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:
Gabe Santos:
Sarah Levison:
Karen Benker:
Mary Blue:
Brian Hansen:
Mayor Roger Lange:

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