Saturday, August 29, 2009

sudden chicken death: RIP Sophia :-(

Sophia and ZsuZsu walking the property

I'm so sad.

Melanie went out to tend the chickens this evening and found Sophia in a heap, expired, in the back corner of the run, just outside the door of the coop.

Not sure why she died. There was no sign of suffering. She was just lying down in the corner, eyes closed, motionless.

ZsuZsu was noticeably upset, making a lot of squawking noises as I gathered up Sophia's body to preserve it over the weekend.

I'll be taking Sophia's remains to the UC Davis Lab on Monday so they can perform a necropsy.

I'm still in shock, just going through the motions. Our daughter's taking it hard.

Friday, August 28, 2009

what does healthy urban chicken poop look like?

Ever seen something come out the back side of your hen and think, "Ewww, that can't be coming out of a healthy bird!" I mean, after you've gotten over the shock of the quantity of (small) poops, there's the look and consistency and (sometimes) smell to contend with.

Thanks to Madeleine in our San Mateo Chickens Yahoo! group, I can share this pictorial directory to what "healthy" chicken poop looks like.

Yep, you read that right: here are the chicken poop pics over on the UK-based Allotment Gardening Forum.

I was surprised (and relieved) to discover the range of "normal" is actually quite wide. And there's no mystery as to what the bad stuff looks like. You don't have to be a veterinarian to recognize the obvious signs in abnormal-looking poop.

Photo credit: Caver Chris on Flickr

Monday, August 24, 2009

too many urban chicken eggs? freeze 'em!

joining the rest of the dozenIf you're like me, there have been times when you've got too many eggs in the house for whatever reason (the girls are hyper-productive, or you're just taking a break from eating your fresh yummy backyard eggs).

Did you know you can freeze whole eggs? Here's how:
  • remove eggs from their shells
  • pierce yolks and, for every 2 eggs: gently mix in 1/8 teaspoon of salt for use in savory dishes or 1 teaspoon of sugar for use in sweet dishes
  • Place in covered airtight containers or heavy-duty freezer bags and freeze (don't forget to mark the containers savory or sweet!
This is just one of the many great resources I found on a site called which is a guide for how long you can keep food around before it needs to be tossed/composted, despite what the sell-by date says.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Surfacing Indiana's urban chicken underground

Got a nice note from John over at the Garden Coop this morning alerting me to a story on about Lafayette's chicken underground.

One of Gay-Ellen Stulp's (illegal) chickens escaped her yard in Lafayette, IN (pop ~ 57,000) earlier this year, and after a neighbor reported the renegade hen to authorities, Stulp was forced to relocate her hens to a farm outside the city.

While a law in 1971 allowed chickens in the city so long as they were quiet, a later ordinance was passed lumping chickens in with the rest of the barnyard animals that were banned from the city.

Stulp has collected over 200 signatures in support of changing the law to allow citizens to keep chickens in the city. Associate professor Mickey Latour of the Purdue University poultry extension office is going to be present at the meeting where the chicken issue will be discussed.

We can only hope Latour will help cooler, rational heads prevail and Stulp can bring her chickens home where they belong: in the city with all the other cats and dogs that are already welcome around town.

Oh, and just to give you a sense of how much attention's being paid to this issue, there've been over 65 comments left on the article since 8am this morning. Thankfully, the comments left later in the day seem to be thoughtful, reasoned reactions to the article and not the shrill drivel that so often appear shortly after urban chicken articles are posted what with their usual "rodents! smell! bird flu! oh, my!" tone.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

how big is the anti-urban-chicken movement?

As evidenced by the stream of articles tagged "chicken" coming into my Google Reader, many folks are still struggling to get the laws changed to allow them to have their own chickens.

Across all these new stories, I've spotted patterns to the typical anti-chicken arguments: noise, disease, smell, enforcement costs.

I've provided guidance on how to de-fang these four arguments which I think can help a concerned citizen persuade their city council with logic-based arguments for why the typical knee-jerk concerns about backyard chickens are baseless.

But it seems in every town, there's one or two highly (strung and) concerned citizens who see backyard chickens as the top of the slippery slope to a barnyard-themed hell in front of the country club. And these folks always seem to get the ear of a councilperson or two and manage to stop the urban chicken movement in its tracks.

Case in point, in an article in the Tenessean about legalizing chickens in Nashville, we get this choice piece (emphasis mine):
Current zoning law prohibits domestic farm animals in most areas of Nashville. A woman in southeast Nashville, Ginger Stitt, was cited for having six chickens and a duck, but she argued that her birds were pets, not farm animals, and won an appeal in June.

Her councilman, Carl Burch, promptly orchestrated a bill to specify that chickens and other fowl, as well as large animals such as pigs, cows and horses, are farm animals and, thus, are prohibited.

"You can imagine what would happen if we just open the door in the urban services district," such as someone arguing that a 300-pound pig was a pet, Burch said.

He recognizes there are citizens committed to urban agriculture, but "there is a huge, huge contingent out there who do not want chickens in their neighborhoods."
Really? I think I'd disagree with councilman Burch on this point. I think in any given city/town/metropolis there's actually but a handful of folks who have issues with the way their lives are going, and for some reason the thought of chickens in someone else's backyard sets them off.

I actually think there's a huge, huge contingent out there who don't really give a hoot about urban chickens. This huge contingent would much rather have their city councils focus on bigger issues than listen to a few folks rant against a simple zoning change.

Am I right that the opposition is actually quite small? Or have you seen the kind of huge contingent that councilman Burch is beholden to in your own town?

Thanks to Thomas Hawk for the great "I Can't Afford an Actual Sign" picture.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Mad City Chickens screens San Francisco

Tashai Lovington and Robert Lughai -- Mad City Chickens FilmmakersSlow Food San Francisco held a screening of Mad City Chickens at the Delancey Street Theater tonight, and what a treat it was to be able to meet the filmmakers and see their film on the big screen in THX sound!

Longtime readers know I've been a big fan of Tashai and Robert's documentary since I first caught wind of it way back when. I purchased the DVD as soon as it was released and while I couldn't help get a screening here in Redwood City, I was more than happy to drive up to San Francisco to meet them at the Slow Food event.

There looked to be about 80 of us in the auditorium to see the film, and while I'd see the movie several times before, there's something about watching en masse that lends more enjoyment to the subject matter at hand. After all, how often are you surrounded by a group of chicken-lovers (and wanna-bes) seeing the objects of your affection idolized on the screen?

While Robert (the "t" is silent, mind you) and I had exchanged several emails over the last couple years, it was especially thrilling to actually talk chickens with him face-to-face. As you can imagine, he's just as personable as you'd assume given the loving treatment of chickens and chicken owners that he and Tashai ("not touché") infused the film with.

While it would have been nice to pick up another copy of the DVD after the show, it turns out Saturday night's screening in nearby Davis, CA with its 350 attendees(!) cleaned them out of DVD inventory.

There was a short Q&A session after the film, and I appreciate Robert's shout-out to during his time on the stage. His pointing me out led to some fun conversations afterwards with fellow attendees about chickens in Oakland, bees and chickens, edible garden design and how the keeping of chickens in Jamaica has changed over the last couple decades.

Robert, if you do wind up screening the film in Jamaica, let me be the first to volunteer to write your travel blog for you! (have a great time on Pt Reyes tomorrow)

Oh, and if you'd like to have your own screening of Mad City Chickens in a gathering space near you (it's HIGHLY entertaining and educational if you're trying to persuade folks to help you change laws to allow chickens in your city), here's how to coordinate one.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Raising Chickens (not just) for Dummies

So, I think this is a sign the urban chickens movement is more than just a "fad": we've got our very own black-and-yellow Raising Chickens For Dummiesbook!

(And if you're looking for further proof of the movement's popularity:'s already sold out of its initial stock just 2 days after it became available.)

In typical "For Dummies" fashion, they've covered the gamut of what you need to know, from choosing your chickens to housing your flock to general care & feeding. There's even sections on breeding and special management tips for raising layers and broilers.

Looks like I've found a new recommended book for urban chicken newbies.


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