Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Natural History of the Chicken on PBS Dec. 31

Natural History of the Chicken

Natural History of the Chicken will be on Rocky Mountain PBS
Wednesday, December 31
9 p.m. (Analog)

Most people best know the chicken from their dinner plates - whether as thigh, wing or drumstick. Consumers barely pause a moment to consider the bird's many virtues. Filmmaker Mark Lewis ("Cane Toads: An Unnatural History" and "Rat") expands the frontiers of popular awareness and delightfully reveals that this small, common and seemingly simple animal is as complex and grand as any of Earth's creatures.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Eggs on the Table - pictures from the presentation and an update

On Thursday, Dec. 20, a small group of chicken supporters held a public informational meeting called "Eggs on the Table: Longmont and Urban Hens" at the Longmont Public Library. We had a decent turnout, including one member of city council (Mary Blue) in attendance. All city council members were invited.

In addition to the presentation and some question and answer, we had the backyard chicken petition available for signatures. If you are a Longmont resident who has been unable to sign the paper petition and are in favor of allowing up to 6 backyard hens (no roosters) in Longmont, you can sign the online petition. Please be sure to include your address in the comments.

Here are a few pictures from the presentation:

Alison talks about sustainability.

An explanation of why backyard hens are sustainable.

An explanation of why Longmont needs an ordinance allowing backyard hens.
Chris discusses different breeds of chickens and chicken coops.

Dr. Mikki Hand talks about the myths and concerns versus the facts regarding backyard hens.

Alison shows the difference in egg yolks (size and color) between:
top picture - a cage-free organic egg from Organic Valley (purchased from the grocery store) on the left and an almost urban egg from Ollin Farm (a local organic farm) on the right and
bottom picture: Ollin Farm eggs on the left and Organic Valley eggs on the right.

Some of the chicken pictures the kids in attendance of the presentation colored.

Lastly, Lilla, age 7, (of Lyons) talks about her chickens while her father looks on.

UPDATE: At this time, city council is set to discuss more about the ordinance at the Jan. 20th study session, which the public may attend. Also, there will be an open forum at city council on Jan. 6th during which residents may sign up to speak on any topic for a 5-minute period. You just need to sign up to speak.
If you'd like to read more about the presentation, please see the Times-Call article about it: Chicken fans praise backyard birds as useful, fun.
If you'd like to get involved in the chicken crusade, please join the Yahoo Group and/or consider sending an email in support of the ordinance to city council.
Thank you.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Longmont backyard chickens in the news

An article about our public educational meeting at the library last night was on the front page of the Times-Call today: Chicken fans praise backyard birds as useful, fun.

If you are interested in signing the petition, please watch the blog for updates re: when/where we will have it available for signatures in the weeks ahead and/or leave a comment with your email address and one of us will get in touch with you. Thank you.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Eggs on the Table: presentation tonight at Longmont Public Library

Just a reminder that our library public education meeting is still on for tonight.

on the Table: Longmont and Urban Hens
, a public educational meeting, will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. TODAY, Thursday, Dec. 18 at the Longmont Public Library. Accompanied by experts in their fields, we'll clear up some misconceptions and educate about the many benefits to owning backyard hens. Whether you are pro-chicken or still on the fence, we hope you will join us. Children are welcome to attend with their parents.

We will have a local physician, an organic farmer and a few urban hen owners from neighboring communities speak. We will also answer questions and view some images and video clips demonstrating the various homes and faces behind urban hens. The meeting is for anyone who wishes to learn more about urban hens and to better understand how they can be good neighbors.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Backyard Hens Make Better Yolks

As a kid we had chickens and we had fresh eggs. As far as I can remember, I always liked eating eggs, whether they be scrambled, poached, soft boiled, hard boiled, they were (and are) a tasty food. My grandmother also raised chickens from which she made the best scrambled eggs in the world. They were always a bright yellow and tasted oh so creamy.

Over the years I became accustomed to grocery store eggs. They seemed perfectly good, although my omelets and scrambled dishes never tasted quite as good as I remembered. For many years I attributed this to the superior cooking skills of my mom and my grandmother. And, then I came across local farm fresh eggs just a few miles from our home.

The eggs on the left have been marked with a "V" and are Cage Free Large Brown Eggs from Organic Valley. Prior to coming across Ollin Farms our family either bought eggs from Organic Valley or from Nest Fresh. The eggs on the right are from Ollin Farms and marked with an "O". As egg companies go, Nest Fresh is pretty close to ideal. They are Certified Humane and fed a vegetarian and organic diet; however, from this comparison it is clear their eggs continue to miss something in the diet of real farm eggs (and Backyard Eggs).

The first time I cracked open an egg from Ollin Farms, I was in awe of its rich golden (in fact deep orange) hue. I scrambled a few up for the best omelet in ages. I was hooked and so was my toddler son! Not only are Ollin's eggs very tasty, but I have also visited their hens, which have a large outside enclosure. I know that for a fact that their chickens are happy with space to run, forage, eat a grub or two and some grass, in addition to their carefully selected chicken feed.

Over the last few months I’ve mentioned the difference in color to many people. Unfortunately, everyone except my grandmother, who has almost 90 years of hen raising experience, looks at me in disbelief when I mention the rich yellow orange color of Ollin's eggs, so I decided to document the difference.

Pictured above you see on the left a Cage Free Organic Egg provided by Organic Valley. On the right you see an almost urban egg farm egg from Ollin. You’ll note that the yolk from the Ollin egg is not only deeper in color, it is also much larger.

In this last photo the Ollin eggs are on the right and the Organic Valley on the left. You’ll again note the difference in color and the increased size of the yolks in the Ollin Eggs. The Organic Valley eggs are much more uniform in size and they just don’t measure up to old fashioned free roaming eggs raised on a small scale!

With access to locally raised eggs, such as those from Ollin, you might wonder why I or anyone else might want to raise his or her own backyard hens. For one, raising several hens can be pleasurable work as the hens, like many pets, often become part of the family! Furthermore, here in Longmont we have very alkaline and clay soil. Folks who like to keep hens also often like to garden. Personally, I would be thrilled to have access to a regular supply of free Chick a Poo fertilizer to compost and add to my soil!

Lastly, although there are several local purveyors of farm fresh eggs, supply cannot keep up with demand. Over the summer months I have access to at least 3 different options for egg buying, but only on certain days and they all sell out within a few hours of opening. In the winter months Ollin is the only place I know of to get eggs, but Mark himself has said he could probably run a business on eggs alone and still not keep up with demand!

In conclusion, there are those of us who appreciate nutritious and good tasting food and the welfare of animals, while also desiring to increase our self-sufficiency and shorten the distance of our food from farm to table. With this in mind, we ask you to attend Eggs on the Table this Thursday at the Longmont Public Library. And (or) seek us out to sign the petition showing your support to the Longmont City Council.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sign the chicken petition this Saturday

We'll be at the Winter Farmers' Market & Holiday Gift Show, in front of Barn A at the Boulder County Fairgrounds on Saturday, Dec. 13, collecting signatures for our backyard hen petition.

Don't be chicken. ;) Stop by and show your support for urban hens.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Upcoming public educational meeting - Dec. 18

Eggs on the Table: Longmont and Urban Hens, a public educational meeting, will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 18 at the Longmont Public Library. Accompanied by experts in their fields, we'll clear up some misconceptions and educate about the many benefits to owning backyard hens. Whether you are pro-chicken or still on the fence, we hope you will join us. Children are welcome to attend with their parents.

Some of the speakers we are hoping to have in attendance* include:
- Dr. Mikki Hand, family physician
- Mark, farmer and chicken owner at Ollin Farms
- a representative from 4-H
- a child who owns backyard hens
- an expert on sustainable living
- a representative from Animal Control

*Subject to change

We will also have our petition to Longmont City Council available for signatures.

Hope you can join us for a fun evening!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Backyard hens in the LA Times

Excerpt from a Los Angeles Times article, Chickens as pets: city living with a farm feel:
Any urban dweller interested in living green has good reason to keep chickens. They reduce garbage by eating your leftovers mixed in with their feed, and they will pick off those irritating caterpillars destroying the vegetable garden. Their poop is an excellent composting aid, and they will even trim your grass and weed for you, if you let them. Added benefits: farm-fresh eggs right from the backyard and the amusement of impressing friends with an interesting new pet -- and for many it is a pet, not a future entree.

"Bottom line, chickens are a lot of fun," said Dave Belanger, publisher of Backyard Poultry magazine, who has seen subscriptions more than triple since he launched in 2006.
Read the full article here.

Photo credit: Christina House / Los Angeles Times

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Top 10 Reasons to be Pro-Hen

The Top 10 Reasons I'm Pro-Hen!!

#10 - Hens are darned cute and oh soooo soft!

#9 - Hens eat table scraps that cannot be put in your compost.

#8 - Hens provide happy and healthy non-toxic weed control (with built in fertilizer).

#7 - Composted chicken waste is perfect for your soil (and garden).

#6 - Watching a hen chase down a mosquito is just too funny!

#5 - Humanely-raised and cruelty-free eggs from happy chickens are hip, green, and sustainable!

#4 - Hens are snuggly love-bugs when given a chance!

#3 - Remember those eggs? Urban hen eggs are fresher, cheaper, better tasting, and more nutritious than ones from the store!

#2 - Hens teach kids that food doesn't come from a box.

#1 - As an urban hen owner you will be a part of the solution, paving the way for a new beginning!

P.S. Thank you to the Fort Collins hen group for your support and inspiration.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Backyard Hens

Why raise chickens in the city?
  • Great tasting, nutritious eggs; Research shows that chickens allowed to roam freely and eat grass lay eggs that are higher in Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin E and at the same time lower in cholesterol than eggs from the supermarket, making home-produced eggs healthier. Their yolks tend be a richer yellow and described as creamy in taste! There is nothing better than a fresh egg!
  • Organic, chemical-free pest control: Chickens love to eat bugs that bite you, such as mosquitoes and ticks, and the bugs that harm your plants like slugs.
  • Free fertilizer, no more wasted table scraps, and the opportunity to learn about our food cycle.
  • One step closer to sustainable living and self-sufficiency. Chickens give us eggs which just don't have food miles, and there are many other reasons why they help the environment.
  • Fun and friendly pets with personality. Believe it or not, chickens have great personalities. There are always the shy ones, and those that run up to you to be picked up and cuddled. They do quirky things that will light up your day, everyday.
  • Educational Opportunities: Raising chickens (or any pet) is an excellent lesson in responsibility for children (and their parents). Learning how to properly feed and care for chickens, while also learning about good nutrition and the history of our food is a valuable lesson for all.
Are chickens noisy and smelly?
Hens are quiet. Roosters are the noisy ones that crow - sometimes all day. You don't need a rooster to get eggs and roosters will not be allowed per the Longmont backyard chicken ordinance, so there's no need to worry about them.

For small flocks, proper bedding material, routine cleaning, and access to outdoors keep smells to a minimum. Of course, a dirty coop will smell, but generally, that smell is limited to inside the coop. It is also important to keep the floor of your coop relatively dry for the health of your chickens and to reduce the possibility of smelliness (your coop could be mildly pungent after a heavy rain).

How do I keep their coop clean and my neighbors happy?
Once every week or two (depending on how many chickens you have in how little space), clean out the coop, wipe down the perches, and scrub down their feeders. If they are laying, thoroughly clean their nest boxes, especially if an egg cracked at one point. Keeping their environment clean will also keep your neighbors from complaining.

What do I do with chicken manure?
  • Regularly clean out to prevent problems.
  • Compost it and use in garden and yard.
  • Chicken manure is acidic, which is great for our alkaline clay soil, and highly nutritious!
What else can I do to keep a good relationship with my neighbors?
Tell your neighbors what you are doing. They are less likely to get upset over a wandering chicken in your yard (or theirs) every once in a while if they know where it came from. Better yet, turn them into allies and give them free eggs! You will likely end up with more eggs than you will know what to do with.

What if my neighbor gets chickens?
Enjoy visiting the chickens and talking with your neighbor. Discuss concerns, questions or problems right away, and your neighbor will address them. Your neighbor is working hard to make sure the chickens fit into the neighborhood.

How do I ensure the health of my chickens and my family?
The main concerns with disease and chickens are the salmonella bacteria strains and the possibility of them contracting avian flu. If you buy your chicks from a certified salmonella and mycoplasma free hatchery, and protect their food from rodents, you should not run in to many problems w/salmonella. As far as protecting them from avian flu, you need to keep them away from migratory birds, and use chlorinated city water for their water. To date, we don't have avian flu in the US.

To prevent the possibility of disease you can take several small precautions. Any new chicks should be vaccinated against Marek's disease as day old chicks before they leave the hatchery (this is a chicken disease, not a human one). You should also wash your hands after handling your chickens or anything related to the chickens. If you visit your neighbors chickens it is prudent to wash your hands and change clothes, before handling your own chickens again.

What if I am still concerned about Avian Influenza (AI) or Bird Flu?
Common-sense principles and good bio-security measures are very important to help prevent the spread of this disease, as well as other poultry diseases, and should always be followed. It's important to note that one cannot be infected with AI by eating cooked poultry products or eggs. For more information, visit the web sites of the WHO and the CDC. Additionally, it is wise to keep your chickens from interacting with migratory birds.

What do chickens eat?
Purchase food for your chickens to ensure proper nutritional balance in their diet. Your chickens will need feed and likely a calcium sources, such as oyster shell. Feed supply stores are a good source as well as the Internet (there are several in the Longmont area, such as Burdocks & Hygiene Feed & Supply). Put the feed in a covered feeder and replace it regularly, as it does go stale. Never let your chickens eat damp feed! Chickens also love table scraps; however, do not feed them raw meat or spoiled veggies (as raw could increase risks of salmonella, as well as campylobacter and e. coli).

They are effective weed eaters and wonderful for insect control. Fresh and cracked corn is a favorite as well as tomatoes, apples and anything baked. Also, chocolate and avocados can be toxic to birds and your chickens should not eat these foods. A good rule of thumb: if it's healthy for you, it's usually healthy for your chickens. Use common sense and keep pesticides, antifreeze and other chemicals out of your birds' reach. Clean up uneaten food before it spoils and stinks up their home.

How will urban hens effect Animal Control?
We acknowledge that the Longmont Animal Control is understaffed. We value the important work carried out by our local Animal Control officers understand the need for their support. Rather than forbidding chickens, we feel that it would instead be prudent to increase funding, staffing and support for Longmont Animal Control. If Longmont were to consider a small permit fee for Chickens (similar to Ann Arbor and some other cities), chickens might actually be a source of revenue for Longmont Animal Control.

What happens to abandoned or old hens?
Although many laying hens reduce their egg out-put over time, they will continue to lay. Many people develop fond attachments to their hens and will keep them through old age. However if you wished to process (and eat) your chicken there are several meat processing facilities in the area that take custom orders, such as Arapahoe Meats. If you would like to replace your hen with a more productive bird, it is likely that other local chicken lovers (inside or outside city limits) might adopt your old pet. Never abondon a domestic chicken as they are not bred to survive on their own! We will be working with the Longmont Humane Society to post further recommendations.

Will keeping backyard hens decrease neighborhood property values?
Based on the fact that backyard hens are allowed in Boulder, Denver, Berkley, Calif., San Jose, Calif., Ann Arbor, MI, New York City, San Francisco, and many more cities, there doesn't seem to be a problem with decreased property values.

What if I have additional concerns or more detailed questions?
Visit the Colorado State Cooperative Extension Poultry Page for additional information, statistics, links and contact information.

Some of the above information came from: WikiHow, Backyard Chickens, Ann Arbor's A2 chicken site, CSU Poultry Page, and Green Me's cousin (a vet).

Friday, November 21, 2008

Contact Your City Council Members

If you are in favor of the Longmont city ordinance to allow backyard hens, please let your City Council members know (and why you support the ordinance). You can find their contact information by clicking on their names on the City of Longmont City Council Members page or their email addresses are listed individually below.

Sean McCoy: seanmccoylcc@q.com
Gabe Santos: gabe@gabesantos.com
Sarah Levison: levison4longmont@yahoo.com
Karen Benker: karenbenkerlg@earthlink.net
Mary Blue: marykblue@msn.com
Brian Hansen: council_hansen@hotmail.com
Mayor Roger Lange: roger_lange@qwest.net

It is so important that the city council members hear from everyone who is in support of this ordinance. Please make sure your voice is heard. Send them an email.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Why Backyard Chickens?

Benefits of Urban Chickens
There are a variety of reasons to keep chickens in urban environments, and its not a new fad. People have been keeping chickens in cities for centuries, and here are some of the benefits when you add chickens into your urban lifestyle:

Local source of protein
If you live in an urban environment you can grow your own fresh fruits and vegetables in your backyard. When it comes to supplying your own source of protein however, it's impossible to get your dog to lay breakfast each morning or fit a cow in your backyard. That's why chickens are so wonderful! They are small, easy to care for, and won't take up your entire yard. Chickens provide protein rich eggs, and if you choose to you can also raise them for meat (if slaughtering is legal where you live).

Better Quality
Fresh foods simply taste better! Also, when you raise your own eggs and meat, you know what the animal ate, its living conditions, and how it was treated. No need to worry about food safety, antibiotics, or hormones.

Source of fertilizer
Chicken poop is high in nitrogen and great for your compost pile. Supply your backyard garden with compost made from chicken poop and watch your plants flourish!

Natural pest control
Got cockroaches, tomato horn worms, aphids, grubs, or any other pest you don't want in your yard or garden? Chickens are great at conrolling these pests naturally- no need to put nasty chemicals in your yard. And yes- chickens will even eat mice!

It's fun!
Chickens can provide a breath of fresh air in our busy urban lifestyles (as long as you don't step in their poop!). Just like cats and dogs, chickens have personalities and can be great companions. If you can't keep indoor pets, chickens are a wonderful alternative with the added benefit of providing food. Also, your neighbors and friends will come flocking over to your house to take part in all the excitement.

You can be a part of the local food movement!
The local food movement is taking off, and by keeping chickens you can take pride in being a producer and not just a consumer. Help feed your own existence!

Source: Benefits of Urban Chickens