Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day 2011

One of the things I most love about celebrating this Earth Day is recognizing just how pervasive the idea of urban chickens has become over the last four years that I've been paying attention.

Back in 2007, outside of the stellar (yet nascent) community over on, there was very little information online about raising micro-flocks of chickens anywhere off  agriculturally-zoned land. This blog was founded as a way to document my own entry into this fascinating world of keeping chickens in your own backyard. How do you pick a chicken? Where do you get a coop? What do they eat? When do the eggs start coming? What to do with all these eggs? Why can't I have chickens? What do I do with a sick hen? So many questions and answers and there's a lot yet to be learned.

The blog then morphed into something bigger as I found new friends who shared my interest in urban chickens and we're almost 5000 friends strong over on the Facebook page. Today, this blog is just one of literally thousands of blogs talking about the joy that is urban chicken keeping. In my work these days, I get a chance to travel to Portland (Oregon) quite frequently and I'm still tickled to spot coops in backyards and hear clucks behind fences as I walk through the various neighborhoods.

I hope you get a chance to celebrate Earth Day with your hens, and if you're in between hens (as I am right now), here's hoping you know someone just down the block who's willing to share their flock.

Happy Earth Day!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

How to give away an unwanted urban chicken, part 1

Wow, we had some great comments on last month's post about what to do when chickens no longer lay eggs both here on the blog and on the Urban Chickens Facebook page. Given the choice between processing a hen and giving her away, the vast majority of respondents recommended finding a new home for the chook.
Chicken by Flickr user pjah73

But how, exactly, do you go about making sure your hen (or roo) finds a good new home? Here's where we urban chicken farmers can take a page from successful pet adoption techniques that have seen many dogs and cats find new homes.

How to look for a new owner for your chicken:
  1. Reach out to other responsible chicken owners. This is your best bet to make sure your chook winds up in a good new home: going to someone who's already familiar with keeping chickens. No matter where you live, you can be sure there's someone else keeping chickens nearby. Look for Yahoo! groups or Meetups or even 4-H clubs -- more info on finding urban chicken farmers near you.
  2. Advertise where other pets are being put up for adoption. This is a double-edged sword of a recommendation, as both well- and ill-intentioned folks look in the same place for animals to acquire. Give the ubiquity of Craigslist, that's a good place to start. While the sale of pets is prohibited on Craigslist, you can list your chicken to be re-homed along with a small adoption fee.
  3. Make your chicken attractive, but remember to be honest. Include a picture of your chook in your listing, and talk up her good qualities, but don't forget to responsibly share your chicken's shortcomings (especially if "she" is a "he" and you're trying to re-home a rooster!). Has your hen shown dominant behavior in your flock? Is she an inconsistent layer? Is she broody? You'll want to be sure the new owner has a heads up on anything that might be quirky about their new edition. The last thing you want to do is frustrate the new owner with surprises before they've had a chance to bond.
  4. Never advertise your chicken for free. Animal welfare groups warn that "free pet" ads attract unscrupulous folks, and I think it's safe to say those who'd be interested in sourcing new roos for cockfighting fall in this category. By charging even a small stipend to change hands, you're helping keep the ne'er-do-wells at bay.
With these tips, you now know where to look for a new owner. In my next post, I'll talk about how you can best screen those who are interested in providing a new home for your chicken.

If you have other tips for this list or for the next post on how to screen, please leave them in the comments below!

    Sunday, January 30, 2011

    How many of us have road-side chickens?

    I visited my parents new house in Seattle this weekend, and wouldn't you know it, a neighbor just two doors down from them has chickens!

    How did I know he has chickens? Because he keeps his coop along the side of the house, just a few feet from the sidewalk. This isn't to say he doesn't have a backyard to keep them in. He does, but his girls are there for all the world to see and (like me) admire and wonder about.
    side-yard coop in the Tangle Town neighborhood of Seattle
    I snapped the picture above as I was returning from my morning run around Green Lake. You can clearly see the sidewalk to the right, and the tree-lined street is just a few feet beyand.  I couldn't help but smile as I saw these two chickens going about their morning scratching-and-pecking ritual there by the side of the road in full view of anyone walking or driving by.

    It got me wondering how many others keep their girls on display for all the world to see? I suppose local zoning laws exert a lot of influence over exhibiting your chooks out in the open, but for those who can, do you? And if not, why not?

    For the record, there's nothing in the regulations here in Redwood City to stop us from keeping urban chickens in the front yard. I just worry one of my egg-layers might wind up as dinner on someone else's table. We've got enough problems with raccoons, I don't want to have to worry about other invaders of the human kind.

    Thursday, January 27, 2011

    Another beautifully sculptured urban chicken coop

    I'm a sucker for creative, cleverly designed and aesthetically pleasing coops.

    So when a friend sent a link to the nogg, I got all warm inside thinking how cool it would be to have this cedar coop placed in the corner of my yard. From their press kit:
    The nogg is a modern chicken coop that has been designed in the shape of an egg. It has been designed to house from 2-4 chickens and is to encourage domestic farming while adding a touch of playful elegance to sit beautifully in any garden, urban or rural environment. The nogg is designed to enhance and compliment its surroundings and fit sculpturally with this aesthetic assumption.
    In a sign of true chicken design pedigree, the nogg folks hail from the UK (just like the Omlet design folks did before them).

    And in a sign of just how design-minded the nogg manufacturers are, you can download over 100Mb of high resolution pictures of the nogg "sculpture" (aka "coop-porn") from their one-page website. Tip: you can also see the same images in a much lighter weight PDF by downloading the press kit.

    So here's to delightful coop design! Sing your praises to nogg folks on twitter @noggchickencoop

    Monday, January 24, 2011

    What to do when chickens no longer lay eggs?

    Photo courtesy Flickr user fooferkitten
    So what do you do when your hen no longer lays eggs? Keep her around out of gratitude for all those years of eggs? Put her out to (someone else's) pasture? Or do you (gulp!) "process" her?

    There's been some traffic on the Silicon Valley Chickens mailing list recently about what to do with old hens, and it seems there's a general agreement that processing an old hen is a rather cruel way to show thanks for eggs well laid.

    While some urban chicken keepers seem content to keep the old chooks around for amusement, the more economically minded chicken farmers seem less than enthralled with the idea of all those extra mouths to feed.

    And those of us who live where there are tight restrictions on the number of hens allowed in a backyard can't really keep a flock of non-layers around if we're in it for the omelets, can we?

    So it seems there's two strategies for mercifully coping with the inevitable aging of hens:
    1. Once she stops laying (at age 3 or 4 or 5, depending on your hen's productivity cycle), offer her up  to someone who's got a much larger patch of land and is willing to keep a large non-laying flock. Or,
    2. Sell her while she's still in her laying prime, commanding a higher price and making room for another fluffy chick in the coop to start all over again.
    What have you done when your chickens stopped laying? Or if you haven't gotten there yet, what are your plans for hens d'un certain âge?


    Related Posts with Thumbnails