Friday, February 28, 2014

Backyard chickens fit in with Sarasota

 Sarasota, Florida's newspaper follows up on backyard chickens, three years after a controversial ordinance made them legal:

SARASOTA - Three years after legalization, the worst fears about urban chickens appear not to have materialized.
The biggest remaining challenge the city faces in keeping the birds is that many residents here can't tell a rooster from a hen.
So says a report from CLUCK, a local group that succeeded in 2011 in getting an ordinance passed allowing city residents to keep chickens on their property. The report to the City Commission was a test of the policy required at the end of a three-year probationary period.
With no one at City Hall opposing the once-controversial idea, and with commissioners visibly amused by CLUCK's chicken facts, that test was passed. The chickens have not created the kind of stink feared by many three years ago.
Gretchen Schneider, general manager of planning and development for Sarasota, said the city has received 21 complaints about chickens since 2011. They mainly involved loose hens or roosters kept in violation of the ordinance.
That's often an accident, said Jono Miller, a founder of CLUCK, or Citizens Lobbying for Urban Chicken Keeping. People buy the birds as baby chicks, when it is virtually impossible to distinguish their gender. Then the male birds grow up without anyone asking questions.
Overall, Schneider said, the impact of the chickens was “not bad,” considering her department hears nearly 2,000 complaints on other topics each year. “It's been pretty successful,” Schneider said.
If chickens can breathe sighs of relief, the news might have prompted one from Betsy, Pippy, Rose and Roz, four hens living the good life in Fran Tiner's backyard on Floyd Street.
There, the birds enjoy all the amenities they could hope for in Sarasota: a sunny, secure yard with fountains, a koi pond and a nesting box for laying eggs. At night, the hens march into their coop without being told, shunning the dark. In the morning, they let themselves out by stepping on a switch controlling an automatic door powered by a small motor Tiner salvaged from an ice maker.
Tiner, 67, invented the contraption so that he wouldn't have to get up at the crack of dawn and let them out himself. “Nobody's got to tell them anything,” he said.
Making house calls
The chickens are smarter than people think, and mostly handle their own affairs, Tiner said. They even have a live-and-let-live arrangement with Ajax, the family's muscular pit bull. “They do have a pecking order.”
Chickens can live for 15 or 20 years, and lay eggs for about seven of those. They can produce 250 or 300 eggs a year.
Tiner is one of the members of CLUCK who convinced the city to allow this. The 2011 ordinance permits up to four hens on a single-family property, as long as they are housed in a coop that can be moved from one place to another to mollify neighbors annoyed by clucking sounds.
Killing the chickens or selling their eggs is not allowed, and roosters are forbidden because, of course, they crow and can lead to the proliferation of chickens. 
Similar regulations have been taken up by Manatee County, Jacksonville, and other cities. Next, CLUCK hopes to convince Sarasota County to do the same. Chickens are not allowed in suburban areas of the county.
CLUCK has collected about 250 signatures on a petition asking the County Commission to consider chickens, but so far the commissioners have been reluctant.
That should be no surprise. When the city discussed the ordinance in 2011, some residents were so concerned about the birds' odors that they planned to bring a box of chicken droppings to City Hall to illustrate their point. Though dissuaded from that by the city manager, they did voice their opposition.
Since then, to keep even the occasional complaints from burdening city officials, members of CLUCK have been paying house calls on chicken owners who run afoul of the ordinance. Usually, said Miller, of CLUCK, the complaint stems from a chicken that has gotten loose in a neighborhood. Miller often catches and returns it himself, but sometimes he must break bad news to an owner: they are an accidental outlaw.
In one typical case, he asked the owner if they realized they were keeping a rooster.
No, I'm not, the owner said. She's a hen.
Miller pointed to the bird's green tail feathers, the large comb on its head, and its spurs — all proof of a male bird — and asked if it had laid many eggs.
No, the owner told him. They had been wondering about that.
“I told them, 'I don't think this is going to work out for you,' ” Miller said.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Spring is here!

And Lady Fanny, my Speckled Sussex, is getting ready to be broody. She's an excellent mother and enjoys it. In the past years she has hatched chickens and turkeys.
In her nest box
We've got a separate nesting place for her now. She's not broody yet, but she spent 15 minutes loudly chasing other hens away from thye nest box, so I can see what's coming.
She likes nice soft wood shavings to brood in.

Last years turkey poults. They went on to live in a demonstration organic garden.

So Fanny and I are looking for hatching eggs! In California's Central Coast region. I'm happy to come pick up. We'd prefer some interesting breed, but we'll take anything. I'd love to have a couple of new pullets to join my small backyard flock.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Our cooking heritage

Karen Dunn of the University of Wisconsin's Steenbock Library has created a reference list for cooking history. The list includes resources around the nation, as well as those in the UW's collection.

The Apron Chronicles are delightful! This is a traveling exhibition, coming to Sacramento in July. I'd love to see them. I happen to have a few old aprons myself. What a treat, and an excellent expression of creative efforts by women who focused their energies on their homes.

The Smithsonian has an exhibit on Food: Transforming the American Table: 1950-2000. Sounds wonderful. Julia Child is a focus. She certainly had an influence.

The Recipe for Victory collection, about the importance of food during World War I, is fascinating. Is our situation any less urgent now? We can all make a difference by choosing what we eat and growing our own.

Chicken and other poultry have played such a large role in American cooking. Bringing those heritage breeds back is the mission of the next 50 years.

Susan Schneider of the University of Arkansas School of Law posted about the National Agriculture Library's collection of wartime posters.

These are great resources and reminders of how the public united to work for a better world. Let's do the same today!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Pastured Poultry

The Pastured Poultry web site has a lot of good information.  The definitions below come from it. I wasn't able to determine who wrote them. 

I was reminded of the confusion when I watched this amusing YouTube video

This pair of Brahmas are happy on pasture.
The terms "free-range poultry" and "pastured poultry" are commonly used among both consumers and producers of eggs and poultry meat. But these terms carry different connotations depending on who is doing the talking and who is doing the listening. With the exception of the term "free-range", there are no legal definitions of any term relating to the methods of rearing of poultry in the United States. This has resulted in the creation of numerous terms and subsets of terms that have brought confusion to the producer, the marketer and the consumer of poultry. 

Problems with the term "Free Range."
The USDA definition of "free-range" is rather vague. In order to label their meat and poultry "free-range or free-roaming", "Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside." (1) No mention of vegetation (pasture) is made. Poultry producers themselves seem to have no common standards on what the term means.  Some producers interpret "access to the outside" as a small pop-door (chicken door) on an end-wall of a 100 ft. long shed filled with un-caged birds moving about freely on a litter-covered floor. Others feel they are compliant with the spirit of free-range if their birds are outside in the fresh air and sunshine; even if their "range" is bare dirt.
When it comes to the consumer's perception of "free-range", arguably the vision that "free-range" most often conjures is of an un-fenced bird happily hunting and pecking in the grass. Because of the wholesomeness associated with the term "organic", many consumers take for granted that all certified organic poultry raised for meat and eggs are raised outside on green pasture. Sadly, this is not so. The term "free-range" is not even listed in the NOP (National Organic Program) "terms defined."(6) They do give guidelines that say: "All organically raised animals must have access to the outdoors..."(2) So when someone purchases poultry products labeled "free range" or "organic", the birds may never have actually seen the light of day or green grass its entire life. Technically, they simply have to have a door out of their confinement, but they don't have to necessarily walk through that door to meet the requirements.
When "Free Range" means "pastured"

The fourth edition of the American Heritage College Dictionary (8) defines "pasture", the noun, as, "A tract of land that supports grass or other vegetation eaten by domestic grazing animals." "Pastured", the verb, is defined by The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition as, "To herd (animals) into a pasture to graze."  "Free-range", as defined by The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition (9), is an adjective descriptive "Of, relating to, or produced by animals, especially poultry, that range freely for food, rather than being confined in an enclosure: (as in) free-range chickens"
Some poultry growers, in keeping with the spirit of the definition above, actually keep their birds outside (as the season and daylight hours permit), utilizing a movable or stationary house for shelter and keeping the birds on fresh-growing palatable vegetation.
As a subset of "free-range", terms such as "day-range" and "net-range" are also currently being used by poultry producers. Andy Lee coined the term "day-range", which is interchangeable with "net-range". In his book Day Range Poultry (7) he describes the system of using electrified netting to fence a predator-resistant area around a portable chicken house. The chickens are locked in the house at night. As the netting and the housing are portable, the chickens can be on fresh pasture at all times. Many producers making use of this system use the terms "free-range" and "day-range" interchangeably.
Another term in popular usage within the United States is "pastured poultry". This term is highly associated with Joel Salatin, author of the popular book, "Pastured Poultry Profits (5)". Pastured does not seem to be a term applied to poultry outside of North America but in the U.S., the term as used among poultry producers generally conveys the use of Salatin's methods. Floorless pens of 10 X 12 X 2 foot high are moved (once or twice daily) around a green pasture. The birds have access to fresh air, grass and insects but are also protected from predators. Many producers have modified the pen size and configuration to better suit their own needs, but the basic method involved in raising "pastured poultry" remains.

A Functional Definition of "Pastured Poultry"
Because of the loose definition of "free range," we prefer to use the term "pastured poultry." This would include those growers using the "Salatin type" of moveable pens, or other types such as "day range." So our definition would be: "Birds are kept outside (as the season and daylight hours permit), utilizing a movable or stationary house for shelter, and they have constant access to fresh-growing palatable vegetation." Pastured Poultry farmers generally have "seasons" when they raise their poultry, depending on where they live in the US. Growers in the north do not raise birds in the winter months when the ground is covered with snow, and growers in the Deep South typically do not raise birds in the heat of the summer when mortality rates are high.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Exhibition Poultry

Exhibition Poultry is a free online magazine. Lots of great information every month.

As your interest and affection for your chickens grows, you will want to share them with the world. Perhaps your kids want a project for 4-H or FFA. It’s time to take the next step and exhibit them at a poultry show.

If you haven’t been to a poultry show yet, find one and go. Poultry Show Central keeps a comprehensive list of shows around the country. You’ll see chickens you never imagined and have the chance to talk to their breeders. Vendors have all kinds of chicken paraphernalia for sale. You won’t feel like the only person who understands how wonderful chickens are. Radiostation KCRW gives you the sounds of a poultry show in its report on the 2013 Ventura Bash at the Beach Poultry Show.
Judge Bill Patterson examines a Cochin's wing.

Shows are organized by clubs and other associations, so being a member is the first step. The American Poultry Association  and the American Bantam Association certify poultry judges, so they are involved in overseeing any show at which poultry are judged by certified judges.  APA judge Bill Patterson examines a Cochin’s wing at the 2010 Sea Side Feather Fanciers’ seventh annual Bash at the Beach.

Showing your chickens is a great achievement.
APA certification assures that the judge has met its standards. Certified judges are required to qualify for points toward its Master, Grandmaster and other awards.

Specialty breed clubs generally hold their own ‘meets’ at poultry shows. They award their own separate prizes.

Ribbons, plaques and prizes are awarded, such as Michael Tuyls’ Chantecler Grand Champion Bantam and Reserve Show Champion White Chantecler bantam cock. Money prizes are nominal, but it’s gratifying to get recognition among your peers for your achievements.

Young people in FFA and 4-H have additional events, such as this Showmanship event at the Golden State Poultry Show. The Quiz Bowl at a local show gives students an opportunity to learn to think on their feet. Elimination competitions lead to national events that offer scholarships and other substantial recognition.

Showmanship classes place students in a one-to-one examination with the judge. The judge interviews the young poultry owner on poultry knowledge and ability to handle his or her bird. It gives young enthusiasts an arena in which to show off their best birds and shine.

Get all the relevant paperwork assembled and submitted before the deadline. Make sure your entries are recorded and you will be permitted to show. Some shows allow walk-ins, but many require pre-registration.

Show etiquette

Be on time. With many exhibitors bringing multiple birds to a show, cooping in is hectic under the best conditions. Be courteous to your fellow exhibitors. Be patient.

Golden Laced Hamburg
Informational cards describing your birds can be helpful in explaining the history and background of your breed in general and your birds in particular. Shows are an excellent opportunity to raise awareness of poultry.

Never touch another person’s bird. If you see a situation that concerns you, find the owner and inform him. Touching birds has overtones of interfering with the competition by breaking feathers or other nefarious activity.

Feed and water according to show advice. Some breeds, like Old English Games, do not show well with a full crop. If water has been temporarily removed, reassure concerned members of the public that the chickens are not being deprived and will soon have free access to water again.

Participate in your events and support your fellow exhibitors. A responsive audience is rewarding to exhibitors who have taken trouble to put their best birds forward. Classes like Showmanship benefit from an audience, because part of the challenge is to be able to think under pressure. Be respectful. Be appreciative.

Do not interrupt the judge or attempt to converse with him or her in any way. This smacks of attempts to influence the judging. Stay away from the judging area until judging is complete.

Stay until all prizes have been awarded. Give everyone the courtesy of admiration during their time in the winners’ circle.

Be a gracious winner. Kind words of fellowship and encouragement are always welcome.