Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fresh grass for urban chickens all year long

Urban chickens love their greens, sometimes (often?) to the detriment of existing landscaping. Hens don't much care how much a plant costs you to replace, they just care if it's yummy or not.

Yes, there's been many an urban chicken farmer who, with best intentions, has moved their run on top of the grass for a day or so only to come back to find a patch of dirt under some rather content hens. So, how to provide your girls with greens, especially when it's still cold and snowy out still (in most of the country, at least)?   

Mary D was kind enough to send me an email sharing her instructions for providing fresh greens to your urban hens.
I get unhulled seed, (whatever is available) at our local Co op, and rotate four trays of seed growing continuously. When I start seed, I lay it down thick on potting soil, cover with a piece of newspaper, keep the newspaper moist, and keep covered with a plastic wrap, until seed really gets sprouting.

I do all of this on a grow rack in our house throughout the winter and each day our hens get a 1/2 flat of fresh grass.

This is wheat berry growing in the above pictures, but I experiment with any grain I can find. They love it!
As soon as one tray is empty I start another. From seed to "chicken ready" is usually 7 days. 4-6 trays keep you in grasses for 8 hens.
Bonus: you can find all kinds of quantities of grass seed ready to be shipped from Amazon.

Thanks for the tip, Mary. I know you're making a lot of snow-bound urban chickens very happy!

What do you do to keep your urban chickens getting their greens during the long winter months?

UPDATE: Derek, from, chimes in with this little tip he got on growing grass in trays: "add a hardware cloth top to the trays (might have to make the trays out of wood) and let the grass grow through.  This way the chickens can eat the grass, but not scratch up all the dirt and require reseeding the trays every time.  You can cycle a couple of the trays so that they always have fresh grass"

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Food Curated's Brooklyn Chicken Video

Got a nice note from Liza de Guia about a video posted to Food Curated about Brooklyn's Backyard Chicken Keepers. The high quality video and the enthusiasm of Megan and Katrina (the owners) make the video worth the 3 minutes to see the whole thing.

Brooklyn's Backyard Chicken Keepers *food curated* from SkeeterNYC on Vimeo.

It's especially great that they got their four day-old chicks from and you can see in the blog post update that Megan and Katrina got their very first eggs over the holidays (after the video had been shot). Reminds me of when my CBC Radio interview happened just prior to our first eggs and then the day after broadcast, the girls decided it was time.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Urban Chickens on the Rise? Follow the Money

At last, there's some interesting economic data about urban chickens in an article by Brendan Murray over on

Brendan had interviewed me about urban chickens earlier this month, and when he asked how big the urban chickens movement is, I gave the answer I give all reporters: I'm not sure, but there's got to be sales data for feed and chicks and whatnot available to show this urban chicken movement is real.

And when his article about the fight to legalize urban chickens in Washington, DC, posted online, I was thrilled to see he'd actually done some investigating on the economics.

Two highlights:
  • Ideal Poultry Breeding Farms (Cameron, TX) says sales to customers who buy just a few chicks has grown from less than 2% of Ideal's sales a decade ago to almost 35% of sales last year. (They shipped 4.5 million chicks last year)
  • Land O'Lakes Purina Mills, while not disclosing the numbers, sees sales increasing of its 25- and 50-pound bags of feed for adult birds, and this year is marketing a 5-pound package of feed for baby chicks, tailor-made for us urban chicken farmers. If a company that size is getting into the market, you know the MBAs have crunched away the data and see significant money to be made.
I know our local Feed & Fuel has seen a dramatic rise in selling chicken feed (again, no numbers, just an anecdotal observation by the owner) over the last few years.

Anyone else out there have firm data showing the growth of the urban chicken market?

I have a hunch that our showing the economic benefits of allowing urban chickens might be another arrow in our quiver trying to get hens legal inside city limits.

Photo credit to zizzybaloobah on Flickr

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Urban Chickens goes to Thailand

Sorry for the long lapse between posts, but I've been on a business trip to Thailand. You can bet I've been taking pictures of all the urban chickens I've seen here in this beautiful country (they definitely free range them here, unlike the States).

So, until the next post, please enjoy this lovely little rooster I caught outside a wat (temple) in Chiang Mai up in the northern part of Thailand.


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