Have you got a license for that thing?

DSCF2303As far as animal-keeping goes, chickens really aren’t high maintenance.  You have an animal that is no noisier or messy than a dog or cat, fresh eggs and–best of all–countless hours of entertainment! I love watching the chickens pecking around the backyard so intently, moving around the plants looking for bugs and other things to eat.  But not every place is welcoming to chickens.

So how can you find out if chickens are legal in your city? It’s a true understatement to say that laws regarding keeping poultry in the city and in the suburbs vary. Just do quick Google search for “municipal codes poultry (name of city)” and you’ll find there are different laws for nearly every city in the US!  Don’t assume that just because one city in your state allows chickens, that another city will.

Some cities let you have one rooster; most don’t let you have any roosters at all. Some have specific regulations about the chicken coop and its placement; others are more vague in describing the space for birds. There are websites that have many poultry municipal codes listed in one place, which is a good place to start. But you really need to get the information from your own city, preferably from a government source.  If you can’t find what you are looking for online, call!

If by some chance you live in a city where chickens are not legal, there are many ahead of you who have led the charge and been successful in getting the city laws changed.

One really good resource is urbanchickens.org, a site that has a lot of useful information for the very new and wanna-be poultry keepers.  On their page concerning chicken laws, they give very specific advice for those who want to change the chicken laws.

The issue of whether to allow chickens inside city limits is on the table at many places around the US, from Idaho to Indiana.  So, chances are someone in your city has had the same idea.  You can find like-minded folks in many ways.  Try searching for a Facebook group.  Call your local county extension agent and ask if there are any poultry groups in the area.  If not, ask for the names of a few people who keep chickens–once you find one person, you’ll find the chicken people tend to know each other, so your network can grow very quickly.

But remember,  you’re probably not alone. Most likely there are others like you, maybe even a chicken lover in government.

Many people with children have even joined a local 4-H poultry club and found city, suburban and country folk alike who love their birds. A 4-H club is also a great way to get your children involved in chicken keeping and to get some help if you have chicken questions.

But here is my best advice: Obey the law or change the law. Just avoid going rogue, as it could end badly and you might hurt the chances of getting chickens legalized in your city.

No matter whether you agree with the law or not, its best to follow the current laws and change what you don’t like.  I have friends who lived in town before chickens were allowed legally, and the stress of unfriendly neighbors forced them to choose between their in-town home and a country home with the chickens.  They chose country and ended up with a great place. But not everyone is willing to go to these lengths.

Going rogue is pretty stressful if you are worried that someone might turn you in at any time if your beautiful little coop is discovered sitting illegally in the city limits.

eggs

However, even if it is legal to have chickens in your city, it never hurts to take a dozen eggs to your neighbors from time to time just to make them glad you’ve taken on chickens.

I’m dreaming of a white chicken….

Orp croppedAlong with seed catalogs, now is the time of year many people start receiving catalogs from hatcheries around the country. And, just like some thumb through the catalogs filled with colorful, glossy pictures of flowers and vegetables, its tempting to  imagine your backyard filled with feathers that come in all kinds of colors and types.

Chickens have become fairly common in many urban backyards, and most people handle them successfully, though sometimes after much trial and error. Many people who want to get chickens to give their children a “farm experience.”  Whether or not this is a good idea depends on your children. I’ve known children as young as 8 or 9 who were quite responsible in taking care of their chickens for a 4-H project, while I’ve also known adults that I wouldn’t leave with my chickens for one day.

The basics: Chicken lairs and laws

As far as animal-keeping goes, chickens really aren’t especially high maintenance.  You have an animal that is no noisier or messy than a dog or cat, fresh eggs and–best of all–countless hours of entertainment! I love watching the chickens pecking around the backyard so intently, moving around the plants looking for bugs and other things to eat. Its often a source of entertainment for our family, to see the chickens exploring the woods and yard area around our house, and I’ve been known to bring a lawn chair outside on a nice summer evening before the sun goes down and watch the birds go about their business.

So how can you find out if chickens are legal in your city? It’s a true understatement to say that laws regarding keeping poultry in the city and in the suburbs vary. Do quick Google search for “municipal codes poultry (name of city)” and you’ll find there are different laws for nearly every city in the US!  Don’t assume that just because one city in your state allows chickens, that another city will.

Some cities let you have one rooster; most don’t let you have any roosters at all. Some have specific regulations about the chicken coop and its placement; others are more vague in describing the space for birds. There are websites that have many poultry municipal codes listed in one place, which is a good place to start. But you really need to get the information from your own city, preferably from a government source.  If you can’t find what you are looking for online, call!

If by some chance you live in a city where chickens are not legal, there are many ahead of you who have led the charge and been successful in getting the city laws changed.

One really good resource is urbanchickens.org, a site that has a lot of useful information for the very new and wanna-be poultry keepers.  On their page concerning chicken laws, they give very specific advice for those who want to change the chicken laws.

Age isn’t everything

This old girl is 12 years old and has hatched out chicks for me for eight or nine of those years.  She’s a production Buff Orpington that we got from Murray McMurray years ago for my son to show in the county 4-H show.  She isn’t show quality, but she IS quality nonetheless.

How old can chickens live to be?  Well, she’s testing that question for me.  I have to say, when she got broody this year I was a little leery of letting her sit on some eggs.  Yes, its only 21 days, but a kind of tough 21 days when you don’t move most of it, don’t eat or drink much and its generally hot.

But I let her hatch out five Buttercup eggs and, as usual, she is a wonderful mother.  She’s slowed down a lot lately, and seems to fall asleep in the oddest places.  But hey, when you’re the poultry equivalent of 90 years old, you’re allowed to fall asleep where ever you want!

Orp cropped

The new coop is done!!

New coopIt took about nine months…long enough to birth a child, but I got instead a wonderful new chicken coop.  Small barn, really.

Before the chickens moved in, some friends came to see it and thought it would make a great guest house.  Fat chance!  I have needed the extra space for some time.

My husband and son did  a great job!  They used a lot of material that we had stored in our garage.  The windows were a find…special-order windows from Lowes that were returned.  About 90 percent off the original price!

new coop front steps

I’ll put it to the test this winter…I hatched out about 75 chicks in August…insane, I know.  So we’ll see if the house can handle my 30 adult birds plus a large number of adolescent Buttercups.  But, in the hot days of early August, I won’t worry about that.

Sick chick blues

Its the question of the century for chicken farmers:  what do I do with my chicken that is (fill in the blank:  injured, sick, not eating, not drinking, sitting with ruffled feathers).

I know some old veterans who will cull a bird that is the least bit sick, with the theory that they can’t afford to feed a sick bird and once sick, never completely recovered.  Then I know others that have taken their pet chickens to expensive avian vets and paid lots of money to find out that nothing really could save them.

She was one of the lucky ones

It’s a dilemma, for sure.  I have found there is a happy medium in there somewhere.  Knowing the difference between the ones that won’t last, the ones that might last and the ones that probably will recover has taken me a lot of time.  And, I’m not always right.

But, case in point:  about four years ago I had a lovely pullet that I was going to show at the Ohio National in November. Three days before the show she began to sit outside with feathers ruffled, and I knew something was up.  I picked her up and found a soft eggshell hanging out of her vent with some yolk attached.  Uh oh.  Egg broken inside, probably infection, probably death impending.  Still, I decided to give it a try.  I brought her inside, sat her vent area in some warm water and watched the rest of the eggshell come out in the water.

I had some penicillin tablets, and decided to dose her and keep her inside, wrapped up and warm.  I held her or put her in a box in the kitchen for the next two days, then had to leave for the show.  I told my husband to watch her and make sure she ate and drank.  After about two more days, she got up and started moving (my husband reported by phone).

Long story short…she recovered and I still have her, and she is hale and hearty.  It could have ended badly, and I have it end badly with sick chickens.  I guess the best answer is to talk to others who are more experienced, read from sources you know to be reputable, and learn. Often the hard way.

I have a blog post on Earth Eats this week that talks a bit more about what you can do when your chickens are ailing.  I’s a never-ending learning process for me.

 

 

 

 

 

Wade in the water

Let’s deal with it:  I’ve taken a prolonged leave from this blog because I started a new, full-time writing job at a medical device company.  A great job, but I arrive home out of words.  And dealing with the long days, taking care of the animals, family and occasionally cleaning the house, blogging hasn’t been top-of-mind.  But, perhaps the word bank has had enough deposits.

 

The heat of this summer has been/is something I’ve not seen in many years….well, actually, make that ever.  Though we had had some hot summer, I didn’t have chickens, so perhaps didn’t notice the weather quite so much.  Now I am aware of every nuance, as it can affect my livestock.

Luckily the Buttercups are a Mediterranean breed, light of body, large comb to cool off the body.  They’ve been ok. But a new behavior has emerged that I’ve not seen before:  wading chickens.  I’ve read pro and con about spraying water on chickens to cool them off.  Doesn’t matter much for me, my birds wouldn’t hold still even if I tried.  But…one of the hottest days of this summer I had put out extra water pans for the birds.  All I had were those shallow black feed pans, so I scrubbed several  out and filled them with water.

I noticed when I got home that night that some of the pans were filthy with dirt.  And, as I watched, several chickens walked through the water pan and out again.  Could it have been an accident?  I kept watching and saw that they were taking turns standing in the water to cool off and then moved into the shade.

I filled an extra kiddie pool for my large pen of birds–just a couple of inches–and left it under a shady tree.  Success.

So until the heat abates (which I don’t think is going to happen for some time), I’m keeping the shallow “wading pool” pans in all of my chicken pens.  Its a bit more trouble scrubbing those things out every night, so darn, I still can’t get to the vacuuming or clothes folding

Such is life!