Thursday, August 30, 2012

Locally Laid Eggs

From the Duluth News Tribune:  Duluth egg consumers have a new product on the shelves.

Jason Amundsen liked his flock of five chickens, which he and his wife kept in their Duluth backyard. The eggs were delicious.
So, he thought, why not get a few more — about 1,795 more — raise them in the fresh air and sunshine, give them clean feed and good grass, and let all of Duluth have a good egg for breakfast?
And why not try to make a living selling good eggs under a memorable name?
Locally Laid eggs are now for sale at a few retail locations around Duluth, as well as at several restaurants. Amundsen spends his days caring for his flock of friendly chickens, each one named Lucie (also the name of Amundsen’s wife and business partner), and hoping that customers will pay a little extra for a good egg.

Read the rest of the story and visit the web site and Facebook page.

Locally Laid was brought to my attention by Jordan Wiklund, my editor at Voyageur Press. Jason and Lucie Amundson are friends of his, and he attends classes at  Hamline University in St. Paul with Lucie. He and Lucie formerly wrote for now-defunct Living North magazine.

Thanks for shining light on this encouraging new enterprise, Jordan!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Santa Maria poultry show

 Santa Ynez 4-H is reviving the Santa Maria Poultry Show! It will be held at the Santa Barbara County Fair, September 15, 9 am at the SB County Fairgrounds. Good for you, Santa Ynez 4-H, for bringing this show back. 

It will be a single open and single youth show.

To show birds, send entries to Diana Anderson, 219 E. Maple Ave., Lompoc, CA 93436, before the deadline of September 3. Entry fee is $3 per bird. Make checks payable to Santa Barbara County Fair.

Bring something fun for the raffle, which will raise money for the club to buy new coops for the fairgrounds. I'll send books!

They have planned some fun events for kids: a photo contest, posters, other crafts and costumes. I always love chickens dressed in costumes. One 4-H made it a serious competition, considering fabrics used and the difficulty of making the outfit. It's just plain fun. 

Larry Stallings, president of Central Coast Feather Fanciers and expert poultry judge, will judge both open and youth events, as well as Showmanship. I'm eager to see these young people demonstrate their passion for poultry.

CCFF will hold a Fall Sale the week before the show, September 8, at Templeton Feed & Grain, 9 am - noon or when all the birds are sold. This fall event is a great way to get excellent birds from top breeders in our area. If you are looking to add to your flock, get started with chickens or learn about breeds that you haven't seen before, don't miss it!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


I'll talk about Chanteclers next week on the Chicken Whisperer's blogtalkradio program. Developed as a distinctive Canadian breed, Chanteclers are a composite breed that thrives in cold weather. Their distinctive cushion comb and small wattles aren’t affected by cold weather. Their plumage, a tight outer feathering over a thick layer of down, is as distinctive as the comb. It’s fundamental to their cold hardiness.

“It is a real down jacket!” said Gina Bisco of New York State.  “If you pick up a hen of some other breed, then pick up Chantecler hen, you really notice the Chantecler's thick, warm layer of padding.”

Although Chanteclers adapt to confinement, crowded indoor conditions are too warm for their cold-hardy constitution. Breeding birds kept in warm locations will affect
the breed's cold-climate adaptation. Warmer temperatures, whether natural or artificially provided to increase laying, will inevitably select birds that prefer warmer conditions.

“Chanteclers' looks result directly from especially cold-adaptive traits,” said Ms. Bisco.

She finds her birds happiest in shaded woodlands of the hilly forest ecosystem on her New York State farm during warm summer weather. These girls seem perfectly happy in the snow. They spend their days ranging in landscape different from the sunny pastures that suit most chickens. Their white color blends well into the dappled undergrowth. So well, when she tried to show them off to a visitor, all he could see was an occasional tail disappearing under blackberry bushes and wary eyes watching the stranger.

“By the time we reached each pen, it looked absolutely empty,” she said. The visitor never got a good look at any of the thirty or more Chanteclers in that wooded area.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tomato Extravaganza

I'll be speaking at the  UCCE Master Gardeners' 6th annual Tomato Extravaganza and Plant Sale on Saturday, August 18! I haven't decided yet whether I'll bring a chicken with me. Oprah, my Buff Orpington, is the obvious choice. She hasn't done an event in some months, but she's pretty social.

They call it a “Free “edible” festival,” Saturday August 18, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m, at the Garden of the Seven Sisters 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo, near intersection of Johnson & Bishop.

Join the SLO Master Gardeners in their sustainable demonstration garden for this annual celebration of one of America’s favorite summer fruit. Taste many types of tomatoes and basil. Lots of edible and landscaping plants for sale! Mediterranean Climate Plants, Basil, Herbs, Berries, and Fruit Trees.

10:00-11:00 am: Cooking demo with Chef Joe Thomas of Thomas Hill Organics

11:00-12:00 pm: Tomato Grafting with the California Rare Fruit Growers.

12:00-12:45 pm: Success with Succulents!!!

Activities for children. Visit our many educational gardening plots.

Special thanks to Achievement House, California Rare Fruit Growers, and Thomas Hill Organics
For more information, contact University of California Cooperative Extension Master
Gardeners of San Luis Obispo County at 805-781-5939. For special accommodations, call in advance, 805-781-5939.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Chickens as therapy

This American Life on NPR broadcast a story about a mentally disabled man who lost interest in life, but regained it with a flock of chickens. Many people enjoy the time they spend with their chickens, but in some cases, such as this one, chickens really bring meaning to their lives.

The segment, narrated by the man's sister, Veronica Chater, who has also written a memoir about her family, Waiting for the Apocalypse. As her brother quits his job and withdraws from his other usual activities, family members attempt to determine what's troubling him, without success. His mother, who always wanted to keep chickens, a comment people often make to me, decides to put him in charge of a small backyard flock. Empowered with his responsibilities and stimulated by the sociability of his hens, he emerges from his self-imposed hibernation.

It's a charming story. Thanks, Veronica and Vincent, for sharing it.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Succeeding through drought

The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy has advice for managing livestock in drought conditions:

Heritage breeds are survivors, although some may be in for a very challenging year. The national drought is about to have a huge impact on the American economy and now is the time to plan ahead. Undoubtedly, food for home and feed for animals is going to skyrocket in price this year because most of the corn crop and other grains are under threat due to the drought. Forage for grazing animals has suffered as well with many farmers already feeding hay at a time when there should be plenty of grass. Producers are going to be facing hard decisions in order to weather the tough times ahead. For stewards of endangered breeds, planning for the future is going to be critical for the long term survival of these rare animals. It is their responsibility as stewards to ensure that the breeds will live on, whether they remain on their farms or go into the hands of new owners in this time of struggle.

Where to start? If you live in an area of the country that is still getting rain, consider growing supplemental feed for your animals. Depending on where you live, there are some forage items that can still be planted this summer season such as cowpeas, rape, and buckwheat. In the fall, think about planting with your animals in mind or imagine turning your grass clippings into a food source. There is some great information on small scale silage production that might be another answer to turn failing crops into feed for your animals. See the resources below for ideas on gardening and silage for your animals. For those individuals who will have to make the decision to downsize their herds or flocks, careful consideration for which animals to keep is key. You must retain both quality and diversity in the animals that remain on the farm. Taking a hard look at pedigrees and bloodlines and then judging the animals based on how they conform to breed standard will guide you in the process.

It is much like judging by card grading, which is outlined on the ALBC website here.
There may be situations in which it will be financially impossible to keep any of the animals. In this case locating a new steward will be the optimal solution versus the stockyard or sale barn. If you must sell, priority must be given to making sure breeding quality animals get into the hands of capable people. There are many opportunities to network with potential stewards through breed clubs, associations, and of course the ALBC network through the website and office. Selection of which animals must go to other conservation breeders is similar to the decisions involved in the previous paragraph outlining a strategy for making priorities for "must keep" breeding stock. The next year, and perhaps the future, is going to be a great challenge for anyone raising and feeding animals. It’s time to start thinking out of the box (and feed bag) and look for ways to affordably continue working with our treasured heritage breeds. Planning is everything and an early start is a smart move in the right direction.

Resources: Deciding What to Keep – Card grading for livestock and breeder selection protocols for chickens and turkeys, can be found here. Financial Assistance and Support - The government has a number of assistance programs that may be able to help you get through tough times with your animals. These programs are specifically for assistance in times such as these, and saving rare breeds is one very good use of these resources. One of the best listings of these programs can be found on the Farm Aid website. Gardening For Your Animals - A great resource for learning about gardening to feed your animals is on author Harvey Ussery’s website, or on Mother Earth News' website.

Help Finding New Stewards – ALBC has an extensive network of conservation breeders and rare breed enthusiasts. ALBC members can list their animals in the ALBC classifieds, visit the Online Breeders Directory, or view the Breed Association Directory to find others interested in your breeds.
Small Scale Silage For Feed – If you have a lawnmower with a bag, you can potentially make your own silage to feed your animals. Check out the following links for details on small-scale production:

Small Scale Silage Production for Chicken Feed
• FAO Electronic Conference on Tropical Silage

If you have additional questions, please contact us for further information.
Sincerely, ALBC Staff

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Aldrovandi on Chickens

I was fortunate to acquire a copy of L.R. Lind's translation of Aldrovandi on Chickens, from a used book dealer in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was published by the University of Oklahoma Press but went out of print in 1974. I contacted the Press and discussed whether they would consider reprinting it. They are going to a print-on-demand system, so it's possible this book will become more available again.

It's the first book written exclusively on chickens, in 1600 by Ulisse Aldrovandi, who was a naturalist and professor at the University of Bologna in Italy. The volume on chickens is actually the second volume of his comprehensive work on birds, Ornithologia. It was originally written in Latin, the language of academics at that time.

He paid for the woodcuts that illustrated it himself, which include documentation such as this Persian rooster and hen. Their rumplessness is interesting. I'd like to know whether chickens anywhere in the Middle East retain this quality. It's now associated with South American chickens, which raises the question as to whether these chickens traveled across to the other side of the world in times past.

He also includes strange birds, such as ones with more than two legs and weird siamese twin birds.

I'm grateful to have found this copy. It's in excellent condition, even the dust jacket intact.