Tag Archive: urban chickens


by Lauren Scheuer and Available Now on Amazon.com!

by Lauren Scheuer and Available Now on Amazon.com!

Lauren Scheuer has written a book called “Once Upon A Flock” about her journey and discoveries in backyard chicken raising, and it is the book I wish I’d had when I was raising chickens.

Lauren is an illustrator, and it is her photographs and whimsical illustrations that gives a third dimension to the book, taking it beyond the world of story telling and information sharing. This is the kind of book that parents and children can enjoy hand in hand as we enter the chicken world.

Lauren and her family went through a chick hatching experience, nursed a sick chicken back to health, and successfully managed adding a new hen to her small flock. We get to go along on all of these important chicken journeys as if we were there, by her side, because of the window she creates with her pictures. Full color, beautifully illustrated pictures.

There were times when I was raising my poultry, before Lauren wrote her book, and usually in the middle of the my coop, in the middle of the night, when all of my pamphlets, and university extension office resources left me feeling very alone.  This was the old way of learning by doing. Lauren’s book is an example of a new age. Books that entertain and warm while they teach and show. Books that show and tell and show some more.

Once Upon A Flock is not only the perfect book to have in hand while starting up a chicken project, it is also a great bedtime story for my daughter… the kind we read while snuggled together, side by side, so that we can see the beautiful pictures! (plus, there’s more to see once we’ve finished the book because Lauren has an excellent blog)

Available on Amazon.com, and in Kindle format, by Atria Books, of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Silver Laced Polish in Just A Couple Of Chickens

Silver Laced Polish Chickens enjoy heat lamps in the winter… and I learned to hang them high enough to clear their head feathers! But now I have to watchit for teflon-coated heat lamps as well!

I used red heat lamps extensively both when I was brooding my 100 poultry chicks, and each winter of their lives, to keep them comfortable.

Other than the Polish Chickens burning their head feathers on the hot bulb, I had no problem… but that was more than two years ago and there’s a new technology out there resulting in red heat lamps that are coated with teflon.

And teflon is extremely toxic to birds when heated… teflon fumes = dead chicks. The teflon makes the bulbs shatterproof, and these bulbs are intended for food warming, but this new development makes it important that backyard poultry farmers be very careful when choosing the right heat lamp bulb.

In another new technology development, there are energy efficient, ceramic heat lamps available that don’t put out any light… and have no teflon threat, and Rocio Crespo, DVM, MS, DVSc, Dip ACPV suggests that we use them for our brooders and not risk the red heat lamps.

Dr. Crespo presented a talk to the Pacific Northwest Poultry Association (PNPA) in November this year, and I was very happy to be able to hear her speak. For one thing, I totally would have used heat lamps for my birds – and potentially gassed them all to death, and for another thing, she had many other valuable pieces of information. I learned a huge amount!

Rocio Crespo is the Branch Director, Associate Professor at the Avian Health and Food Safety Laboratory at the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, in Puyallup, WA. Her knowledge of chicken keeping, and her availability as a knowledge resource is amazing. People contact her with chicken health mysteries they cannot solve, and this is how she learned of the teflon danger. An entire brooder of new chicks expired one night, and Dr. Crespo narrowed down the clues until a light bulb moment appeared overhead. A red teflon light bulb.

I had kept my chicks in constant light, thinking that was better for them, and for me (checking on them in the night), but the lightless heat of the creamic bulb gives the chicks a chance to learn the cycles of day and night, which Dr. Crespo says is better.

SO!  good to know… no more red bulbs for me for poultry. And no more overheating my teflon frying pans… if it isn’t good for chickens it probably isn’t good for children. (Oops.)

Thank you Dr. Crespo and the PNPA!

 

Silver Laced Polish Chickens love Just A Couple Of Chickens

My Silver Laced Polish chickens were some of the sweetest in the flock, and the easiest to catch and snuggle, maybe because they couldn’t see or hear as well as the other chickens. But hey, this is a fabulous face. That is it’s face… all those fabulous feathers are the face.

100 years ago, I wouldn’t have had much choice in chickens.
I would have been limited to whatever chickens my neighbors raised.

Today I can choose my chickens based on all kinds of preferences:

  • big or small,
  • brightly colored or monochrome,
  • weird combs or standard,
  • old breeds or new,
  • mellow or feisty.

Now, I know enough to choose a bird that is well suited to my climate – but only because I didn’t choose properly the first time around.

My fancy top-hat Polish chickens were not comfortable in the minus 10 degree winter days of Northern New Mexico. They would spend all day under the low hanging heat lamp, regularly torching their top hat feathers into little puffs of smoke.

I also didn’t realize that the kinds of chickens that lay lots and lots of huge, perfect eggs are not always the same kind of chickens that sport fantastically decorated feathers.

Since my egg and feather business at www.TheFeatheredEgg.com offers blown eggs and natural feathers that were raised with love and care in my own small flock, I wanted exotic feathers from my hens, and so my second flock was full of exotic wonders.

They didn’t lay well at all.

And I learned that heritage breeds of chickens, ducks, and turkeys were definitely healthier, hardier, and more able to beat me at chess.

I learned that if I want eggs… I should choose a heritage egg layer.

If I want meat, I should stick with the broiler breeds – which will also lay eggs, and some of them will lay very well.

And if I want feathers, really special feathers, I’m going to have to compromise on both eggs and meat.
Beauty comes at a price.

There is a super-cool chicken selector tool at www.MyPetChicken.com to help with this process… I could spend hours on that thing!  It’s so fun!

Faverolles, Chantecler, Minorca, Australorp – ah, that one I had, White Leghorn – great chicken although not heritage – mega egg layer, Cubalaya… whassa cubalya?,
I should stop….
maybe one more spin on the chicken selector tool… really, I should stop… just one more time….

 

Does this sound like a strange question?

Not what breed is my chicken…. not what kind of chicken is this…. what color is my chicken?

Crele is a feather color Corinne didn't have in Just a Couple of Chickens

I made a Crele color quilt for myself to share the wonder. Crele is a color found on fairy chickens, also known as Modern Game Bantams. It is my new favorite chicken color.

When I placed my first hatchery order for the minimum 25 chicks, I went for “hatchery choice” because it was the least expensive way to get a wide variety of chickens. It also happens to be a good way to get a box of roosters, but I didn’t know that at the time…. the story makes for a very funny book, “Just a Couple of Chickens”, which I wrote in 2009.

I spent the next two years trying to figure out what chickens I had. I used their:

  • comb configuration,
  • feather shape,
  • body size,
  • laying habits,
  • and most of all, their feather colors.

And I still couldn’t figure out some of them, because if I thought there were an amazing number of chicken breeds in our world…. I hadn’t even begun to discover how many colors existed.

Inside each breed can be different colors and patterns and feather types, layers and layers of speciality that go deeper and deeper until I am totally lost.

This is where poultry shows are so exciting. The breeds and colors and patterns and feather types are all presented in perfect order, with experts and judges and breeders standing right there, ready to talk!

Which is how I learned about my new favorite color for a chicken… called “Crele”

It is a kind of coppery, gold, buttered, barred, starred, glorious cascade of tawny, scintillating, auriferous, honey-tinted feathers.

I saw it on some roosters at the PNPA show last season and have never been the same. Best of all, Crele comes in Fairy Chickens!
(aka Crele Modern Game)

But it seems to be best on the roosters. Which is a problem, as there are no roos in my future. Urban chickens are not roosters.
Okay, but what about the Crele Penedesenca Hen!  Now there’s an aurulent, caramelized bedecked neck of feathers…

I’m not sure that backyard chickens is so much a hobby as it is a… condition.

 

 

Just A Couple Of Chickens tells about Buff Laced Polish Chickens

This Buff Laced Polish Rooster features in today’s scary Halloween chicken story… he was one of…. “Just a Couple of Chickens” (bwahaha!)

To celebrate October 31st, 2012, which is Halloween, I am going to tell you a story of a very scary chicken.

Only it wasn’t a chicken, was it?
How scary is a chicken?

It was a …………ROOSTER!

Now that’s scary.

By the time this true story took place, I had come to terms with the death of my rooster loving dreams.
I had raised several roosters, due to an unfortunate straight run order from a hatchery, and tried very hard to counsel them out of their brutal, blood-letting ways.

And I’d failed. I’d gotten scratched, pecked, slashed, and ambushed. I’d given up and perfected my rooster mole recipe.

But there was one guy left. My gentle, sweet, bumbling, slightly unsteady Buff Laced Polish.

He was a beauty. With a weird horned comb.

The day that I was down in a crouch, trying to collect eggs from the farthest corner of the hen house, I thought he was coming over to tell me a knock-knock joke.
Or show me a particularly good juicy bug in the straw.

It was therefore a complete surprise to see him, as if in slow motion, leap into the air like a nasty ninja and stretch out his wickedly sharp spurs in a full-out attack.

He could have laid open my face to the bone… if he hadn’t clotheslined himself on the hen house door.

It was kind of funny, but I was shaken. If he hadn’t collapsed in a whomping crunch on the hen house doorstep, I would have been in big trouble.  His spurs were over two inches long.

Pretty scary…

I acknowledge that there are lots of people out there who have good rooster stories, but I haven’t lived them myself. At the end of the day, there’s a reason the rooster is free....

Happy Halloween!

 

A Chicken In Every Yard by Robert and Hannah Lit

This is a GREAT how to raise chickens book, and I’m pleased to have it in my own urban homesteading library now.

The Urban Farm Store in Portland, Oregon has been a leader in the urban chicken movement and they’ve come out with one of the best, most complete, how to books ever.
It is called A Chicken In Every Yard, and I highly recommend it.

Robert and Hannah Lit started their store on Belmont, right in the middle of the city and have become a resource for the backyard chicken farmers all over Portland. Putting out a book was a natural extension of their work behind the counter, answering every question for every bewildered new urban farmer.

Their advice is uniquely suited for the small flocks that make up backyard chicken flocks, but it goes for big flocks too. The coop section is ideal for city chicken raisers. How to raise chickens is answered by “A Chicken In Every Yard,” and I’d say it is a must for an urban homesteaders library.

This kind of how to book is an essential part of successfully raising chickens. I really enjoy the fact that my book, “Just A Couple Of Chickens” sells well in feed stores across the country, because it’s a fun way to learn a lot about the ups and downs of chicken raising, and while I have a lot of chicken raising in there, my book can’t replace the How To available in the Lit’s book. I own the Lit book myself, because I need the information too.

Stores like The Urban Farm Store are a great place to get chicks for a new, or growing urban flock. They order a variety of breeds and you get to choose one by one. Another way to get chicks is to go to a poultry show, and there’s one coming up nearby, or to contact a local poultry association (like the PNPA) to find a breeder raising the kinds of chickens you are looking for. Portland has all of these resources, and not every place does… it’s a uniquely awesome aspect of this city.

If it is an urban homesteader’s dream to have A Chicken In Every Yard, then this book is a step towards making that happen.

 

 

Just a Couple of Chickens tells How To Raise Chickens

My unscientific egg tally shows the amazing production of today’s modern hens, but not the amazing collection abilities of today’s modern backyard farmers.

Just how many eggs will I get from my hens, once they start laying?

Well!  I’m glad you asked. Because I happen to have an egg tally from 2005 and 2006 when I was knee-deep in my first flock. My flock adventures are described in my book, “Just A Couple of Chickens,” and because I was learning by doing, it’s pretty funny.

Not every egg that my hens laid made it to my egg collection basket. Sometimes, the hens laid on rocks or while strolling over little cliffs in the pen, so those eggs broke. Sometimes – which gradually became many times – the hens would eat their own eggs, and sometimes, I tripped on my own big plans and fell flat on the egg basket… so,

The actual egg count is probably about 10% greater than these numbers.

I also had not only chicken hens, but also duck, geese, pheasant, and chukar partridge. It was a very interesting adventure, which is why I wrote the book.

I had a flock of over 100 birds, about 80 hens of the various species.

In 2005, my hens laid enough eggs for me to blow 1,527. The following year the total was almost half that, 847 blown eggs.

The chicken hens laid half as many eggs in their second year as they did in their first. The molt was the dividing line between first and second year production.
The duck hens, who laid more eggs than the chicken hens, laid 1/4 as many eggs in their second year as they did in their first.
The geese laid half as many eggs in their second year, but the eggs were bigger. Bigger goose eggs are more valuable, and each year the geese will lay larger and larger eggs.
The pheasant hens were mad egg-eating fiends. Nuff said.
The Chukar Partridge hens laid a tremendous number of eggs but were very very fierce in protecting them. I almost lost a hand. They kept producing well in their second year but died of old age in their third  or fourth years.

Imprecise as it was, it was a big success, and the eggs and feathers from my flocks, and birds raised by good-hearted backyard farmers, are still available for sale at www.TheFeatheredEgg.com.

It was an amazing time, and I miss my flock. I look forward to writing the sequel book… titled “Just a Couple More”… and I’ll keep a more scientific record this time.

 

 

Copyright 2012 Corinne Tippett & The Westchester Press
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