Thursday, June 24, 2010

Chicken Keeping Blogs We Love

Ian Daniels at Dobbies Garden Centers lists 17 of his favorite chicken blogs, including mine,

Dobbies is a long-established company, with 25 stores in England and Scotland. They've been in business since 1865, 140 years. They've got some nice chicken houses,

I'm delighted to be included in such entertaining and informative company. I'm also thrilled to have a knowledgeable contact in Britain. Many distinguished old breeds are still maintained there, and I often get questions about them. Thanks, Ian!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Poultry events

Knowledgeable poultry people share their experience with people who are getting started. Two events coming up in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New York are:

The 3rd annual Barrington (New Hampshire) Farm Tour Day is coming up on June 27th. Farms will be open from 10am-4pm and there are eight farms to visit this year. Yellow House Farm is on the tour,

“We specialize in foundational breeds of heritage chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys for the production of meat and eggs. Gradually we are developing a permaculture model to complement our breed preservation and hatchery efforts. We also cultivate many heirloom vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers, combining beauty and production. At Yellow House Farm we are developing a curricula of classes and seminars for our friends and neighbors to promote our collective efforts to create a more beautiful and sustainable local culture of awareness. Come and Enjoy!!”
Find a map and descriptions of the other seven farms at Seacoast Eat Local,


ACUSHNET, MA – On Saturday, July 10, in five locations in every region of Massachusetts, Northeast Organic Farming Association/ Massachusetts Chapter (NOFA/Mass), is sponsoring five simultaneous workshops on how to raise backyard poultry. In Acushnet, Cynda Williams will teach a workshop on the basics of raising backyard poultry at The Clover Path Garden on 191 Quaker Lane from 3pm-6pm.

Raising backyard poultry has been gaining in popularity in Massachusetts. Chicken supply stores all across the state report a major spike in business. Joleen Jurczyk who works at the Greenfield Farmer’s Cooperative Exchange compared the first of three orders for baby chicks between 2009 and 2010: “Last year there were around 800 chicks in one order and this year there were 1,800 chicks in that same order. It’s been an extraordinary increase.”

“Whenever there’s a lot of new people coming into a new hobby like this all at once, there can be a bit of a learning curve to climb,” said Ben Grosscup, Extension Events Coordinator for NOFA/Mass.

“These workshops emphasize raising poultry in a way that is healthy for the birds and for the people eating their eggs and meat. These workshops are for people who are new at raising backyard birds and looking for some pointers from experts for having a successful year.”

Williams who will be teaching the workshop in Acushnet raises certified organic chickens. In her workshop, participants will learn to choose breeds for their flock, to raise day-old chicks to maturity, to properly store and feed whole grains and sprouted grains, to provide good housing for all seasons, to establish fencing to protect the birds; to apply inventive ideas for shade and shelter; to discern whether organic is for you, to understand molting and flock health issues, and to check local laws and regulations for keeping poultry. Bringing a notebook and camera is advised. Handouts will be provided.

Williams said, “Watching chickens is better entertainment than TV. All my chicken friends say the same thing. Chickens eat insects, especially ticks and mosquitoes. I’ve had no ticks since I started free-ranging chickens in my yard. For people trying to persuade their local boards of health that it would be a good idea to allow raising of chickens in urban settings, looking at the reduction of the Lyme-bearing deer tick populations would be a great angle. I feel a great freedom being able to move around my yard without the fear of Lyme infection.”

“For me, hearing the rooster crow is akin to hearing the first Red-Winged Blackbird in the spring. It always makes me smile. The return from the poultry is their eggs, whose taste is way beyond conventional eggs. It’s also the manure, which helps make the garden grow.”

“Raising chickens for food is a great way to save money while also making you directly aware of where your food comes from,” said Grosscup. “Whether it’s the backyard garden or the backyard chicken coop, taking responsibility for where our food comes from is on the rise,” he said.

Julie Rawson, NOFA/Mass Executive Director, has been teaching workshops on backyard poultry for years. “Sharing the knowledge people need to raise their own food has been the mission of NOFA since it began more than 30 years ago. Today, with the economic and ecological crises that we're in, I think a lot of people are once again turning toward backyard poultry because it is cost efficient and it’s a great way to improve our food security,” she said.

In addition to Acushnet, workshops are also being held in the following communities: Concord, Barre, Hatfield, and Huntington. Workshop registration for the Acushnet workshop is $30. There is a $5 discount for NOFA members and a $5 discount for those who register by June 26. For information on how to register, visit, or contact Ben Grosscup 413-658-5374, Northeast Organic Farming Association/ Massachusetts Chapter, Home Office: 413-549-1568
Sign up for free e-newsletter: "News from NOFA Massachusetts"
Learn about benefits of NOFA/Mass Membership

In New York City, you can Ride Your Bike, Visit City Chickens! July 10.

RSVP here: (not via Meetup)

Would you like to take a lazy weekend bike ride AND get familiar with small flocks of Brooklyn farm animals? Please join us on July 10 for the second City Chicken bike tour in NYC, and the first in Brooklyn.

You will learn from Brooklyn chicken keepers about raising chickens, building coops, and how they integrate their chickens into community gardens, backyard gardens and a rooftop farm. Why chickens? Chickens provide eggs and manure, eat pests, weeds and kitchen scraps, till the soil, and inspire curiosity and joy in kids of all ages. This tour is offered in partnership between Just Food and Transportation Alternatives. Eric Thomann and Owen Taylor of Just Food will lead the tour.


Saturday, July 10th 10am-2pm (end time may change)

Tour will be 8.5 miles long. It begins in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn and ends in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. For the exact starting address, please RSVP. Please only RSVP if you can commit to coming, and if you must cancel, please let us know. We can only accept 50 people on the tour! The starting address will be made available to you via email during the week of June 28.
Bring water and a bag lunch. Some snacks and refreshments will be provided by Transportation Alternatives.

Please pass this message on to your chicken and bike loving friends!

Friday, June 18, 2010

USDA proposes new rules for poultry farms

USDA has proposed some changes to poultry marketing that will help small flock owners, The proposed changes are in response to meetings with poultry raisers. You heard the complaints in Food, Inc.,

"Many of the concerns were related to increasing consolidation and vertical integration in the livestock and poultry marketplace, and shrinking farm numbers. For instance, there were over 666,000 hog farms in 1980, but only roughly 71,000 today. In the cattle industry, there were over 1.6 million farms in 1980, but only roughly 950,000 today. In the hog industry, producers received 50% of the retail value of a hog in 1980, but only 24.5 percent in 2009. For cattle, producers received 62 percent of the retail value of a steer in 1980, but only 42.5 percent in 2009. In the poultry industry today, a grower makes 34 cents per bird, while the processing company however on average makes $3.23 a bird."

Comments can be submitted until August 23. Be heard! I'll draft some suggested comments and post them here next week.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Old French Breeds

I'll be talking about Old French Breeds with Andy Schneider next Tuesday, June 22, on his Chicken Whisperer radio program, All programs are archived on the site, so you can listen at your leisure.

I've written about French breeds on this blog previously -- use the Search function to have them presented together for you.

Houdans, one of the three old breeds (LaFleche and Crevecoeur are the others) were popular after the Civil War. They became significant in commercial poultry, as shown by the ads in this issue of the Poultry Item for December 1910. Houdans are competing with names now more familiar, such as Plymouth Rocks, White Leghorns and Wyandottes.
All three old breeds have the distinctive V comb, as illustrated here by Ross Simpson. I haven't heard from Ross for many years, so if any of you know where he is, please ask him to contact me. His art work is exceptional.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Tina's chicks!

Tina Tyzzer of Indiana sends an introduction to her newly hatched chicks. They are Delawares, Black and White Jersey Giants and Rhode Island Reds.

"So, here’s your introduction to my new crew! Not very glamorous photos, but I had to share.
"The first shows you their new house, which has already been expanded twice. This is my back porch greenhouse, which converts very nicely to a nice warm chick brooder, so they’ll live here for 4-5 weeks. These photos, were taken at exactly one week old during their first move to new quarters. Now it’s important that you take note of the clothes pins in the first photo, which are holding up the tarp to keep my back porch clean.

Second photo - As you can see, the move was exhausting!

"Third photo - one week old and already roosting….on a clothes pin!

"Fourth photo - and yes, the little guy was sound asleep just like the rest of them….thought sure he was gonna fall off head first.

"Last photo - 'What, where am I … how’d I get up here!! '"

Thanks for sharing these delightful photos, Tina.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Auburn Javas

More of this rare variety were born, through the Garfield Farm Museum breeding program, at Kohl Children's Museum in Chicago,

The variety, which is historically significant because it was influential in the development of the Rhode Island Red, had not been seen since the 19th century. Garfield Farm's active breeding program, in partnership with Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry, hatched enough chicks that some of the rare Auburn variety appeared a few years ago. They are now being husbanded in small flocks by dedicated breeders.

Thanks, Garfield Farm, and Kohl Children's Museum!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Chicken Poetry

Chickens often inspire poets to capture them in words. One of my favorites is Robert Frost's poem about his favorite chicken, A Blue Ribbon at Amesbury, which is in my book and I've referenced here since March 26, 2008. The May 24 issue of the New Yorker includes a poem by Gary Whitehead, A Glossary of Chickens,

Like a good wordsmith, he's looking for words to describe the unique behaviors and characteristics of chickens, such as "the sweetness of hens but not roosters."

Thanks for a charming poem that caused me to reflect on the many aspects that make chickens so appealing, Gary.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Muscovy update

Larry Harrison of the Fish and Wildlife Service attended the May meeting in Oregon where the Muscovy Duck situation was discussed. No decisions have been reached.

Barry Koffler of summarized the situation in the current June-July issue of Backyard Poultry magazine. He expects Fish & Wildlife will eventually require permits for keeping wild Muscovies, as is currently the case for Wood Ducks and Canada Geese.

The contact person he has worked with at Fish & Wildlife is George T. Allen, “He is trying very hard to work with us on this, so please send positive suggestions, not complaints,” Barry writes.

This episode has revealed a disconnect between the naturalists and the domestic poultry keepers. I’m optimistic that it will open communications channels that will serve us well in future. We are all citizens with an interest in protecting wildlife as well as poultry keepers. I’m grateful to all the people on both sides who are working this out.