Wednesday, September 28, 2011

New York Chickens get a grant!

  • Brook Park Chickens got $700 to engage volunteers to build the first chicken coop in Brook Park, providing residents with access to humanely raised chickens and eggs. “Chicken Deputies” will be appointed from local schools to monitor chicken and egg production.

  • The grant was one of 19 awarded to community groups as part of Change by Us NYC (, a website that enables New Yorkers to connect with each other and with City government to create projects for improving their neighborhoods and our City. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced the grants. Change by Us NYC, launched by the City in July, is currently focused on projects that answer the question “How can we make our city a greener, greater place to live?” Grants were awarded to projects on the website in three categories: community gardening and agriculture, composting, and tree and park stewardship – some of the focus areas outlined in PlaNYC, the City’s roadmap for creating its sustainable future.

    “Change by Us NYC has given the City a way to interact with and support many community groups and civic-minded New Yorkers in all five boroughs,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “From planting new gardens to growing sustainable food, these projects will help make New York City greener and greater.”

    The chickens are getting good coverage in the news media. Everyone's excited about chickens!

    Tuesday, September 27, 2011

    Chicken Whisperer follow-up

    Greg Ellis runs Garden Matchmaking, a dating service for gardens. He's doing some great work.

    The National Heirloom Expo was held in September. I wore my Have You Hugged Your Chicken Today tee shirt from Backyard Poultry magazine. Every time I wear it, I get lots of smiles and comments.

    The Heritage Breeds Cross Stitch patterns will look great on shirts. Susan Cantor makes a quilt from mens' neckties with a poultry design for the raffle at the annual Poultry Science Association meeting. She needs more ties to make next year's quilt. Send your poultry ties to:

    Austin H. Cantor, Ph.D., P.A.S., associate professor, Department of Animal & Food Sciences, 606 W. P. Garrigus Bldg., University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40546-0215. Call him at 895-257-7531 or email him at

    Books we discussed include:

    The Small-Scale Poultry Flock by Harvey Ussery.
    The most comprehensive and definitive guide to date on raising all-natural poultry, for homesteaders or farmers seeking to close their loop, The Small-Scale Poultry Flock offers a practical and integrative model for working with chickens and other domestic fowl, based entirely on natural systems. Including extensive information on:

    • Formulating and making your own feed
    • How to breed and brood the flock (for breed improvement and for genetic conservation), including the most complete guide to working with broody hens available anywhere
    • Providing more of the flock’s feed from sources grown or self-foraged on the home place, including production of live protein feeds using earthworms and soldier grubs
    • Using poultry to increase soil fertility, control crop-damaging insects, and tmake compost—including systems for pasturing and tillage of cover crops and weeds
    • Step-by-step butchering—one of the best guides available—complete with extensive illustrative photos.

    American Poultry Association Standard of Perfection, available from the APA.

    The American Bantam Association 2011 Yearbook, available from the ABA.

    Poultry Science, Chicken Culture: A Partial Alphabet by Susan Merrill Squier. A collection of engrossing, witty, and thought-provoking essays about the chicken—the familiar domestic bird that has played an intimate part in our cultural, scientific, social, economic, legal, and medical practices and concerns since ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome.

    Talking Chicken by Kelly Klober, Practical advice on heirloom chickens and eggs.

    Enjoy! There's always lots going on in the poultry world.

    Friday, September 23, 2011

    Chicken Tunnels

    Although allowing your chickens to free-range a great idea, getting them to just stay on the grass and not destroy your garden is not an easy thing to do. They don’t seem to listen and wander about blissfully digging up your garden, making mounds in your vegetable patch, spraying dirt all over the place as they go hunting for bugs, worms and insects.

    In a previous post we mention creating a series of wire “tunnels” that emerge from the chicken coop and direct chickens to work zones around the garden.

    The tunnels are like a road network system that chickens are allowed to navigate through and then emerge at their designated “work zone” in the garden, usually an area covered in weeds or an old garden bed that needs some attention.

    These old parts of the garden are a chicken paradise. Because its been neglected, there’s usually tasty critters hidden under the soil just waiting for the chickens to scratch up a treat. In return the chickens deposit a little fertilizer and do a lot of the physical work of turning the soil over preparing the garden bed for you. Keeping the system modular allows for flexibility in directing the chickens to where you want them to garden and also keeps them off sensitive parts of the garden.

    Bruce Morgan the Chicken Tunnel guy explains his system in this YouTube video clip. You’ll get a better idea how light and easy to construct his tunnels are from watching the clip.

    Thanks for these great ideas, Bruce!

    Saturday, September 17, 2011

    National Heirloom Expo

    The National Heirloom Expo at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa was a huge success! I arrived late Tuesday and spent part of the day Wednesday there. Kids were arriving on school buses on Wednesday. What a great event for them, a taste of something less structured and corporate.

    The organic popcorn was delicious. The Corn Stalk of Life weaving I longed for was outside my budget, but it’s in my mind now and inspiring me to think of my own handwork and how I can incorporate those ideas.

    The poultry show was great! Kim Consol brought her Silver Gray Dorkings from Star Rose Ranch, and I was delighted to have a chance to meet her. She had a display to explain about heirloom chickens in general and Dorkings in particular. She brought lots of livestock: her Dexter heifer behind us, American Guinea hogs and St. Croix Hair Sheep as well as the chickens. I fell in love with her beautiful cow.

    The poultry show attracted about 150 birds, not a huge amount, but a good showing for its focus on traditional breeds. I saw Auburn Javas, which I hadn’t seen in person before, although I’ve written about them in Backyard Poultry. There were some Mottled Javas, too. The stately Buff Orpington rooster took Best of Show, well deserved. Other breeds, both large fowl and bantam, shown included: Light and Speckled Sussex, Australorps and Black and White Ameraucanas, Brown Leghorns and Blue Andalusians. Marans were shown in Black Copper, the only recognized variety thus far, Blue Copper, Cuckoo and Splash, next to the Penedesencas. I wondered if they were grouped by dark egg color. Spangled Orloffs were there, and both silver laced and golden laced Wyandottes. Buckeyes were shown both as large fowl and as bantams. White, Blue and Wheaten Araucanas, Black and Blue Sumatras, another variety I had never seen. Wheaten Shamos stood tall, but the Black Shamo took reserve champion Large Fowl. Naked Necks got some attention. They looked like lovely birds. Silver penciled and Golden Penciled Hamburgs, Buttercups, Dominiques and Barred Rocks, both large fowl and bantam. Salmon Faverolles, a Black Frizzle Cochin and a Blue Cochin, a buff laced Polish frizzle.

    Bantams were represented by Sebrights, Belgian Bearded d’Anvers, in Mille Fleur and Quail varieties, Mille Fleur d’Uccles, Kashimo Wheaten bantam, Modern Game bantams and several Nankins. The Speckled Sussex rooster was Champion Bantam, quite good size and an impressive bird.

    There were lots of turkeys, most if not all from the Ryan Family Farm in Sebastopol. Tony and Lenore Ryan brought Sweetgrass and these Harvest Gold turkeys, the first I’ve seen of them. Tom Walker in Texas has told me about them, so I expected beautiful birds and was not disappointed! He brought several Bronze and a pair of Royal Palms, Narragansetts, Black, Slate and White Hollands.

    Ducks were well represented: Welsh Harlequin and Magpie, Fawn and White Runners, a Black Muscovy hen who stole my heart.

    There were a few geese: two Toulouse, one Buff and two Sebastopols. This is one of them.

    Three Pearl Guineas looked better than any I’ve seen recently.

    I was excited to connect with a high school teacher who is leading a poultry club that focuses on traditional birds. One brought his Brahma rooster, a gorgeous bird even if he didn’t win, and they brought all the Nankins. I hope to connect with her and encourage her work with this group. Meeting Jeannette Beranger, program manager and Alison Martin, research and technical program director for the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, in person was a treat. The Internet is great, but there’s nothing like seeing people face to face.

    It was worth the five-hour drive! I look forward to future expos. Thanks, Jere Gettle and Petaluma Seed Bank and Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company for organizing it.

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011

    Slate turkey

    An unusual wild turkey appeared in this year's group of poults. He's slate, although with other colors mixed in. I've seen him in the neighborhood, but this morning I heard him and his cohorts in the yard and got some photos. He contrasts with his five brothers.

    He may be emerging as a leader. He was certainly loud in his juvenile hoots. He was more wary than the others. I tried to get a picture of him last week when I passed a group in the car. As soon as I stopped the car and got out the camera, he was the first to leave, amid much flapping.

    Turkeys are all one breed, with color variations emerging naturally. This one may result from some crossing in the past with domestic turkeys, white or Royal Palm, or simply be a natural sport, the term for an unexpected color variation.

    I'm glad to see a good group of youngsters this year. I've seen mothers over the past months, every time with fewer poults following them around. This group of young men is encouraging.

    I hadn't let the chickens out yet when they came by. I wonder if they would have stayed longer if the chickens were there.

    They sparred a bit, the slate tom pushing the others around. He's got some size advantage over some of them, but not all. Here's a handsome fellow with more usual plumage.

    Ross Simpson's drawing of color variations among turkey feathers is a good way to envision the possibilities. Domestic turkeys have been selectively bred in lots of colors, but this is the most unusual one I've seen in the wild.

    Saturday, September 10, 2011

    National Heirloom Expo

    I'll be attending the National Heirloom Expo at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, California on Wednesday, September 14. The expo runs from the 13th through the 15th. I'm sorry I can't be there all three days, but I'm happy I was able to arrange my schedule to be there at least one day.

    Kim will be bringing his Dorkings to the Heirloom Breeds Show. He hasn't shown them before but he's one of the few people in California keeping them. So having any Dorkings there at all will be a treat, and an education for all who see them.

    The poultry event will be judged by American Poultry Assoc. judge Walt Leonard. The prize for Best of Show will be $500; for Reserve Champion $200!

    There's also an heirloom livestock show, sponsored by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. I'm eager to see the other farm animals on display.

    Events like this are a wonderful opportunity to meet other breeders and learn what's working for them. See you there!

    Wednesday, September 7, 2011

    Central Coast Feather Fanciers sale

    Central Coast Feather Fanciers will hold their Fall Poultry Sale Sept. 17th at Templeton Feed and Grain, 9 am - noon. It's the time of year that breeders are thinning their flocks, so these birds are excellent. It's a great way to get started or add to your flock. Young layers and exhibition quality birds will be among the sale birds.

    Coming to the sale gives you a chance to visit with these breeders and get ideas for moving your flock forward. If you are keeping a few hens for eggs, this is the place to acquire hens from top egg production lines that are also beautiful. Try a breed you haven't owned before.

    I've been delighted with my Speckled Sussex, who came to me from CCFF president Larry Stallings. CCFF member Barbara Bullock owns these Buttercups. No guarantees either of these breeds will be available, but be assured that the birds you find will be delightful.