Friday, July 31, 2009

Top 10 Tips For Raising Chickens In Your Backyard;

My Top 10 Tips for raising chickens in your backyard;

1. Keep chicken coop clean with fresh water, food and remove droppings.

2. Give chickens enough space to scratch and peck and perch. No cages!

3. Always check on the chickens daily to observe their behavior in case of sickness (and for fun!).

4. Collect eggs daily.

5. Obey the guidelines and regulations of your particular city. Check with your local city hall first to determine if you can legally raise chickens and what the restrictions are.

6. Never chase chickens and approach coop area calmly.

7. Quarantine sick chickens immediately.

8. Diversify their diet of regular feed with fresh table scraps, bread, fresh veggies (especially green veg) and the occasional treat of corn. Mixing in some ground oyster shell with the feed will add calcium, which makes their shells stronger.

9. Keep them safe from predators and offer them some cover from above (They don't like hawks). They will need a nice dark box for laying, perches for sleeping and a run for scratching.

10. Chickens “clean” themselves by taking dust baths, but the odd dusting of mite powder does no harm. By rolling around in the dirt, they’re ridding themselves of mites. So give them access to a patch of dry, loose soil.

What Breed Of Chicken Should I Get?

Fun breeds that are more relaxed for backyards include Silkies, Cochin, Mille Fleur, Americana, Plymouth Rock, Jersey Giant and Polish.

How Much Does A Chicken Cost?

Expect to pay about $3 to $4 per chick for more common varieties. $12 to $15 for a 4 month just before laying begins. Adult chickens generally will eat a quarter pound of feed a day. A 50-pound bag of feed is about $12.

Hens will start laying at about 16 weeks old. A good laying hen will produce an egg a day. Chickens are social animals and need company, so keep a minimum of four to keep them happy and healthy.

Musician Teaches Locals How To Raise Chickens

Nick Rupiper is up with the sun and doing his regular morning ritual of tending to his chickens.

The rest of the day for Nick’s growing family is spent laying eggs, snoozing in the shade and indulging in dirt baths to rid their feathers of mites and lice.

Life is good at Rup Nut Ranch high above the town of Sonoma, where Nick is educating one person at a time about how to raise chickens to be healthy, happy members of your backyard community.

The 30-year-old musician and poultryman, builds custom coops, sells fresh eggs, holds “Raising Backyard Chicken” workshops and serves as a consultant for people fixing to raise a few themselves.

Nick concedes he’s still barely scratching out a living; it’s his other job as a drummer with the Green String Farm Band that pays the bills. But he feels passionate about teaching people how to appreciate these endearing birds who not only give us fresh eggs but who will clean out your spent vegetable patch and patrol your yard for unwanted pests.

“I’ve gotten so much joy out of these animals,” he says, taking a shovel and scraping out the droppings from the chicken coop he built himself from $3 in scrap materials. “And people have so many misconceptions about them.”

In the past several years, interest in backyard chicken raising has soared, fuelled by the growing sustainability movement, concern about food safety and a spike in the cost of groceries.

J.P. Pellham, the chicken expert for Western Farm Center in Santa Rosa, said the demand this year has been “phenomenal.”

“I’ve sold many more chicks this year than ever before,” he exclaimed. Some Thursdays, when the newly hatched chicks would come in, he said he’d send 600 out the door in six hours.

“People would be lined up before we got to work in the morning,” he said. Unlike farmers, who treat their chickens as practical parts of food production, backyard hobbyists often regard their chickens as pets, he added, naming them and mourning them when they die.

Nick has named many of the characters in his flock, posting photos and sharing anecdotes.

There is Sweet Pea, “the nicest living being on earth,” he says, who comes to you went you call her name and who is given to perching on Nick’s hand for a quick nap. And there is his “main man” Elvis, an aggressive little bantam rooster. A Mille Fleur with fancy feathery feet, he’s too small to be dangerous. But he can be counted on to warn the ladies if a raptor is soaring overhead, and he will attack your ankles if you don’t watch your back.

People ask Nick what he loves about chickens, a question he admits makes him a little uncomfortable. He doesn’t want to come off sounding like a kook and stops short of saying they have personalities. But he says he does find their “individual characteristics” fascinating to observe.

“They’re easy to take care of, and they’re cute,” he says. “And with the right breed, they make good pets.”

Beginners should choose their breeds carefully. The smaller bantams are good for smaller yards and for starters. Look for more docile breeds like white Cochins, Americanas, who lay beautiful green eggs, traditional Plymouth Rocks and any of the Wyandottes.

Pellham, of Western Farm, which carries an average of 13 different breeds, warns against the more skittish white leghorns. But he says the orange Buff Orpingtons are big friendly hens and reliable egg producers.

Before embarking on any backyard operation, check with your local City Hall to see if they are even allowed within the city limits, and if so, what the limitations are. Laws vary. Rohnert Park bans backyard fowl. Santa Rosa permits them only on rural residential lots of at least 20,000 square feet.

Cities that do allow backyard chickens typically have setback requirements for chicken coops. And any coop above 120 square feet would need a building permit.

Healdsburg allows up to 10, but no roosters; Sonoma permits 16 birds per 10,000 square foot lot up to 50 birds and also bans noisy roosters (which aren’t necessary unless you want fertilized eggs.)

Nick says you will need a completely enclosed coop for laying and to keep them safe at night from prey animals. Western Farm sells smaller three- to four-bird hutches for a couple hundred dollars and small barns for about $500.

For added safety you may want to add an enclosed chicken run, although Nick says they can be let loose for limited supervision in the yard during the day. Chickens are great for cleaning out and fertilizing spent vegetable beds. But keep them out of landscaped areas. They can destroy a lawn in search of small insects.

They eat a varied diet with chicken feed as a staple with supplementary scratch, table scraps, stale bread and produce that may be a little wilted but still safe. Nick adds some oyster shells, which gives a little grit in the craw for digestion.

With a clean enclosed coop, the right food and room to run (about 5 square feet per bird), you can have a healthy flock. Chickens can live up to 8 years, but Pellham cautions that you should be emotionally prepared to lose them.

Local feed and farm suppliers can advise and set you up. Nick also is setting up a demonstration coop at the Sonoma Garden Park where hobbyists can come by and ask questions.

“There is a kind of revolution going on of having urban chickens,” he says. “And the scarier the food supply gets, the more people want to be connected to it. The great thing about having backyard chickens is that you can have complete control over at least one of your foods.”

Alice Coltrane, Elvis, John, Pigpen, the black-and-white speckled Gertrude and at least 100 more chickens cluck around his feet for their daily scratch as soon as he passes through the gate with his bucket. But this fine cut-up corn and seed is just a snack. Later, there will be a massive salad bar of kale, chard, curly-leaf lettuce, watermelon and summer squash spread out for their dining pleasure.

Bon apetite girls.

Friday, July 24, 2009

There Is A Backyard Chicken Revolution Going On!

It's official! There is a backyard chicken revolution going on at the moment, as raising chickens is taking the western World by storm.

Keeping chickens in the back garden is the fastest growing hobby in the UK, and state officals are being bombarded with permit requests to raise some backyard chickens in the USA.

Below are just a small selection of news items that are flooding the Internet on this subject;

Local residents hatching backyard chicken coops
Ventura County Star - Zeke Barlow - ‎6 hours ago‎
“Mad City Chickens,” a documentary about Wisconsin residents' fight to legalize raising chickens in an urban setting, will be shown. ...

Backyard farmersCity dwellers are discovering the joys of raising ...
The Register-Guard - Cheryl Rade - ‎Jul 22, 2009‎
Sandra Stubbs, Eugene deputy city recorder, says she has received an increase in calls inquiring about raising chickens within the city limits. ...

Williamstown workshop taps into phenomenon of backyard chickens
Advocate Weekly - Rebecca Dravis - ‎Jul 22, 2009‎
"I have noticed some neighbors and friends talking about raising chickens at home and thought this would be an interesting class," said Ivana Luttazi, ...

Urban Chicken Raising: Hip Pets?
Digital City - Tami Yu - ‎Jul 21, 2009‎
Blurring the lines between city and country, more and more urban dwellers are raising chickens (and collecting lots of eggs) in their own backyard. ...

No reason to fear backyard chickens Saraboo News Republic - Joan Wheeler - ‎9 hours ago‎
Raising more food in our own backyards increases the safety and security of our local food supply. Chickens that eat weeds, bugs and regular feed are ...

Area residents raising chickens for fresh eggs
Urbana/Champaign News-Gazette - Siv Schwink - ‎Jul 18, 2009‎
Yahoo! searches on "chickens for sale" is 162 percent higher than last year and searches on "raising chickens" is 576 percent higher than 2007. ...

Hens topic of Polson meeting
Montana's News Station - ‎16 hours ago‎
Crossett added that raising chickens in urban areas has become popular (like in Missoula, and usually ordinances restrict the poultry to hens only. ...

Silicon Valley residents try their hand at raising backyard chickens
San Jose Mercury News - Dana Hull - ‎Jul 20, 2009‎
And that puts him squarely in the middle of the latest fad for some intrepid urban and suburban gardeners: raising backyard chickens. ...

Interested in raising chickens in the city - Kristen Rezabek - ‎Jul 10, 2009‎
Some friends of ours have built a luxurious chicken coop in their back yard and are raising chickens. They have two laying hens Ms. Red, a Rhode Island Red ...

Landeens get multiple benefits from owning, raising chickens
Arizona Daily Star - Elena Acoba - ‎Jul 12, 2009‎
Chickens serve up more than eggs for Colette and Jonathan Landeen. The eight cluckers help keep the vegetable garden and the rest of the ...

Long live the revolution!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Traditional Buckeye Chicken Breed Makes A Come Back!

The Buckeye chicken was the creation of Nettie Metcalf in the late 1800s. Nettie was the only woman to create an American Standard Breed of chicken on her own. She was a hobby farmer who crossed one chicken with another over several years to create the Buckeye - a bronze-and-black-feathered, plump and tasty bird.

Popular at the time with local families who kept chickens, due to its hardy nature (Tolerated hot summers and cold winters), great egg laying capabilities and it tasted good as well. It was one of the most popular chicken breeds around until the Rhode Island Red arrived on the scene.

But numbers of the Buckeye are cwindling and there are only 350 documented breeding Buckeyes in the country, whic puts it on the endangered list.

But all that is set to change, as Akron egg farmer Jeff Brunty is expecting a shipment of the birds this summer and plans to breed Buckeyes through a program sponsored by the Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy.

Traditional regional breeds, like the Rhode Island Reds, Delawares and Jersey Giants have been left in the dust by broad-breasted birds who develop faster in crowded conditions. That makes the factory birds cheaper, although not as tasty as slow-growing birds like the Buckeye.

"If you put the Buckeye in a barbecue buffet, you might not notice the difference," said Chef Ben Bebenroth of Spice of Life Catering in Cleveland. "But in a six- or seven-course dinner with some chardonnay, you will. It has a more nutty, earth-toney, more developed meat flavor."

And the eggs taste pretty good too. The yolk of the Buckeye stands up firm and it's such a deep yellow it almost looks fake. Tests show the eggs have 50 percent more vitamin E, 35 times the omega-3 fatty acids and half the cholesterol. The meat has 20 percent less fat and twice as much omega-3.

The Buckeye also has a lovely temperament and are easy to handle. Perfect for your backyard flock.

So search out some Buckeye chickens in your area. The best way to find them is to call out 'Buck, buck..buckeye!' and see if they reply. Or you can check with your local poultry suppliers.

The first way is more fun though ;-)