Chickens: Blog Posts

My Broody Bantam Cochin Partridge Pullet with a baby buff Orpington chick peaking out from under her wing

 

The best part of the garden at Hanbury House is the small flock of backyard chickens.  Out of all the topics I write about here at my blog, chickens are probably my favorite one. During the time I have kept chickens, I have raised a variety of breeds, but after getting a few bantam Cochins, the quickly became my favorite breed, and I now keep them almost exclusively.   The hens, like our other pets, add so much to our lives.

If you would like to read future Hanbury House posts about chickens, but skip all my ramblings about vintage homemaking, crafts, or DIY projects, click here to subscribe to the Hanbury House RSS category feed exclusively for my Chicken posts. 

© 2012 – 2013, .

Darn Bumper Crop of Berries

Gojiberries garden photo flavor taste drought

Most of my flowers and perennials these days are generally low water users, at least once they became established, however the same is not true of all my edible plants. When the state officials announced the need for even deeper cuts to our water use early this year, I decided what my most prized plants were, mainly the fruit trees and camellias, and then I diverted the limited grey water from our front load washer machine to those trees and shrubs. Our samsung washing machine only uses about 13 gallons per load so there really isn’t that much gray water to go around. Any of the plants I felt would be easy to replace later on down the road, if necessary, were generally left to fend for themselves.

Goji berry fruit plant Los Angeles california

I didn’t realize it until I stopped watering the majority of back garden that the Goji Berries should be on every drought tolerant friut list, at least for USDA zone 9 and 10. The Gojis look better than ever this year, as you can see by the above photo. The Gojiberries were the only plants that I could have cared less if they died. No, scratch that, they were the one plant I kind of HOPED would die in the drought and then I could plant something else there I liked much better, like one of my many strawberry verte fig trees. No such luck.

Goji size berry comparison best variety

Normally the goji plants are plagued by powdery mildew as the season wears on, and look terrible by the end of summer, similar to what sometimes shows up on pumpkin or melon plants. (One of them many reasons I am not a fan of them.) No mildew this fall. There are thousands of healthy plump Goji berries ready to harvest. If I am not careful and diligent, they will self sow every where. (Reason number two to hate them.) I picked as much as I could last weekend and dried/dehydrated most of them. It did improve the taste a little, but I am still not a fan of Gojiberries, even though they are a “superfood.”

Gojiberry fruit dried taste flavor dehydrator

When I think of berries, I think of the flavors of things like blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries. I don’t think Goji should be referred to as a berry since berry or sweet aren’t the first flavors that come to mind when eating them, especially fresh off the plant. And definitely do not pick them under ripe! If they are not fully ripe when harvested, they are bitter and nasty. Ripe, they taste nothing like any of the other berries I grow, more like a veggie. The closest flavored fruit I can think of is a Surinam cherry, but most folks haven’t tasted those either, so that doesn’t really help in describing the flavor. They do taste slightly sweeter after drying, more like a sweet red bell pepper. In my opinion, anyone telling you gojis are sweet and delicious is probably trying to sell you them. On the other hand, the chickens do think they are absolutely wonderful. They gobble the little fruits up whenever I let them into the area where they grow. My blackberries canes adjacent to the Gojiberries died by the end of the summer due to the lack of winter rains and the lack of any supplemental fresh water, so if nothing else, Gojis are a great fruit for drought tolerant gardens. However, as I mentioned in an earlier post, Gojiberry plants are very invasive and thorny (which is my third and main reason I hate them.)

© 2014, .

Urban Wildlife Sighting…Osprey in the backyard?!

osprey hawk

This is one the pics I took on Monday, here in Long Beach.  Osprey is an unusual hawk to see locally, let alone in my backyard!

Yup. On Monday, I was in the back yard doing some pruning, when I heard an angry crow.  Looking up to the power in the next door neighbors’ yard, I noticed a huge hawk trying to enjoy its lunch in peace with a crow incessantly harassing it.  In addition to bugs, chickens, and plants, I am also a nerd about birds.  I ran inside and grabbed my old camera.  When I uploaded the photo on the computer to see it larger, I was shocked to discover, it wasn’t any of the regular hawks we often see like Red Tail or the most frequent visitor, Coopers Hawk.  It was an actual Osprey.  The only time other time I have seen an Osprey in the wild was this past summer outside of Grand Teton National Park on the Snake River in Wyoming.  They like to live near rivers and waterways where they can fish so I would not normally expect to see an Osprey around here in Los Angeles County. I told K this morning about my sighting, and she said both she and some other neighbors have seen it over the last few weeks, as well.  This fellow on the power pole must have decided since the weather was so pleasant here in Southern California right now and the pond in the park looked like a good fishing hole it might as well stay for a winter vacation.  Hopefully Osprey don’t like chicken.

More pictures and details on Osprey can be found at Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  They are the folks that use the information every year from the Great Backyard Bird Count on February 14th to February 17th this year.  To participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count or find out more about it click here.

long beach california big white black masked hawk osprey migration orange county

The Osprey was just trying to eat a fish but the crow, see over on the right side of the photo, kept bugging them.

Osprey urban hawk power pole backyard los angeles orange county long beach

The Osprey finally gave the crow a dirty look and it flew away.

 

© 2014, .

How To Distinguish Male Chicks From Female Chicks in 1 week old Cochins

 

sexing bantam chicks at day old  cochin brahma rock chickens chick sort gender rooster hen pullet cockerel male female

Above are my sketches of what I look for to determine pullets or cockerels in bantam cochins. The pullet sample drawing is on the left and the cockerel sample is on the right.  Most Asian, American, English, or other Heavy chicken breeds, as well as bantam versions derived from the same breeds generally follow similar growth patterns.

 

Now the hard part of raising bantam chicks begins: waiting to see which chicks are pullets and which are cockerels.  With bantam cochins, as well as other bantam chickens, they usually can’t be easily sexed for gender at hatch.  Vent sexing them can seriously injure or worse lead to the death of the tiny bantams, therefore, most hatcheries and breeders won’t do it.  Since I love Cochin bantams, Pekins as they are called in the U.K., I normally have to wait a few weeks to see how many girls or boys I got.  Based on numerous past clutches of bantam cochin chicks that we have raised over the years, I have slowly been getting better at making educated gender guesses fairly early in their development.  The best age to determine gender in my opinion, any earlier than six weeks, is between five days old to 14 days old.  In that age range, with most of the color varieties, it is possible to be accurate in about 80% to 90% of the chicks.

K across the street often asks me to come over and determine gender in her chicks for her too, mainly so she doesn’t get too attached to the boys.  My guesses are based on a combination of temperament, size, head shape, wing growth, tail feather growth, and sometimes slight color or marking variations in the different varieties. Between one day to 4 days old, and then again between two weeks to five weeks, it is much harder to tell, mainly because during that period both sexes look pretty much the same. Around 5 or 6 weeks old, the young roosters start to turn pink or red in the comb, if they haven’t already.  Their comb also changes shape a little, getting a tiny curve or bow to it, and growing slightly.  At the same age, the pullets’ combs remain straight and under developed.  By the time the chicks reach 6 to 8 weeks old, it is pretty clear again what their gender truly is.

If I was asked to guess today on the batch of chicks we have right now, which are 10 days old as I compose this, I would say these are what we have:

  • lavender cochin bantam cockerel
  • white frizzle cochin bantam pullet
  • white frizzle cochin bantam cockerel
  • smooth feather white cochin cockerel
  • smooth feather white cochin pullet
  • buff brahma pullet* (this one ended up being a cockerel)
  • dark brahma pullet*
  • birchen cockerel* (this one ended up being a pullet)
  • birchen pullet*

*Note: I have no prior experience determining gender in Buff or Dark Brahmas and I have only had one male Birchen chick to date.  Those chicks are complete guesses for me at this point, but I am using the sexing same criteria to see if it applies to those chicks as well.

Updated on September, 2013: out of the group of chicks I mentioned above, I was correct on the gender of 7 of 9 the chicks.  Both Birchens turned out to be pullets and the Buff Brahma was a cockerel.

So what exactly am I looking in determining if a chick is a pullet or a cockerel?  In general, it is a combination of traits.  Please note, I do not compare different colors of cochins to one another.  Pullets grow feathers in the primary and secondary wings faster that the males.  The females wings often reach the end of their body by the end of the second week.  See my drawing above for what I am talking about.  Pullets get tail feathers a few days to a week before the males do.  Pullets are often calmer, quieter, and sometimes a little shy. If a pullet is flipped onto its back in the palm of my hand, it will only squirm a tiny bit for a second and then relax.  Pullets are sometimes slightly smaller and usually have more markings like stripes, warpaint, freckles, blemishes, and eyeliner.  Pullets have busier and more clearly defined chipmunk patterns in the laced, penciled, and partridge patterns.

Cockerels generally feather in slower than pullets.  Boys are usually the friendlier or more curious chicks.  If flipped on its back, a male will usually squirm and not want to relax.*  In my daughter’s science project, every chick that squirmed was a male.  However, a few males will also be calm during the flip procedure.  Basically, if you are trying to pick female chick at the feed store and it squirms in your hand, it is probably a male.  Pick a different one and your odds are more likely to be 75% or better to get a girl.  *This squirm test does not work as well on 1 to 3 day old chicks.  I have tried it on the first day or two shortly after they arrive, but I think the chicks are still stressed and tired at that point, and almost all of them will test out as pullets.  When I repeat the flip test on them a few days later, maybe day 4 or 5, it is more accurate.  Cockerels’ wings initially grow in an “L” shape, where just a few primaries stick out, and then little to no secondary feathers growing.  When the secondary feathers do start to slowly grow, the wing shape is more curved like a “C” while the female has a more triangular shape.  Cockerel coloring and patterns are plainer, any lines are a bit fuzzier, or where the female will have three color lines, a male will have just two colors.  Some male chicks’ combs will start to change from yellow to a dark pink color as early as 12 days.  I also look at color of the lines where their wattle will later grow.  If it is dark pink, any earlier than 4 weeks, those chicks are almost always males.

There are exceptions to these things I look for.  I have noticed, in a few of the varieties of cochins, both genders feather in at the same fast rate or both feather in really slow.  Silver Pencilled Cochin and Self Blue/ Lavendar Cochin are really slow to feather in, in both males and females and the pullets could easily fool the novice cochin chicken keeper.  On the other hand, Silver Laced Cochins, Partridge Cochins, and Gold Laced Cochins feather in fast in both genders, and they all look like pullets until about 6 weeks old.  At the six to eight week old point, the males will start to color up on their wattles and combs and/or the combs start to grow.  In addition, the more colorful feathers, like the iridescent greens or burgundy will start to grow out at that age in the males.  Regardless of what my initial guesses are, I don’t count on the fact I have pullets or cockerels any earlier than 6 weeks of any variety, well, unless it crows of course.

© 2013 – 2014, .

How to Gently Get A Brooding Hen to Stop Setting

 

Broody hen, pullet, silkie, buff orpington, black australorp, Cochin, pekin, break fix stop

The rabbit hutch tucked into a corner of the yard near the concord grapes. Our Black Silkie is in there to get over her broody behavior and George is patrolling nearby.

Bantam Cochins are one of the best breeds of chickens for small urban backyards, mainly because they are generally quiet, curious, very friendly, easy to handle, kids like their small size and docile nature, they don’t fly like other bantams do, and they do well with confinement to a small coop or tractor.  Some people are reticent to keep them as part of their flock because they are also known for going broody often, just like Silkies.  Well, the part about the broodiness is very true.  However, after 5 years of keeping backyard chickens, I don’t feel broodiness, or the desire to hatch eggs and raise chicks, in a breed is a downside or a problem.  Typically the best natured breeds are also broody breeds, like Buff Orpington and Black Australorp.  When it comes time to add to our flock, a broody hen makes the job of integrating young baby chicks almost effortless, including day old chicks they didn’t hatch. Chicks raised by hand without a mother hen to look out for them, can’t be easily added to an established flock without blood shed or a lot of pecking, at least not until they are closer to the same size as the adult hens.  Broody hens also eliminate the need for an indoor brooder or heat lamp for chicks.  The baby chicks scurry in and out of the mother hen’s feathers, self regulating their need for warmth.

A few times a year, I let the hens raise chicks, but right now isn’t a good time for us to have chicks around.  Life is just too hectic, and when their are chicks around, I spend too much time holding and watching them, instead of getting my chores done.  Once school is out, and our family’s schedule slows down, and if one or more of the hens go broody, I’ll probably let them have some day old chicks.  In the meantime, on Tuesday, our newest pullet, the black Silkie, decided it was a good time for her.   She is our third broody chicken this year.

Although our hens don’t always go broody when it is convenient for us, “breaking” a hen of being broody or stopping the hormonal cycle isn’t that hard.   The sooner I notice it and intervene, the sooner the hen will go back to normal behavior and laying.  When I notice a hen or pullet has staked out the nest box all day, and especially when she is still in there when it is time to roost for the night, I usually have a pretty good idea that she has started going broody.  Broody hens often have a distinctive dinosaur like growl when disturbed on their nest.

I have tried different things over the years to break my broody hens, but the easiest and gentlest has been to but the hen in our extra hutch, a collapsible rabbit hutch with a wire bottom.   It is handy having a second moveable place to put chickens if it is ever needed, not just for broody chickens.  My hubby calls it the chicken “sweat box.”  I think of it more like a sweat lodge.  It is secure with 1/2 inch wire, a covered top, and latch on the side door.  It sits in the shade in a corner of the yard where all the goings on around the backyard can be seen.  The broody hens don’t seem to be too bothered about being in there since they are generally zombie like anyway while they are in the broody phase.  The few times I have added a non broody buddy, but both times the buddy just picked on the broody.

The hutch’s wire bottom allows for air flow on the under side of the chicken.  This airflow helps the hen cool down on her belly and keeps her from insulating her abdomen.  I don’t give her a nest in there, just food, water, and snacks like grape leaves or lettuce to peck at.  I prefer to stop broodiness this way because it doesn’t seem traumatic for the hen at all, kind of like a time out.  After about 3 to 7 days in the hutch, or if she lays an egg before that, the hen is usually no longer broody and I return her to hang out with the other ladies in the coop.  If she goes back to taking over a nest box, back to the hutch for a few more days she goes.  When I notice the first day that the hen is broody and intervene, it usually only takes her three days to snap out of it.  But if I accidentally let her go a few days, it takes a bit longer.  The longer she has been broody, the longer it takes for her to return to normal.

The black Silkie was on her third day in there when I snapped the photo.  She was still talking like a broody hen with a soft cooing bak-bak-bak-bak, so I knew she wasn’t quite ready to come out yet.  The next day, she seemed back to normal, so I returned her to the big coop.  It will likely be another 3 to 5 days, at least, before she goes back to laying.

Below is a short video of my two broodies from last year. Broody hens sound and act a little different than how hens normally do.  Despite not wanting to be bothered when broody, most of our Cochin hens are really nice and don’t peck or bite at us. The Silkie was the same way as these two ladies in the video.  They just cluck and puff up to tell us and other hens to leave them alone.

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© 2013, .

Meet Our Newest Pullet: The Little Black Silkie Chick, All Grown Up

Silkie chick female

Black Silkie Hen 6 months old

My favorite backyard chicken breed is bantam Cochin, but Silkie might be a close second.  Penguin along with three other hens at my friend’s house, went broody all at once last summer.  We drove out to Wes’s Pets and Feed in El Monte where she bought some fertile silkies eggs for the ladies to sit on.  Almost all of them hatched.  After that, Penguin came back to live with us, and we let her bring two little chicks with her. We kept the black chick, and she sure turned out cute. Although I am still partial to Bantam Cochins, Silkies are definitely fun to hold; her feathers feel and look like fur. We have not offically named her yet, but I have heard the kids call her The Fro-Chick, however, I like “Mink” better. According to my hubby, we shouldn’t be naming any of them, but it is hard not to.

 

Here was the same black Silkie at about 6 weeks old, off to the left, following Penguin, her foster mom.

The Silkie is as sweet and easy to hold as a Cochin, although still a little timid in comparison to the other hens. I am guessing she will get over that when she reaches point of lay.  After keeping this one, I can see why Silkies are very popular for families with kids.

I am surprised how pretty she turned out with her beard and top knot. She was one of many that hatched out of a dozen eggs from a local feed store, but probably the prettiest out of the girls.  There were a few really handsome boys K couldn’t keep once they started crowning. Wes’s kindly took back the porcelain and splash cockerels, and in exchange gave K a new waterer and a small bag of feed.   Apparently he has no problems finding buyers for such beautiful gentle roosters out that way.  We have yet to see our Silkie pullet’s first egg, but since it is the middle of winter, I think it will be a bit of a wait still.

Penguin’s Daughter, out for a walk on a warm winter day.

This post is linking back to a Saturday link party over at Sunny Simple Life Blog and The Backyard Farming Connection

© 2013, .

Crowing Hen…How to Get Her to Stop

Can a hen crow? Yes, this is my 2 1/2 year old Bantam Cochin, named Penguin, that likes to crow sometimes.

A hen can crow like a rooster.  I am not making this up and it isn’t an old wives tale.  It doesn’t happen in a regular flock with a rooster present, but in small backyard flocks with just female chickens, although it is rare, it is not unheard of.  Just yesterday morning, someone on Meet Up: Los Angeles Chicken Enthusaists, was asking for advice on what she should do about her crowing hen.  I personally have had two different female chickens that have crowed.  When the first one started, I initially freaked out because I never heard of a hen being able to crow.  Then I tried to learn everything I could about why she was doing it and how to fix the behavior.  Living really close to neighbors and in a city whose code reads “No Crowing Fowl…” not just “No Roosters Allowed” meant we could not just ignore the problem. Through the research I did, I learned that just because she crowed, didn’t necessarily mean she had gone through some kind of spontaneous gender change.  However, there were some sources that said crowing hens probably have a tumor or damaged ovaries. That probably wasn’t the issue with either of our hens because each laid eggs just fine.  In cases like ours, it is due to the flock situation.  A mature (and top of the pecking order) hen may take on the role of rooster, protecting and leading, including making the customary sounds, albeit, not near as polished sounding as a male chicken. The sound a hen makes when she is crowing is not the same as an egg song, which can be loud, but sounds and looks nothing like crowing.  I have owned chickens long enough to tell the difference between an egg song and a crow, including who out of my chickens is singing without even looking.    My two different hens retained the ability to lay eggs, never got any kind of rooster plumage, and neither ever fertilized an egg, as far as we know.  Here is a link to one of my other posts about Penguin, my bantam Cochin hen that crowed. 

So what did we do to stop the crowing early in the morning?  We did as much as we could…

  • We put the hen in pet carrier in the garage to sleep at night and returned her to the coop once we were confident the neighbors were probably up.
  • Limiting head room to stretch out their neck up high in the pet carrier also prevented them from crowing.  When a hen sings an egg song, she doesn’t stretch her neck.
  • Reduce the hen’s dominance in the flock.  This was a drastic one, but it worked for our hens.  By sending my Penguin across the street to live in the other flock, she instantly was no longer top hen, and stopped crowed just as quickly.  I missed her, but I would go over and visit still.  Basically, if you find you have a crowing hen, look into giving her to someone else that already has an established flock.  However, be fair and warn them a head of time why you are giving her away.
  • Wait it out for a moult.  Some flock owners have reported that a moult fixes the problem.  Penguin went through an awful looking moult right after the relocation across the street.  From what I understand, the hormonal change that goes with moulting helps to correct it.

Other options to stop a hen from crowing that we didn’t consider:

  • Get a rooster and the behavior in the hen will stop
  • Make chicken dinner.
  • Force her into a untimely moult.  ( I don’t recommend this, but there is info out there on the net about it.)

// ]]>

And an update on Penguin:  My second crowing hen returned to Hanbury House with a tiny brood of silkie chicks at the end of summer.  Once she was done raising the young chicks, she retook her spot at the top of the flock.  I observed how she was acting with the other ladies in the flock, and I noticed she was slowly getting domineering with them once again. I am sure you can guess what happened last Sunday.  Yup.  Penguin started crowing again.  I had really hoped she wouldn’t crow, but I kind of figured she might.  My flock of bantam Cochins are so docile, it is easy for Penguin to take over with her charming, outgoing personality.  Therefore, sending her away for a break was only a temporary fix.  To permanently stop her from crowing, she will have to live in a flock with bigger chickens than her so she can’t take over as top hen again.  She has only crowed twice lately, but it was enough to land her back in the garage every night.

Weekly Blog Party Hop this post is linking to:

 

  • The Prairie Homestead:  Homestead Barn Hop

 

© 2012 – 2013, .

Napoleon Returns from Exile

My 2 1/2 year old Black Cochin bantam hen – she went through a phase where she thought she was a rooster. She crowed every morning at the crack of dawn.

Remember Penguin?  She remains my favorite hen, even though she briefly went through a hormonal phase where she thought was a rooster.  Because she started crowing early in the morning, last December she was exiled over to my friend’s flock across the street.  Click here to read my post about having to banish her to Elba.  For the last eight months, she has been a model citizen in K’s backyard flock, never once crowing or complaining.  However, she did manage to make her way up toward the top of the flock hierarchy.  Fortunately, K’s top hen, a LF red star, is much bigger than charismatic little Penguin.  Penguin went from being the “newcomer outcast” to eventually establishing herself as #2 in the flock .  K jokingly referred to Penguin as “Napoleon” because despite her little size, Penguin has a confident personality and would have moved herself into the top hen position if she could of.

Along with three other hens at K’s house, Penguin went broody in early July this summer.  K gave each of them a half dozen or so fertile Silkie eggs and almost all of them hatched.  Her coop and run was blanketed with adorable baby Silkie chicks and four proud but protective momma hens.  Unfortunately, with four momma hens, each with their own chicks and only one separate brood pen, and five other adult chickens, there was a lot of drama in the chicken yard and lots of squabbles.  K felt it was necessary to sell one broody along with a bunch of babies.  K also mentioned she might sell Penguin since out of the remaining three mamma hens, she is the oldest.  Ugh Oh!  So, of course, I had to offer to let Penguin raise a couple of her chicks at my house.

So, in early August, Penguin returned to Hanbury House with two baby Silkie chicks, a partridge and a black that my daughter, B, picked out.  B has been wanting a Silkie.  Unfortunately, this brought our flock size up to ten chickens, and that was going to get me in really hot water with my hubby who doesn’t want “a chicken hoarder” for a wife.  Therefore, to make room, four Cochin pullets from two of our Spring hatches went to a nice couple in Newport Beach back bay where they now live on a large horse property with five other hens and a couple of roosters.  It sounded like they would be very happy and spoiled there.

Penguin is as sweet and as friendly as ever and is being an excellent mommy, just like I remembered.  I especially like that with every clutch she has raised, she has always allowed us to handle her chicks as much as we want.

Penguin out with the flock foraging in the backyard.  Please excuse the messy yard.  It is too hot to do yard work.

Initially, Penguin needed a little time and space to readjust to living in our flock.   She and her tiny brood were temporarily housed for four weeks in the rabbit hutch coop over in the side yard under the grapes.  The little family slowly integrated into our flock during free range time in the yard.  There were a few minor squabbles initially; Penguin was chasing the other hens off and keeping them as far away from her two Silkie chicks as possible.

The only bad thing happened one night in Penguin’s second week back, when I accidentally didn’t get home before dusk.  Penguin could get in and out of the rabbit hutch okay, but the babies can’t get back in as easily.  Penguin was familiar with the other coop, and marched her babies in there and settled in to a nest box with them.  When I got home, I was dismayed to find that Penguin and the other hens must have had a battle about the new additions emigrating to the big coop because everybody except the chicks all had a couple of cuts on their combs.  I felt so guilty and bad for them.

Within three weeks, it started to look like everyone had adjusted okay.  And Penguin (aka Napoleon) quickly reestablished her place at the top of the pecking order.  She and her babies already have taken over the favorite location on the roost.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that when she weans the chicks of her care, she doesn’t start crowing again.  I would hate to have to send her back to K’s house to be with the large fowl flock.

On a side note…the Silkie chicks are super cute.  They never seemed to loose that cute fuzzy look.  But a down side of that cuteness is I have absolutely no clue yet as to gender even now at 2 months old.  From what I have been told, three months is the earliest we will be able to tell the sexes.

Penguin wanted her picture taken instead of her chicks

© 2012, .

I just had to tell someone…

..out of the 100,000+ member pages at BYC, one of my pages was featured on the homepage of BackyardChickens.com today.

screen shot from over at BYC. My page is in the middle with the picture of the heliotrope

When I started out with chickens 4 years ago, there were few resources promoting gardening methods to happily co-exist with pet chickens, other than keeping the chickens locked up all the time.  Lots of folks said a pretty garden with free range chickens couldn’t be done; chickens would eventually destroy everything.  I learned that isn’t true. In 2009, I decided to share on a BYC page what I learned from my experience.  In recent years there has been a wealth of publications promoting how to garden successfully with chickens, and I forgot all about that little list I compiled.  Today, I opened my email to find out, that old page is now featured on the carousel at the top of the BYC homepage.  I was tickled to see it, up there front and center.  I hope it still manages to help out some fellow gardeners.

Click here to go to where it is currently featured at backyardchickens.com and titled “Plants Chickens Don’t Eat.”  I am not sure if it is just up there for today or if it will be there for a little while. However, if it is gone by the time you read this post, the same list can be found here on a page at my blog: Chicken Resistant Plants

I am aware I am not much of a writer by any stretch of the imagination, arts and crafts are much more my thing than words.  I mainly compile posts here at my blog just to share some of the things I do around here, things I like, or things I learn, as kind of diary.  So to see an old page I made, especially one that I quickly put together and had planned to later go back and edit (but never did) and now featured at BYC, kind of made my day.  I just had to share!  :)

 

© 2012, .

Long Beach Residents want Backyard Chickens, Bees, and Dwarf Goats

I usually like to post links to TV and newspaper articles related to backyard chickens all together on a different page, but this one hits a bit closer to home and was on the front page of the local paper yesterday. 

Excerpt taken from the Long Beach Press Telegram, June 18th, 2012.

Residents want Long Beach to allow livestock

by By Greg Mellen Staff Writer

LONG BEACH – If urban farm advocates have their way, several meetings last week could lead to a “coop d’etat” in the city’s ordinances regarding chickens and other livestock.

More than 80 residents attended a pair of community forums to discuss proposed changes that would ease city restrictions on backyard chickens, goats and bees.”It is limited to those three animals,” said Larry Rich, the city’s sustainability coordinator, who led the meeting, adding that there has been sufficient interest in the subject to give it a closer look.

With Rich was Ted Stevens, the new head of Animal Care Services, which is charged with enforcing city livestock ordinances.  About 50 advocates of urban farming showed up at a community forum on Thursday. The overwhelming majority described themselves as members of the “chicken community.”

On June 26, the Environmental Committee of the City Council will look at the existing ordinances and proposed changes and decide whether to advance the issue to the entire council. The committee meets at 4 p.m. in City Hall, 333 W. Ocean Blvd.  Rich said there is no date or timetable for when the council may take up the issue.

At Thursday’s meeting, the urban livestock advocates touted the healthiness and freshness of the food, particularly chicken eggs, and the educational benefits of sustainability to their children. One woman said since she had owned chickens, a former spider infestation was gone, her garden was flourishing and “I’m teaching my children they don’t need to go to Subway. And an egg song is not a bad thing to hear in the morning.” Len Paredes owns seven chickens, and although he butted heads with Animal Care Services, he says he loves being a chicken owner. “They’re my little garbage disposals,” he said. “They eat everything and turn them into eggs. It’s as close to magic as you can get.”

Annissa Harsma, an LAPD officer shown here in October 2011, hopes a movement to change Long Beach’s rules on keeping goats, hens and bees so residents can continue animal husbandry for fresh food, will allow her to keep her chickens at her Long Beach home near CSULB. Harsma and her father built a custom chicken coop for her girls. (Sean Hiller / Staff Photographer)

The urban agriculture movement, spurred by groups such as Long Beach Grows and Long Beach Organic, has been gaining traction in the city in recent years, with community gardens popping up in parks and open spaces like so many dandelions.  In the wake of those successes, there are those who would like to take the whole organic and sustainable philosophy a step further in Long Beach with urban livestock.
Long Beach is considering whether to follow the leads of cities such as Seattle, San Francisco and San Diego, which have all relaxed certain restrictions. Currently, Long Beach code permits chickens, goats – in certain areas – and bees, but setback restrictions “make it difficult if not impossible to have these animals legally,” Rich said.

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Tips for Gardening with Backyard Chickens

A few of our younger chickens foraging in the garden, taken about 2 weeks ago

Having a nice yard and garden as well as eating fresh homegrown produce is something many of us enjoy, including backyard chickens. Here are some of my favorite gardening practices for keeping happy free range chickens and still having a productive garden for the family.

  1. Don’t keep more chickens than you really need.  The more chickens you have, the more damage you get.  I can’t stress this one enough.
  2. Fence off the vegetable garden or area with permanent fencing.  Picket fences deter chickens from perching on or hopping up to and then over a fence.  Also clipping one wing helps keep chickens on the side of the fence you want them on.
  3. Different chickens have different tastes.  Someone else’s hens might develop a taste for things like nasturtium, while others leave it alone.  Experiment and never buy a ton of anything to start with.  When trying something new in the garden, I will leave a newly purchased potted plant where the hens can nibble.   If they ignore it for a few days, in the ground it goes the following week.
  4. Hungry chickens will eventually eat almost any plants if there is nothing else to forage around or no other good food source.  Make sure there is something you are okay with them munching on if you let them free range.  I have a modest amount of grass in the backyard that my hens nibble on throughout the day as well as many fast grow annuals in the Spring, so they are never at loss for green stuff.  Plus, they always have access to their feeder and water.
  5. Check toxicity levels before planting anything.  Chickens don’t normally bother poisonous plants unless they have nothing else to choose from, but also try avoid planting stuff that is deadly like foxglove or oleander.
  6. Don’t give the chickens all day access to the yard.  One popular practice is to let the chickens out in the late afternoon and then they often will put them selves back in the coop at dusk.  In general, my chickens are only out if I or the kids are out back with them.  This also deters hawks from making one lunch.
  7. Temporarily fence chickens out of newly planted or fragile areas with chicken wire or other portable fencing until plants are more established.  Then remove it as needed.
  8. Add scraps of chicken wire around the base of plants and cover with mulch.  This prevents chickens from accidentally scratching them out before they are firmly established or damaging the fragile surface roots.  It works with dogs too.
  9. Invest in and plant more fruit trees, shrubs, and woody perennials to provide “bones” to the garden so it doesn’t look bare and gives the chickens a place to hide in the event a hawk comes by for a visit.
  10. Feather footed bantam breeds, like Cochins (Pekins,) Brahmas, D’uccles, and Silkies are often good breeds for fussy gardeners to choose from. They can’t reach as high nor do they prefer to scratch as far or as much as the bigger breeds, thus reducing the overall amount of damage they do to a garden.  They also don’t mind it if they are confined to a small backyard coop.  Three bantam Cochins do about the same amount of damage as one large breed chicken, like a red star or leghorn.

Grass is a favorite chicken food to nibble on while out in the backyard

Two of the mama hens are out for a walk with the chicks in the perennial flowers in the backyard.  The bigger plants, like the shrubs and fruit trees give them places to dart into to hide when spooked

© 2012, .