Black Soldier Flies- Turns trash to Treasure in our Compost

BSF, The black soldier flies we find look a little like a wasp, with black bodies and bright colored feet.

Black Soldier Fly adult photographed inside the edge of my compost bin last summer.

 

Warm weather has returned to SoCal because I caught a Black Soldier Fly in the house today.  Most people would say that the flies and larvae are gross! However, I was thrilled to catch it, and I promptly gave her to my neighbor who has been hoping to establish them in her own compost without having to buy them.  I also gave her a few scoops of our compost that has had plenty of the larvae present in the past. Each Spring through Fall, the compost is usually teaming with them.

Although they are kind of scary looking as adults, a bit like a wasp, the adult flies don’t bite because they don’t have the necessary mouth parts.  Black Soldier flies (BSF) and their larvae are not disease carrying pests like house flies.  The presences of larvae often help to repel house flies in the compost area, and ranchers and farmers use them as fly predators and repellants.  Black Soldier Fly larvae eat all types of food waste and they can reduce the volume by up to 95%.  Combining Black Soldier Fly larvae composting with vermicomposting (with red wiggler worms) makes the most efficient organic compost.  The red wigglers (Eisenia foetida) in my compost are always present, but I only seem to have an active wild Black Soldier Fly colony during the warmer months.   Here is a link with more details about Black Soldier Flies if you are interested in reading more about why I was happy with this bug: http://blacksoldierflyblog.com/black-soldier-fly-white-magic/

Black Soldier Fly, or BSF, adult insect with white legs and irredencent blue black body

Black Soldier Fly, or BSF, adult trapped in a plastic bag. It got lost in the house, rather than being attracted to the compost to lay eggs where the larvae will later hatch.

A black soldier fly larva, BSF, inside the compost bin.  They are disgusting at first sight and can be confused for house fly maggots

the gross looking larvae of the black soldier flies

© 2010 – 2013, .

Vernal Equinox- Sunlight patterns in the garden

The armillary sundial in the veggie garden. Taken in 2008

Spring has officially begun.  As a gardener I watch the pattern of shadows move across the yard throughout the year.  In December my Camellias were in full sun in the back yard against the house, and now they are covered under the canopy of the Chinese Elm tree again, where they will be safe from the harsh summer sun.  The vegetable garden is almost fully exposed to the sun again as well.  By June it will all be sunny, and hopefully productive.

The chickens also seem to notice the change in season.  My Buff Orpington is back up to her normal 3 to 4 eggs a week with the increase in daylight hours.  I have read that chickens produce the most eggs when the daylight hours are closest to 14 hours.

Here is a link I use to check the number of hours of daylight at different times of the year.  I like it because it can be set to individual geographical locations.

http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/astronomy.html?n=137

© 2010 – 2012, .

Backyard Birds and Biosecurity

What Is Biosecurity?

Biosecurity is what you do to reduce the likelihood of an infectious disease being carried into your backyard and to your chickens by people, animals, equipment, or vehicles. Good biosecurity helps keep infectious disease from spreading to your chickens and causing illness or death.  I am not an expert on avian diseases, but just like with plant diseases, practicing prevention and sanitation is important and far easier than trying to cure a disease.  I agree the following sounds extreme and a bit paranoid, but commercial poultry businesses are far more strict in their operations.  I value the health of my family and my flock so we try to follow these practices.

Some of the biosecurity and sanitation methods I use in our yard.

  • I do not introduce any adult chickens to my flock.  This is the most important thing I can do to keep my flock healthy.  (other folks quarantine new birds for 1 month before introducing to their existing flock.)
  • I don’t handle other peoples’ chickens and I stay out of their coop and run areas.
  • I keep droppings cleaned up daily in the coop and weekly in the yard.
  • I compost the droppings in my hot compost bin.  Temperatures reach as high as 160 degrees so I am confident it kills any pathogens.
  • I regularly clean feeders and waters before refilling.
  • I constructed my coop so it could be easily cleaned, and prevents rodents, flies, and mosquitoes from getting in.  There have been numerous local cases of West Nile virus in the local birds and a few in humans and it was transmitted by mosquitoes.  The city of Long Beach actually uses sentinel chickens to track diseases in four locations in the city.
  • I make a habit of removing my shoes that I wore to the feed store or other similar places before stepping on my property when I return home.  The shoes get dipped in disinfectant before wearing again.
  • When I have chicken keeping visitors come over, I ask that they dip their shoes in disinfectant before coming through my house or gate and I ask that they don’t handle my birds.
  • I make sure to wear clean shoes and clothes that were not worn outside around my chickens whenever I visit other peoples’ places that have chickens.
  • I regularly examine my birds for signs of illness or parasites.
  • I have impressed upon my children and their visiting friends the importance of good hand washing after handling chickens (or the tortoise,) any of their equipment, or eggs.  THIS IS MORE IMPORTANT FOR KEEPING OUR FAMILY HEALTHY than anything.  I also made sure the kids learned not to snuggle or kiss any chickens.
  • I don’t allow my children to handle the neighborhood ducks that frequent our street.

*Unfortunately, because I allow my hens to forage around the yard, they manage to come in contact with areas that wild birds also have access to.  Also, with a duck pond across the street, some exposure happens indirectly through dogs and kids that can not be avoided.  If a local outbreak of a disease is reported in the bird population, I will confine my flock exclusively to the run and coop, and practice even stricter methods of diseases prevention.

Some of the other stricter biosecurity methods recommended to protect a flock from disease or pathogens:

  • Quarantine any new birds for one month to watch for signs of illness before exposing them to existing birds.
  • Always keep chickens in an enclosed coop and run that wild birds can not get into.
  • Never let other poultry keepers visit the area the chickens are kept.
  • Keep a “clean area” perimeter around the coop.
  • Use only “coop shoes and clothes” around your flock that never go off your property.
  • Keep other pets like dogs and cats away from the flock.

Here are some good links to learn more about biosecurity, common diseases, disease prevention, symptoms to look out for, and more:

United States Department of Agriculture  http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/birdbiosecurity/

UC Davis http://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/vetext/INF-PO_Biosecurity.html

© 2010, .

Can cherries grow in Coastal Southern California? Yes!

About 5 years ago, I read about promising early results with newly developed low chill sweet cherries called Minnie Royal cherry and Royal Lee cherry. Well,  when I told my neighbor/ friend / fellow gardener about the new trees, she was up for the experiment and had a little bit of room. I grow all sorts of low chill fruit trees, but ran out of room myself for new stuff quite awhile ago.   After 3 years of her “testing” the varieties, it looks like it might be time to rip something out in my own garden next winter.  I would recommend these to anyone looking for a lower chill cherry.

3 year old – Minnie Royal and Royal Lee low chill cherry trees

Here is my review so far to date:

The fruits  of Minnie Royal and Royal Lee tastes a little similar to Rainer, but they look more like Sandra Rose or Lapins,  kind of a bright candy apple red.  The color is not deep burgundy like Bing.  Considering there are no other commercially available low chill cherries to compare to, I would rate the fruit on both very good.  You must have both varieties for cross-pollination.  We only get 250 to 400 hours of chilling in average years here.  This year the local CIMIS- weather station #174, recorded 323 chilling hours for winter 2009-2010.  Royal Lee has lots of flowers this year, so we must have had sufficient chilling hours for it.  Based on this, I would guess their chilling requirement is somewhere around 300 hours, but I have read different amounts at different sources.  Minnie Royal did okay too, with a bit less than a hundred or so flowers. The Minnie Royal tree started flowering first and had almost finished flowering when I took the first image in this post.  They both produced a couple cherries that first early summer, a few dozen cherries last year, and they appear to be setting a nice sized crop this year.   I will update again in the future as the trees mature.

UPDATE: April 15th, 2010

My neighbor’s trees have has a couple dozen cherries on the Minnie Royal that she has already started picking those.  Most of the Minnie Royals should be fully ripe in the next week or two. The Royal Lee cherry tree has about 100 cherries developing on it, but most are still green.

New fruit set and blossoms on low chill Royal Lee and Minnie Royal cherry trees in Southern California

Fruit ripening on low chill Minnie Royal Cherry tree with a grasshopper hidden in the photo

Lots of blossoms on low chill Royal Lee and Minnie Royal cherry trees in Southern California

Last summer – the two cherry trees planted closely together peak flowering. – when they were 2 years old.

 

Zaiger’s Inc. Genetics in Modesto holds patents on both of these cherries.  (Thanks for all the hard work and years spent developing the first low chill cherry trees for us coastal gardeners, Zaiger Family!) The first year they released the trees through Dave Wilson Nursery to the wholesale market and general public, they were in very limited supply, and sadly we could not get them for her.  The next year, she bought one of each, at a premium price.  They have now been in the ground for a little over 3 years.  They have come down in price a little bit since; I saw them both for sale at H & H Nursery in Lakewood for under $30 just last month.

Dave Wilson’s Nursery has been propagating a couple of other lower chill cherries by Zaiger Genetics recently, Royal Hazel cherry, Royal Edie cherry, Royal Lynn cherry, and Royal Helen cherry.  I will be keeping my eyes peeled for more information on these growing in backyard gardens over the next few years.  The flavor is supposed to be even better, but no specifics on the exact amount of chill available yet, except for Royal Hazel at 500 hours.  I error on the side of caution and stick with trees than need 300 hours and under.

This is where I check our annual accumulated chilling hours below 45 degrees:  http://fruitsandnuts.ucdavis.edu/chillcalc/index.cfm

See Dave Wilson’s Nursery for more on the different sweet cherry varieties and fruit photos.  :http://www.davewilson.com/br10/catalog/cherry.html

For information about Zaiger’s Inc. Genetics http://www.davewilson.com/z_file/zaiger_intro.html

© 2010 – 2013, .

Our Local Havest Calendar

Average Local Fruit Harvesting Calendar*

listed in Chronological order:
  • Limes – Nov 10 – Apr 30
  • Strawberries  – Feb.10 – June 30
  • Loquats –  March 30 – May 10
  • Blackberries – May 8 – July 8
  • Blueberries –  May 1 – June 30
  • Boysenberries  -May 10 – July 5
  • Cherries – May 1 – May 31
  • Peaches – May 20 – August  15
  • Nectarines – May 20 – August 15
  • Plums – May 15 – August 5
  • Figs -(breba crop/ crop on last years growth)  June 5 – July 31
  • Raspberries – April 30 – October 15
  • Grapes – July 10 – Aug. 30
  • Apples – June 15 – July 25
  • Tomatoes  May 10 – November 30
  • Figs (Main crop figs) September 5 – October 31
  • Persimmons – September 20 – October 31
  • Pomegrantes October 15 to November 31
  • Mandrine Oranges-  Nov. 1 to Dec. 31
  • Apples-  Nov. 15 – Jan. 25 (light crop and timing fluctuates)
  • Lemons – Year round

* Calendar based on our fruits and the neighborhood trees, or other folks I know in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.

More calendars of what and when things ripen locally if you are trying to eat in season produce:

The Center for Urban Education and Sustainable Agriculture at http://www.cuesa.org/seasonality/charts/fruit.php

Seasonal Chef at http://www.seasonalchef.com/cropchart2.htm

© 2010 – 2013, .

Plant Sales, Classes, and Garden Tours…oh my!

Local Spring Plant Sales, Classes, and Garden Tours 2010 – Scroll down for listings

When it comes to Spring plant sales and tours, I am like a anxious child anticipating Christmas morning.  I have had many of these dates blocked on my calendar since the fall.  I don’t always buy stuff, but I enjoy looking, learning new techniques, and seeing what’s out there.  Here is a short list of the sales and tours around me that I recommend or am interested in attending this year.

Seal Beach-One of the private gardens opened for the Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour, 2009

MARCH

Monster Tomato and Pepper Sale- Fullerton Arboretum

March 18 ((members only day) through March 21.  9:00 am to 4:00 pm.  Free admission.  Tomatoes and peppers $3.00 each. Fullerton Arboretum, 1900 Associated Rd., Fullerton 92831. Over 230 varieties of tomato plants will be for sale this year. Contact www.fullertonarboretum.org

Long Beach City College – Horticulture Department- Spring Plant Sale

MARCH 31 & APRIL 1, 2, 3,  2010
9 am until 6 pm.  LBCC Horticulture Gardens- Pacific Coast Campus, 1305 E. Pacific Coast Hwy.  Long Beach, CA 90806
CALL (562) 938-3092 for more info.  In the past, they have given you a free tomato plant if you bring your own wagon.

APRIL

Eat the Yard! Organic Edible Gardening Series

April 10th Saturday 9 a.m. – Noon or 1 – 4 p.m. (2 sessions)- Part II: Eyes on the Harvest” @ Fullerton Arboretum,  1900 Associated Rd., Fullerton 92831 Get the most out of your edible garden throughout the season! Learn how to best nurture your plants and keep your garden space continually producing. Gardener Jonathan Davis welcomes you back to his outdoor classroom at the Arboretum’s Organic Vegetable Garden to learn organic pest control, plant maintenance, succession planting, and seed saving.TWO SESSIONS: 9 a.m. – Noon or 1 – 4 p.m. Class includes gardening outside; a hat and outdoor clothing are recommended. $15/members $18/nonmembers / Full series discount: 3 classes for $50/members $61/nonmembers / Prepaid registration only. Call by Wednesday April 7th / 657-278-3407 Contact www.fullertonarboretum.org

Green Scene Plant and Garden Show

April 17th & 18th Saturday & Sunday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.    @  Fullerton Arboretum, 1900 Associated Rd., Fullerton 92831.  Green Scene 2010 promises to be bigger and better than ever, with many new exhibitors and products for sale. Admission is $6 per adult; children under 12 are free.   Contact www.fullertonarboretum.org or call 714-278-3407. Exhibitor opportunities are available until April 4th; call 714-278-4792 or email jmcgarvey@fullerton.edu  “Members Only” preview sale from 9 – 10 a.m. April 17th Saturday. *This is my favorite plant sale.

Water Conservation Education

April 21st Wednesday 10 a.m. – Noon with Gisele Schoniger from Kellogg Garden Products @ H & H Nursery, 6220 Lakewood Blvd., Lakewood 90712.  Space is limited. Contact 562-804-2513  to reserve a seat.   www.hhnursery.com

Southern California Spring Garden Show

April 22nd -23rd Thursday – Friday 10 A.M. — 9 P.M., April 24th Saturday  10 A.M.— 8 P.M., April 25th Sunday 11 A.M. — 6:30 P.M.  @ South Coast Plaza Bristol Street (405 Fwy exit Bristol St. or Fairview and go to Bear St. , Park Near Crate and Barrel), Costa Mesa 92626 Free. Hundreds of vendors selling plants and supplies; fantastic floral displays. Phone 714-435-2160 or www.springgardenshow.com

Fullerton Beautiful Garden Tour

April 25th, 2010  on a Sunday  from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
The self-guided tour begins at the Fullerton College Horticulture Department. The entrance is on Berkeley Avenue, east of Lemon Street. Cost of map is $10.  Members of Fullerton Beautiful will receive a map for free, so please recognize yourself at registration.  The Fullerton College Horticulture will also be hosting a plant sale. Plants maybe left for safe-keeping while you attend the garden tour. Visit the FULLERTON BEAUTIFUL BLOG www.fullertonbeautiful.blogspot.com/  Any questions concerning the garden tour please call… 714-871-4156 or 714-526-2926 Information http://horticulture.fullcoll.edu 714.992.7135

MAY

Fullerton College Horticulture Dept.  Spring Sale – 2010

May 1 from 9 to 4, May 2 from 10:00 to 3:00, and May 8th from 10:00- 3;00
321 E. Chapman Ave.
Fullerton, CA 92832
http://horticulture.fullcoll.edu/index.shtml

Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour – 2010

May 2nd & 3rd Saturday & Sunday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.. This yearly self-guided charity event lives on with a two-day tour of 40-plus gardens from Diamond Bar in the East to Long Beach in the North to San Clemente in the South. Donations collected at all gardens. Information www.heardsgardentour.com 714-566-4800  *I have visited many interesting gardens on this tour.  Some of the gardens are simple and some are extravagant.  Tour brochures are available at many independent local nurseries after Mid April.  H & H Nursery on Lakewood Blvd. in Lakewood, CA. usually has them available.

Backyard in Long Beach on the Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour

© 2010, .

Watering with Graywater

For a long time the greywater bin was hidden away behind perennials and was a family secret.  There were strict laws in California prohibiting its use without special building permits.  However, on August 4th, 2009, in response to growing concerns over our severe drought, the state Building Standards Commission voted to pass the new California greywater code (Chapter 16 in the CA Plumbing Code) which allows residents to dispel washing machine and shower greywater into their landscapes without needing a permit.  As of last summer, I am no longer a grey water guerilla and sneaking around about.

Here is a photo of my gray water trash can collector.  We have been using this primitive graywater system since summer 2007, Shhhh!

Our homemade grey water watering surge tank.  This temporary holding spot prevents the washer machine pump from getting damaged if there is a clog.

Grey water temporary holding for water from the laundry. A recycled trash can.

 

The bin is raised up on some cinder blocks to help with gravity feed the water out of the hose in to the mulched flower bed.  I don’t keep water in it over night, and typically it gets emptied immediately after each laundry load.  The only loads I wait a little on are the ones I use extra hot water in, then I wait for it to cool off before opening the hose valve.  The hose gets moved after each load. I have a scrap of screen that can be seen sticking out of the lid that serves as a lint collector. If I don’t use the link screen with the bin, the soil could end up with a thin mat of non biodegradable clothing debris (from synthetic fibers) or the lint could also block the hose and damage the washer machine pump.

a part of the homemade gray water system in our backyard.

This is one of the areas the water is used.  Water is also used in the mulched areas with some of the fruit trees in the yard.  The hose gets moved around the yard a lot.  However, Grey water doesn’t get used on my acid loving camellias or fushias very often.  The plants that get the grey water the most in my yard are asparagus fern, sedum, a variety of salvias, Japanese anemones, mother in law tongue, heliotrope, mimulus, amaryllis, nastursium, lavender, penstamon, campanula, limonium, osteospermum, aloe vera, candytuft, pittosporum, and nandina domestica.  The bed in the photos below never get flushed with potable water, only annually rainfall.

Flower bed irrigated entirely by graywater and annual limited rainfall

The area of the yard that gets the most gray water from our washing machine

The opposite side of the same area pictured above. Every thing in front of the arbor gets only gray water and rain fall for irrigation

 

 

What Brand of Detergent with GrayWater?

I have tried many different laundry detergents over the three or so years since I have been using gray water in the garden. Oasis Design recommends choosing a bio-compatible  detergent, unfortunately the shipping makes it very cost prohibited.  Therefore, instead  I stay away from detergents with sodium or salts (this rules out most powdered detergents,) boron or borax, softners, brightners, and bleach.  For price, convenience, and no fragrance, I eventually settled on Stater Bros. Ultra 2X Concentrated: Free and Clear Detergent for our family.  It is not rated HE for my front load washer, but it does not over-suds and the clothes come out clean.  They also make it in a High Efficiency formula, but it has a fragrance which we don’t usually buy.  I have seen no ill effects in any of my plants with either one.  It is about $0.12 a load when it isn’t on sale.

Other detergent brands I tried in the grey water and had no noticeable plant damage over the years:
Planet
Trader Joe’s Liquid
Ecover
Ecos
Seventh Generation

© 2010 – 2014, .

Top Ten Chicken Questions

Gardening with Backyard chickens: common questions we get asked, including issues keeping them

Our first flock of backyard city chickens hanging out in the veggie garden at the end of the growing season.

As an urban chicken keeper, I get a lot of questions.  Here are the ones I answer most frequently:
1) How long do chickens live? I know a lady with a 15 year old hen.  Most sources say 5 to 8 years.

2) Don’t you need a rooster for them to lay eggs? No.  Think about it…does a human female need a male around to release an egg each month? Ummm, no!  Same with chickens.

3) Do they wake up the neighbors? Cockerels and roosters are noisy and have the bad reputation of waking up the neighbors.  No roosters here.  Some hens do loudly cluck and squawk to be let out early in the morning if they are locked in a coop.  Letting them out early is important in keeping the peace with neighbors.  With my automatic coop door opener, I rarely hear my chickens first thing in the morning.

4) Do you still eat chicken? Sure thing!  We just have a policy of not eating animals with names.   I don’t have a problem eating chickens I have never met.

5)Has the cat tried to eat them? Gracie approached them a few times, and received a swift pecking. Now she skulks when the chickens are out, but she gives them a wide berth.  When we have small chicks around, we do have to be very watchful when the cat is out and about or we make sure to keep the chicks in a cat proof pen.

6) Doesn’t your dog chase them? No. We spent a lot of time training him, from the time we got our first chicks until they were full grown.  I taught him that they were mine, not toys, and that chickens are to be ignored.  Now chickens could peck and walk on him, and he totally puts up with it.  They don’t seem to phase him.  Now squirrels are another story.

7) How much do they cost to keep? Way too much!  If we wanted cheap eggs we would be better off buying them from Costco.  For exact costs, see my post on our start up expenses. Since I like organic compost, organic eggs, and the pleasure of having them around, it is worth my time and money.

8  ) Where did you get them? Our first one we ever had was hatched from an egg we bought in the refrigerated egg case at Trader Joes, as part of a science project.  The majority of the others came from a hatchery, in the mail via the USPS when they were just hours old.  They easily survived shipping at that age because their metabolism is designed to allow the first hatched chick to stay under a mama hen until the last chick hatches, up to 48 hours later.  Now a days, my cochins are crazy about being mommies and like to try to incubate anything; they would try incubating a golf ball if I let them.  Therefore, we often have chicks.

9) What do they eat? Organic Chicken feed, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, oats, our garden fruit and veggies, my ornamental plants, the lawn, bugs, pebbles, dirt…pretty much anything they can put in their mouths.

10) What do you do with the roosters? Give them away to folks that want them.  We just make sure they aren’t used for fighting.

© 2010 – 2013, .

Hatching Joey, the Trader Joe’s Chicken

Trader joes chickens, baby chicks that hatched from fertile grocery store eggs sold in the refrigerator case

Trader Joes Chicks hatched from Fertile eggs sold for comsumption – photo taken by another BYC member, OC chickens

We ordered our first baby chicks (only pullets) from a hatchery.  However, my 8 year old daughter wanted to see them hatch from eggs.  We live in the city and no one that keeps hens has fertile eggs around here.  We had to come up with an alternative, so we turned to the natural grocery stores that carried ” Fertile ” eggs for eating.
She loves to create all sorts of stuff so she built an incubator with my help on the scavenging of parts.  Four days were spent getting the right temp and humidity using water trays and adding holes.  One Saturday we drove to 4 local natural food stores trying to find the most recently packed grocery store fertile eggs.  We ended up with Trader Joes white Fertile eggs and brown Fertile eggs from Sprouts.

As part of the kids' science project, B is marking top and bottom with smiley faces on the trader joes fertile grocery store eggs.

As part of the kids’ science project, B is marking top and bottom with smiley faces on the trader joes fertile grocery store eggs.

I kept telling her not to get her hopes too high.  A lot can go wrong with incubation, and there was a lot of information on the web saying it could not be done with store refrigerated eggs.  Well, by the 13th day, we had 8 embryos developing from the Trader Joes eggs.  After seeing how much fun my daughter and I were having, my son decided to continue to use the incubator for a science project and use it to determine which kinds of store bought eggs can hatch. My son was selected to represent his class at the district science fair and he was very excited about participating at it.

We ended up keeping the first chick that hatched, and the kids named her Joey.  We had other chicks from subsequent hatches as well, but not being able to identify the gender as baby chicks ourselves, we didn’t keep them.  All the science project chicks, except Joey, went to a farm in the high desert.  When we realized Joey was a pullet, we felt thankful and blessed. At 19 weeks + 1 day old she laid her first egg.  It was a white 1.3 oz egg.  Her eggs are now consistently about 2.0 to 2.5 oz.  She is sweet and gentle with the kids.  She is a leghorn hybrid and we believe she is from a Hyline W-36 hen’s egg due to her docile nature.While she started out very quiet, as she got close to laying she got pretty vocal.  Joey is  our most talkative chicken, but due the fact she is very easy going with people, lets the kids hold and bathe her, and lays large and extra large eggs almost daily, she is a great backyard pet chicken.  Joey turned 1 year old on February 3rd, 2010.

she is a white chicken, probably a leghorn hybrid, a hyline hen.

Joey at 19 weeks old

Since we originally posted our results at BYC in early 2009, we have noticed others have had similar results with other grocery store egg experiments.   Here is a thread about a variety of those hatches: http://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=290845

© 2010 – 2013, .

The Cost of Buying Chickens around L.A.

I have observed the average cost to purchase chickens in the urban parts of Los Angeles County and suburban Orange County is higher than other areas, especially compared to what is reported in other parts of the county.  When I look around further inland on BYC or craigslist toward Lancaster, Riverside, or San Bernadino, the costs generally decrease slightly.  On the flip side, there seems to be more free roosters listed around here, since most folks can’t keep them.  Check craigslist.com, Meet Up “Los Angeles Urban Chicken Enthusiasts,” Yahoo group “California Chickens,” and www.backyardchickens.com for listing of chickens for sale.  Sometimes feed stores and humane societies have chickens available too.  It seems started birds are more expensive and harder to find in the winter and early spring, and there is more of a glut in the summer and early fall.

*For organic chickens, expect to pay $5 to $10 more per bird than what is listed below because they are harder to come by and they are twice as expensive to feed to maturity.   I opted to raise our own organically from day olds partially because of that reason, as well as we wanted kid friendly chickens.

Baby chicks (day old up to still needing supplemental heat/up to 8 weeks)

Locally:

  • Straight run bantams from Blacksmith’s Corner in Lakewood $9.95 to $12.95 each, (not vaccinated)
  • Pullet Large Fowl chicks from Blacksmith’s Corner in Lakewood $5, (not vaccinated)
  • Midway City Feed (best deal I have seen) $2 each for assorted varieties of LF pullets or straight run bantams, (not vaccinated) Update:  I think their price may have gone up to $3.
  • Other feed stores: $4 and up
  • Breeders around SoCal charge anywhere from $5 to $25, depending on if they are show quality, pet quality, pullets, age, DNA sexed Silkies, etc.

Mail Order (most hatcheries have a 25 chick minimum)

  • Day old chicks-Large Fowl pullets direct from a hatchery with shipping included, about $3.50 each ( can order vaccinations)
  • Day old bantam chicks- direct from a hatchery with shipping included, about $4.50 each ( can order vaccinations.)  One big negative = Usually straight run only.
  • For small orders try www.mypetchicken.com where as few as 3 can be purchased, or try www.idealpoultry.com which doesn’t have a minimum number of chicks, just a $25 minimum purchase.
  • Our first time we ordered chicks, I put a post on craigslist regarding that I would be placing a chick order with a hatchery and “did anyone what to combine their order.”  I received a number of friendly responses, and few weird ones, and had more than enough chicks wanted to make the minimum.  I also met a number of nice chicken keepers  just starting out like our family.  It gave me folks to split the large organic feed purchase with too.

Started Pullets (off heat / about 8 + weeks old) = $5 to $15 but they are hard to find around here, especially early spring.

Point of Lay Pullets (typically sold around 16 to 20 weeks old) = $8 to $20.

Laying Hens = $10 to $30, depending on age, breed, quality, etc.  Old worn out laying hens might be less, around $8.  Marans are currently a popular breed for dark brown eggs, and thus, they are often listed for a premium, sometimes as high as $50.

Roosters = Free to $15

What to look for when buying new chickens: no watery eyes or noses, smooth scales on legs, flexible breastbone, little to no skin bleaching, shape of feathers if looking only for females, cleanliness of living conditions.  Always quarantine new birds separately from the existing flock for about 30 days to prevent any disease or pest transmissions.  Starting with day old chicks is an easy way to avoid this added hassle.

© 2010 – 2012, .