Wednesday, October 21, 2009

VIDEO: Urban Chickens Ambassadors in Chicagoland

Found this great Chicago Tonight TV news segment on urban chickens in Evanston (where they're illegal) and all around Chicago (where they're legal). What I love about segments like this is how they re-kindle the excitement and enthusiasm and "ain't-this-cool?" factor of having chickens in the backyard. Take a look yourself:

If you're saving it for later, the quick synopsis of the six minute segment is: A profile of Laurie Zoloth, a bioethicist at Northwestern University, who is keeping chickens in her Evanston backyard in direct violation of the city code against it. The reporter then takes us on a tour all around Chicago to see the hens and the coops and the owners talking about why they have their legal chickens in the city. A bit talking to a local Feed Store owner confirming interest in chickens is really picking up. There's even a quick appearance by Tashai and Robert (our Mad City Chickens producers)!

All around, a nice piece, and it features some good ambassadors of the urban chicken movement. Thanks to Mr Brown Thumb for the original post about the segment over on Chicago Garden.

As a footnote, when I first started writing this blog, it seemed all things urban chicken were talked about in early Spring as folks busied themselves getting ready for the annual plantings. Now, however, the fascination with urban chickens seems to have decoupled from the gardening season and is on its own track and is building momentum. So great to see so many people interested in the wonderful experience of hosting urban chickens in your own backyard!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Can you help chickens at the animal shelter?

When looking to add to your urban chicken flock, there are many places besides the feed and fuel store where you can find a new hen including Craigslist, the local chicken group's listserv, and... the animal shelter!

Yes, chickens wind up at the animal shelter just like any other kind of animal, but it's not usually the first place people think to look. For a small adoption fee, you can spare these chickens from an untimely demise and add a new bird to your flock.

Here in the Bay Area, there are several chickens available right now (shelter names are linked to the respective web sites for follow-up):

At the Oakland Animal Shelter:
5 Sebright Bantam Hens
1 Sebright Bantam Rooster
1 Crested Polish Hen
1 Crested Polish Rooster

San Francisco Animal Care & Control:
3 teenager chicks
1 teenager hen
1 Chinese Silkie Hen

SPCA for Monterey County:
4 Hens
9 Roosters

If you think you can afford to house one more chicken, please consider reaching out to help those whose time is running out at a shelter near you.

A big thanks to Anne M, a volunteer at the Oakland Animal Shelter, for her helpful reminder and for the photos of the chickens available in Oakland in this post.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

urban chickens help with climate change

It's not hard to see that keeping urban chickens are part of at least two of the solutions published in Scientific American's 10 Solutions for Climate Change.

Consume Less: cutting back on consumption results in fewer fossil fuels being burned to transport products around the globe.

By keeping hens in your own backyard, you're able to cut back on the transport requirements from manufacturer to your house for several items at once:
  • eggs: instead of trucking and refrigerating eggs en masse from the farm to your table,  you simply walk across the yard and collect your own. Bonus: yard-collected eggs can sit on your counter at room temperature until ready to use (within a month of collecting).
  • herbicides and pesticides: if you're letting your hens free range around your yard, you no doubt have discovered how good they are at eating many weeds and bugs that you'd otherwise have to spray to control.
  • fertilizer: with hens in your yard, you've got prolific nitrogen-producing machines that'll get your compost bin producing rich fertilizer in overdrive.
Eat Smart, Go Vegetarian? Organic produce is often shipped from halfway across the globe. And meat requires pounds of feed to produce a pound of protein. Choosing food items that balance nutrition, taste and ecological impact is no easy task.

By keeping chickens in your backyard as part of a larger gardening experience, you know exactly where your veggies have come from (and where the fertilizer is sourced, too). Moreover, you've got a great source of low-cost high-quality protein produced for you almost every day: the egg.

No need to go vegetarian to lessen your impact on the climate, and no need to eat the birds themselves. A couple backyard hens can produce a dozen eggs a week for you which provides plenty of protein as part of a sensible diet.

As part of Blog Action Day, take a look at the rest of the 10 Solutions for Climate Change and add to the comments any ways you find urban chickens are part of on of the solutions.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fort Collins Urban Chickens Law: what went wrong?

(Spoiler alert: absolutely nothing!) In early 2008, there were quite a few ruffled feathers and loud squawks of despair around the thought of legalizing urban chickens in Fort Collins, Colorado. The arguments against keeping chickens were the usual "we don't want no dirty, smelly, loud, disease-infested, rodent-attracting critters around here" kind.

However, thanks to the perseverance of Dan Brown of the Fort Collins Urban Hens, the measure (a strict one, at that) was passed in September 2008, allowing six hens per household.

This week, the Coloradoan has a great follow-up story on all that's happened in Fort Collins since chickens were made legal, and as we urban chickens fans would expect, everything's gone just fine, thankyouverymuch.

In fact, a total of 36 households have acquired chicken licenses (and one could assume, chickens, too), yet none of the bad things the opposition had foretold has come to pass.

Director of animal control with the Larimer Humane Society, Bill Porter, says that of the 14,314 calls to animal control since the chicken law went on the books, "There were four calls of complaints from roosters crowing." The four roosters in town that peeved off neighbors were "accidents," Porter reports: owners thought they were buying hens as chicks only to discover they were roosters. "The other two regarded smell and location of the coop, and both cases were unfounded." (emphasis mine)

Longtime readers know that one of the arguments AGAINST urban chickens that's consistently trotted out time and again is the myth of "it'll cost too much to enforce the new rule." Even though the calls to animal control in Fort Collins were bogus, they still took time to investigate. But these calls were less than one-tenth of one percent of the volume of complaints to deal with (0.04% to be exact). A rounding error, at best.

It's satisfying to see real evidence that enforcement costs come nowhere near what the anti-chicken crew would have you believe. Yet another case of proving the anti-chicken hysteria wrong.

Reminds me a lot of the follow-up story Missoula Urban Chickens Law: what went wrong?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

knowing where your food comes from

This past Sunday, there was an eye-opening article in the Sunday New York Times about Stephanie Smith, a 22-year-old dance instructor who remains paralyzed from a food-borne illness caused by e. coli which came from a hamburger she ate.

The offending hamburger came from a batch of frozen burger patties shipped by agri-conglomerate Cargill. The batch was made from slaughterhouse trimmings sourced from plants in Nebraska, Texas, South Dakota and Uruguay(!) and assembled in a plant in Wisconsin before shipping out as "American Chef's Selection Angus Beef Patties." Given the varied and distributed sources of ingredients for these patties, it's amazing we're not reading of plights like Ms. Smith's more often.

Or are we?

In today's NYTimes blog, Timothy Egan has a lovely yet scary post from the Yakima Valley in Washington state launching off the groundwork of Sunday's column and reveals that there are more than 70 million cases of food-borne illnesses a year in the US, resulting in 5,000 deaths. Egan's post is worth the read, but if you're lacking time, here's the conclusion (what inspired me to write today):
How much of the danger from leafy vegetables can be blamed on the industrial model that produces cheap calories I don’t know. But as consumers follow Michael Pollan’s advice to get to know our food producers, we will learn to see the processed burger and the industrial vegetables for what they are — cheap global commodities that carry some risk.

The best antidote for such a thing is to see, touch and experience food as it comes off the fields. As imperfect as this harvest picture is, it satisfies a need that has never bred out of us as people.
And as I look out the window at my urban chicken coop, I enjoy an even greater comfort that I know exactly where my eggs are coming from, and exactly who handles them from nest to kitchen.

Let's hear it for urban chickens and urban farmers everywhere for reducing the food sourcing risk.

Photo credit: estherase on Flickr


Related Posts with Thumbnails