes and vitamins, how to set up a heating light and recommended bedding for the new chicks. See it below:

While Sarah's take on raising chickens has a distinctively survivalist tone to it, it's nice to see her document the "new chick experience" so thoroughly for the rest of us to see.

Thanks, Sarah!


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