Thursday, March 28, 2013

Urban Chickens As Salmonella Carriers? Wash Your Hands!!

This past weekend, Seattle NPR-affiliate KPLU posted Backyard Chickens: Cute, Trendy Spreaders of Salmonella, an article by Nancy Shute. To save you the read, here's a synopsis of the article: sensationalist headline, some scary statistics from an outbreak of salmonella tied to a particular hatchery, concludes with the common-sensical "the CDC says wash your hands to reduce the risk of spreading the disease."

There's a lot of simple wisdom in that directive from the CDC: wash your hands. In fact, the CDC directive applies to reducing risk of transferring diseases to humans from any animals. Well, except for the danger cats pose to pregnant women.

Looking back over four years ago, I published on this blog a series of posts exploring some of the more common concerns I see raised in the debate to allow urban chickens:
Time to blow the digital dust off those posts as we get into the season renewed urban chicken interest. What's old is new again.

Flickr Photo credit: Microbe World

Sunday, March 24, 2013

When to expect that first egg

Photo credit Eric Rice
Chickens, as a species, reach maturity to start laying eggs anywhere between 17 and 26 weeks, depending on the specific breed. This age is referred to as a chickens "point of lay."

Calculating a chicken's point of lay is akin to looking on the back of a seed pack and seeing how many days it takes to harvest the vegetable you're thinking of planting. Some chicken breeds mature earlier than others, so you can take that into account as you're planning your flock.

Aspiring, but impatient, backyard egg farmers can buy pullets at "point of lay" which means they'll be enjoying fresh eggs within a week or so of bringing their hens home. But there's a cost to buying pullets at point of lay, and that's the cost of missing out on watching chicks grow up to be pullets and the imprinting of these chicks on you as their "mother hen."

So there's a bit more planning involved for those of us who are interested in raising our hens from the time they are day-old chicks. The 17-to-26 week guidance is a spread of a full 2 months, in other words, the difference between enjoying your first eggs on Labor Day or on Halloween(!).

Now, as you make plans to start raising chicks, remember to circle a date 4 and a half months after you bring them home as the day to start expecting eggs. Our Plymouth Rock chicks took 20 weeks to lay their first egg, and I have to admit those last three weeks of waiting (from week 17 to week 20) were excruciating!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Make it the People's Choice: The Story of an Egg

UPDATE: While it didn't win the People's Choice Award, The Story of an Egg was the most viewed film of the festival!

The 2013 PBS Online Film Festival is underway, and one of the films up for consideration for the People's Choice Award is The Story of an Egg. Now through March 22 is our chance to recognize it with a People's Choice Award at the festival.

In explaining what it means for chickens to be "pasture-raised," this short film does an excellent job of reminding us why it's so important to treat our hens well. At the same time, the film makes us smarter to be wary of the messaging that marketers employ to make us think industrial hens are being treated better than they actually are.

Longtime blog readers will remember my original post about this film when it first debuted online last Spring. For the benefit of newer readers or those who missed it the first time, the short film is viewable in its entirety below.

Please take a moment to vote for the film today, thank you! (The ballot page lists all films in alphabetical order, so scroll down to "S" to select the film)


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