Thursday, December 29, 2011

Make Sure You Don't Get Hen-Pecked by Your City Due to Ordinance Laws Against Chickens

Some cities don't allow chickens at all. Check out this article in the Los Angeles Times. It's good to know your city ordinances before you begin raising chickens.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Don't Let Your Chickens Become Your Pets

Formerly "Ginger" - My First "Pet"

"Don't let your chickens become your pets," my mother warned when I spoke with her on Christmas Day. It's not that my Mom has chickens. In fact, she has a vendetta of sorts against any kind of animal. (Brought on, I am sure, by a vicious dog bite she received as a child.) Yet, my mother enjoys any new kind of endeavor, especially ones that are out of the norm of daily living. So, when I told her I had chickens, she decided to start asking friends and family about raising chickens.

It was during a conversation with my brother-in-law's mother who has raised chickens in Oregon for years...years and years...more years than I can even imagine, that my mother received her first chicken raising warning. "Jaki said not to make pets of your chickens." 

My immediate reaction was, how could they not become pets? The raccoons that sidle up to the back screen door and peer in with their masked eyes are nearly pets. How could the chickens that I've raised since days old not become pets, especially, chickens like Ginger?

"Ginger" (pictured above), a Golden Spangled Hamburg, was the first of my "pets." Her ginger-colored feathers, tinged with dark cinnamon tones, were immediately attractive to me. Coming from a long-line of ginger-heads, I dubbed her Ginger in honor of my Great-Aunt, a Great Aunt that I never knew but whose name and stories had filtered down through the lineage. This little, feathered Ginger was not only a striking new member of my family but also the only one that let me reach deep into the chick box and pull her out from under the warmth of the heat lamp and pet her. She nested her head up against my chest and gently rested there while I stroked her.

It was about two months into her life, that I noticed that she was emitting sort of a choked noise. It was as if she was trying to dislodge a rather large cricket caught in her throat. Ever the one to question my observations, I decided I must not be hearing what I thought I was even though I swore there was a bit of a cockle-doodle-doing going on. 

Three months into the game, it is unquestionably evident that my little darling Ginger is a rooster--a medium-sized preening rooster with extravagant tail feathers and a fearless attitude that clearly says "male."

I would love to keep this rooster, but at this end of the Central Coast, the city has a strict noise ordinance against owning a rooster. Thirty hens I can keep on my property, but a rooster? No way.

As luck would have it, some more rural Santa Ynez Valley living resident was advertising for a young roo to mate with her hens. Carole came over yesterday to "check Ginger out" and will be picking up our rooster in a couple of days.

It's going to be hard to say goodbye to 'Ginger." He was, after all, the first "hen" I loved. But, as I coddled him up into my arms yesterday, and looked amber eye to amber eye with him,  I assured him he was getting the better of the deal. He soon would have six hens to strut his stuff around, more property upon which to scavenge, and, best of all, the dream for all men, he would soon be getting laid. 

Just like when he was young, he pressed his head up into my chest and gently rested there, as if to thank me.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Uncle Sam Wants You to Raise Chickens...

Every back yard in the United States should contribute its share to a bumper crop of poultry and eggs in 1918.
In Time of Peace a Profitable Recreation
In Time of War a Patriotic Duty

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Duchess of Chickens

The Duchess of Devonshire...dreaming of being a Duchess of Chickenshire...
                                                                                 Getty Images

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pickin' Chickens App

There's even an app for pickin' your chickens!
Chosen as Slashfood Best of 2010 iPhone App for Food and Cooking. Presented by Mother Earth News for $2.99

Chickens Magazine - Fall 2011 Table of Contents

For more about your chicks, check out Chickens Magazine - Fall 2011 Table of Contents.

Hypnotizing Chickens

Two chickens were on the lam today.

While cleaning their pen and moving it to some higher "hen pecking" ground, the largest and smallest chickens--Diamond, the aforementioned Silver Speckled Hamburg and Jersey, the Jersey Black Giant, hopped off to the side and averted the dropping of the pen back over them.

Photo by Keith Skelton
In most instances, I wouldn't worry about such a clever action on either one of their parts. In fact, I would have applauded their ingenuity. I'm one of those people who love independence, spunk and spirit. But, my cat, Sequoia, was lurking the grounds, licking his lips in the anticipation of a fresh chicken dinner. Sequoia's a hunter...a fearless, cutthroat tigress.

Sure enough, when Sequoia caught the shimmer of Diamond's luster reflecting off the dew of the grass, he leapt right for her. I screamed. Diamond cawed and flew high into the air, averting danger. Sequoia slunk off while Jersey and Diamond with a broken feather, made a mad dash into the thicket of eugenia and ivy.

I ran after Sequoia trying to get him into the house, to no avail. I ran after the chickens and tumbled down the railroad ties leading to my neighbor's yard. I landed nearly headfirst into their grove of pines, obvious remnants from Christmas's past. It was in the tangled pine branches that the chickens clucked and dodged, taunting and teasing, until I was exhausted from the chase.

I went back to their pen, grabbed a handful of sunflower seeds, hoping to lure them  to me. No luck.

I grabbed a plastic tub, hoping I could get close enough to capture them. No luck.

I finally pulled my I-Phone out of my pocket and texted my beau, Keith. "SOS. HELP. Chickens out. Sequoias after them." Arriving as fast a rooster in heat, it was only two minutes or so before I heard him open up the backyard gate, and yell, "Where are you?"

"In the pines," I screamed, drowned out in part by the clicking of hens; the rustling of chickens; and the snorting of...

Oh, my goodness. There was my neighbor's pot-bellied pig, out of his pen, wandering aimlessly across the hillside. Being the farm girl I'm not, my first thought was, do pigs eat chickens? Whether it's because the pig is blind or nuggets aren't on his "bucket list", the pig didn't come near the chickens.

We finally cornered our winged avengers. Jersey was caught trying to walk up a dirt hill. The avalanche landed him right back into my hands. Diamond was scooped up by Keith underneath the pines. Both chickens we thrown back into the pen while Keith and I spent a good half hour brushing off our chicken-induced dust baths.

To the house, I marched, determined to find out how to bring chickens back to the fold. I found a Facebook page that I could like that's called I Hate It When My Chickens Get Loose. There are no tips only a countdown of people who've joined. I even discovered You Tube videos on how to clip chicken's wings, which is revolting to an independent girl like me.

Now, hypnotizing your chickens. That's more in line with what I'm thinking.

You flip them over on their bellies, rub below their necks, and sure enough...

They get sleepy...very, very sleepy...

I think it's time for me to take a nap.

If you have any tips on how to round-up winged avengers on the lam, publish a comment. The best ideas will be posted.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Birthday Wishes -- Chickens

Five of the new "six-pack" of chicks.                        Photo by Keith Skelton.
Marilyn Monroe's “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” was not what I was crooning months before my birthday when, during a casual walk through the backyard I turned to my beau, Keith, and said, "You know…I've always dreamed of having chickens. Maybe that's what I want for my birthday."

The idea roosted until one day when Keith and I joined some longtime friends at a local microbrewery for a pre-birthday celebratory drink.

"How do you like your chickens?" our friend, John, said as we plopped down on barstools beside him.

"What chickens?" I asked.

Keith shot John a daggered look. John grimaced at having just stepped into proverbial chicken shit.

“I have chickens?” I asked with glee.

I kissed Keith who wore a ticked-off smile.

In a classic case of putting the eggs before the hens, or in this case, the chickens before the coop, I learned I was the adoptive mother of six hens, six beautiful "little ones" whose temporary residence was a cardboard box in John's family's coop. (FYI, a cardboard box with a thick layer of pine shavings and a heat lamp works just fine—at first.)

“No worries,” said Keith when I inquired as to where the little critters were going to nestle their feathers once they were home. “We’ll have a coop de ville built on the back hill in no time.”

The chickens grew from toddlers to teenagers in just over a month and the chicken coop still exists in random pieces. (A word to the wise—if your tool belt's been shelved for awhile, a coop may take longer to build than you think, especially if plans call for a hen high-rise adaptable to a mother-in-law studio, if necessary.)

In the meantime, Keith and I built the chicks a temporary townhome from a wooden crate "borrowed" from the local shopping mall’s dumpster. (I spied it while he was in line at Starbucks.) We crafted a wire frame for the lid.

The temp-townhome
Two weeks later, we decided an outdoor run was necessary. So, we constructed a frame out of white irrigation pipe (don't forget the blue and purple glues) and wired it with 1/4" galvanized hardware cloth (rodents can get through chicken wire). Free at last to roam the grounds, the outdoor pen has now become their temporary full-time home. In addition to their starter chick food and water, a couple of times per week, we throw in some snacks like beets and fresh clover green (they love food scraps--just don't serve them uncooked eggs--gross!)

My "little ones" discovered their wings a couple of weeks ago and have begun to flutter. One day while trying to move them back into garage, a group runaway occurred. It took a good hour to track them down and coax them out from the property’s dense foliage borders. (Clue: chicks are mostly flock oriented and will regroup if left to their own devices.)

At a writing class one day, I discovered several local female friends also have chickens. Janice told the tale of her chicken breaking its leg and now residing in her house. “I love being able to hang out with the chicken all day,” she confessed. I cringed at the thought. After being shat on numerous times while transferring them between their homes, I can’t imagine having even one of my feathered six-pack in MY house, but, then again, never say never.

As for names, well, I haven’t quite mastered those yet either. I thought that after a couple of months, their personalities would evoke some monikers; but, very few names have come to mind.

Babette from "Cooped"
Just yesterday while watching the chickens peck and dust bathe in the glow of the setting sun, I became mesmerized by the way the Silver Spangled Hamburg strutted by as if playing with me--waddling her tail and pecking at the seeds I had delivered. The sun's setting glow lit the silver on her wingtips and created a twinkling sparkle across her jet black back. Diamonds, I thought, my hen's shimmering like diamonds. It was then that I knew her name.

Diamond's truly a girl's best friend. And, for my birthday, I can now say that I received the biggest one ever.