Tag Archives: backyard chickens

Tour de Cluck

With over a month left until the start of the 2013 Tour de France, Davis residents looking to get their fix of a tour de something are in luck — the fourth annual Tour de Cluck will take place on May 25.

The two main components to Tour de Cluck include the Art Auction and Exhibit and the Bicycle Chicken Coop Crawl, although additional events are ongoing throughout the month of May, according to Neil Ruud, Tour de Cluck event coordinator. The proceeds from the art auction will go to the Davis Art Center, which offers support to local artists, sponsors art-related events and maintains a close relationship with the local arts community in Davis, Ruud said.

Tickets for the event are sold out. Seven hundred people are expected to attend the coop crawl, according to Gilbride, and 17 coops are being showcased.

“It’s a fundraiser for Yolo Farm to Fork’s Davis Farm to School, a farm-to-school organization,” Ruud said. “Their goal is to help children in schools be connected to the food they eat, making sure they’re connected to local farms and can draw the line between the food they eat and where it comes from.”

Yolo Farm to Fork, a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization, began in 2000 as Davis Farm to School, which is now a program within Yolo Farm to Fork. According to the Yolo Farm to Fork’s website, they support “the use of seasonal, locally-sourced produce in school lunches, nutrition education, school gardens, farm visits and tours, agriculture-based art in the classroom and comprehensive solid waste reduction programs featuring recycling and composting.”

Davis Farm to School works directly with the Davis Joint Unified School District (DJUSD) to support these goals on a local level.

“Eggucation” and art
“I feel my job is to ‘artify’ the event,” said Shelly Gilbride, director of special projects at the Davis Art Center. “Davis is also an art town, and although that’s not always as evident in our town character as being a bike-town or an ag-town, more and more, it’s becoming a part of our identity.”

According to Gilbride, the expansion of the event, the theme of which is “growing, crowing and cycling things,” reflects this multifaceted community identity. This is the first year the Davis Art Center is involved in the event, in part because of event founder Jake Clemens, who felt that more local organizations could benefit from such a large event.

The event, according to Ruud, embodies the sustainable lifestyle that is possible in Davis.

“Chickens are a big aspect of it,” Ruud said. “But we [also] wanted the art auction and exhibit in order to represent the varied interests this community has in healthy, high-quality lifestyles.”

According to Gilbride, the art center will act as a “roost stop” during the coop crawl where people can stop and relax, but the center serves the community in other ways beyond this event.

“Our mission is to be dynamically engaged with the arts in Davis,” Gilbride said. “We offer classes taught by amazing teaching artists, although we’re expanding. Not everyone can attend a class for four weeks, so we’ve started to offer more drop-in and take-home projects. We’re about connecting the values of the town and exploring what it is to be a local arts center.”

Perks of the coops
Collecting eggs in one’s own backyard is about as local as one can get in regard to fowl-related food.

Ruud said not only do backyard chickens allow people to collect their own eggs, but between the time the chicken stops laying eggs and before it has died, many will opt to eat the chicken as well. Others may choose to give them away.

Chickens are inexpensive and easy to care for compared to most other pets, according to BackYardChickens.com, a website which promotes the “green, self-sufficient and grow local movements by educating people on how to raise chickens properly.”

According to the website, eggs from backyard chickens are more nutritious than those bought in stores, containing higher levels of vitamin A, vitamin E and beta-carotene. Chickens also provide a less synthetic method of controlling pests and providing fertilizer.

“Roosters, however, are illegal within city limits,” Ruud said.

According to section 5.01.020 of the Davis Municipal Code, it is also unlawful to keep more than six chickens. The structure the chickens are housed in must be sanitary, at least 40 feet away from any residence other than that of the chicken owner and “the keeping of such animals shall not create a health or nuisance problem.”

Sustainability and safety
According to Ruud, the bicycling element of the route incorporates another aspect of sustainability in Davis that the event emphasizes beyond sustainable food: sustainable transport.

The route, which is approximately 15 miles, is self-guided, although participants are provided with a map to explore the various coops at their leisure.

The event coordinators take great care to ensure there is no cross-contamination from coop-to-coop. Participants are not allowed to touch the chickens or enter the coops, but according to Ruud, cross-contamination can occur simply from walking through the backyard if there is particulate matter present.

Other measures taken during the event, according to a Tour de Cluck document titled “Chicken Health and Safety,” include spray bottles of disinfectant at each coop for visitors to clean the bottom of their shoes, as recommended by the American Poultry Association (APA).

Hand sanitizer will also be provided at each coop, and the document suggests that those with free-range chickens may want to isolate their birds in an enclosure for several days prior to the event and hose down the yard to reduce particulate matter.

More events
Other Tour de Cluck events include the Fowl Food Frolic, during which some local businesses such as the Davis Graduate and Dos Coyotes will be offering signature Tour de Cluck dishes benefiting Farm to Fork. The Frolic lasts through May 25.

Any customer who orders a Fowl Food Frolic dish will also receive a free raffle ticket for the Fowl Food Finale at Sutter Davis Hospital on June 1, during which various prizes will be raffled off, ranging from wine to pet supplies.

Ongoing Tour de Cluck events include Chicken Skool, free talks about various topics related to backyard chicken keeping, and Community Crowers on the Green, during which local nonprofits such as Cool Davis and the Center for Animal Welfare — based out of the UC Davis Animal Science Department — will be at Central Park during the event to answer questions.

“So many more organizations are working together and more people are involved than ever before,” Ruud said. “It’s really about promoting the way we live in this town: healthy, sustainable and connected to agriculture.”

Source: http://www.theaggie.org/2013/05/23/tour-de-cluck-to-celebrate-chickens-bikes-local-artists/


Love Chickens But Hate Commitment? Try Renting

Everyone loves a summer chicken. But come February, when you’re schlepping food and water across the snowy yard, getting your PJs wet, cursing your kids who promised to help, and not getting any eggs for your trouble, the romance of the backyard chicken may start to wane.

Enter Rent-a-Chicken. Leslie Suitor started the company in Traverse City, Michigan as a way to spare you from cold weather trauma. ”We get hellacious winters up here,” she said. “Who wants to slog through snowdrifts to get to your coop?”

Suitor’s operation is part of a mini-wave of chicken rentals, companies that soften the risk in chicken-rearing. Australia has been renting chickens for years (Rent-a-Chook was the first), but the trend is just catching on here. Companies like Coop and Caboodle in Alabama, Lands Sake in Massachusetts, and Rent a Coop in Maryland offer some variation on the model.

“For your first chicken, you don’t want anything flighty, flaky, or mean.”

For many customers, it’s a test run. Becky Kalajian, a stay-at-home mom in Traverse City, loved the idea of raising chickens. At least in theory. “I’m a total foodie, and I really wanted to use my own eggs,” she said. “But actually owning chickens? Terrifying.”

Kalajian rented two of Suitor’s chickens and became a “total chicken nerd” within months. She now owns two coops, spends hours on chicken forums and just bought an order of chicks.

The standard rental is two hens and a moveable coop, but prices and timeframes vary. At Lands Sake, $100 buys you two weeks. Rent a Coop is $160 per month. And Rent-a-Chicken charges $250 for a whole season (roughly between “when the forsythias start to bloom” and sometime after Labor Day).

Riley Truog inspects a rented chicken

Rent a Coop founder Tyler Phillips is a recent business school graduate. Phillips’ hens come with all-organic feed; cute coops hand-painted by his girlfriend Diana; andGolden Comet hens, a breed that keeps laying through the cold months. Soon, Phillips will stock the top five breeds from theBackyard Chickens forum. “I get requests from people all the time, like ‘Get me the kind with the feather sticking right out of its head’ or ‘I want blue and green eggs,’” he said. “Golden Comets are great, but you have to give people what they want.”

(For ideas on what chicken you want, check out Modern Farmer’handy guide.)

At first, Suitor only rented out Buff Orpingtons and Black Australorps. “I chose gentle, docile heritage breeds that take confinement well,” she said. “For your first chicken, you don’t want anything flighty, flaky, or mean.” Responding to customer demand, Suitor is now renting out Ameraucanas; they lay blue eggs.

Fresh eggs are the obvious draw, but some renters also learn what good pets chickens can be. Laura Byer of Potomac, MD, said her rented chickens were hilarious. “They follow you around, and come running if you have grapes,” she said. “They all have these funny little personalities!”

Source: http://modernfarmer.com/2013/04/love-chickens-but-hate-commitment-try-renting/

Name these Chicks – A Peepstakes


The Beacon Hill Farm is now home to four new chicks. You know, lose one gain FOUR! The math gets better every time. Who are these new ladies??


  • Chick #1 – Blue Silkie
  • Chick # 2 – Golden Laced Wyandotte
  • Chick # 3 – Black Copper Maran
  • Chick # 4 – Barred Rock



We need some help naming the new girls (Hung’s Hen Harem) and I need some more blog and Etsy store traffic – so naturally we have going to a peep stakes! Not for cash, but some prizes and bragging rights.  See the link below.

Name these Chicks – A Peepstakes.

My Family and Other Animals


So finally the weather here in cold, rainy old England has started to clear up.  The  rain has stopped and spring is finally trying to make it’s mark, bringing new life to this beautifully green and verdant land. And so I thought it about time to show you our little flock of feathered friends and undoubtedly the driving force behind this little blog of ours.

As you can see, our chickens have a lovely large pen to live in, giving them plenty of space to root and explore.


The chicken house is a classic design, it’s simple but effective and large enough for all the chickens to have plenty of room to roost or lay.


The house is raised off the floor for several important reasons.  Firstly, it prevents  damp and cold getting in through the floor.  It also helps prevent pests and critters getting into the house.  And lastly, the shade it provides gives the hens somewhere to have a dirt bath and get away from the hot day sun.

We encourage egg-laying with 1 nest box for every four or five chickens. Nest boxes should be raised off the ground at least a few inches, but lower than the lowest roosting pole. They should also be dark and “out of the way” to cater to the hen’s instinct to lay her eggs in a safe place.

The chicken house also needs to be airy enough to prevent respiratory diseases, to which chickens are especially prone, but not so drafty during winter that they freeze their tail feathers off. Chickens can withstand the cold so long as it’s not drafty.


We took advice from several sites on the internet about cold weather preparation for our hens.  We found that instead of heating the coop in the winter, the chickens adapt to the cold weather over time. Their body metabolism actually changes along with the seasons. When you heat your coop, the birds will never get used to the colder outside temperature — so if the heat were to accidentally cut out causing a sudden change in temperature, you could literally lose your entire flock overnight.  Combs and wattles are wattles are susceptible to frost bite damage during freezing weather, so try smearing them with Vaseline to prevent this from happening.  You can also try using pieces of old carpet or duvet as insulation to put on the roof of the hen house, But of course be sure not to block the ventilation holes.


Dirt bath’s are the chickens way of washing and important in preventing parasites such as mites and lice from finding a home in your chickens’ feathers and legs.

Having a tree in their pen is very important (if possible) as it also provides essential shelter, not only from the sun, but also from the wind and the rain too.


Water is vital for your chickens.  They can’t live for long without it!  During the winter, you’ll need to make sure the water supply doesn’t freeze!  If you don’t have electricity in your coop and therefore cannot provide a water heater, we recommend you bring the waterer into your house every night, and return it outside every morning. Check the water once or twice a day to make sure it’s not frozen.  During the  summer, excessive heat is a real risk to birds. Make sure they have access to fresh, clean water at all times. A source of shade is important too (like a tree) and ventilation in the coop of course!

Now, this may sound obvious, but it’s easy to forget.  Having let your chickens out of the coop in the morning, don’t forget to close and secure it at dusk (once they’ve all returned of course) to make sure predators can’t get to them.  It’s easy to forget, but important to remember!

Run Chicken Run

In Greek mythology Icarus flew to close to the sun and fell foul of it’s hot glare.  On 4th June, 1783, the Montgolfier brothers demonstrated their unmanned hot air balloon at Annonay, France.  And on December 17, 1903, the Wright brothers flew the first sustained flight with a powered, controlled aircraft at Kitty Hawk in North Carolina, U.S.

But all of these historic events pale, once you’ve witnessed the Annual Bonsall World Championship Hen Races in Matlock, Derbyshire.  This event has been running for the last 20 years, organised by the landlord of the Barley Mow pub, David Wragg.  The event itself is said to go back well over 100 years when local villages competed against each other in the summer for fun.  Rumour has it that David even takes his prize winning sprinting hen ‘Flo Jo’, out running across the Bonsall Moor!  But knowing that other competitors often spend months in training, going through rigorous exercises routines to ensure their hen are in tip top shape, this should come as no surprise!

So what happens in this race of kings, I hear you ask?  Well, the chickens are raced along a 15 metre track and given 3 minutes in each heat to cross the finish line. If they don’t cross the line, the closest to the line wins.  As you can imagine, it’s a fast and furious event with tempers aflutter, although any fighting between hens is strictly forbidden and can result in disqualification.  Entries have come from all over the world, including Norway, Belgium, France and Germany.

If you want to enter your own Linford Chicken, or Poulet Radcliffe, the event takes place on the first Saturday in August annually at The Barley Mow Inn, Bonsall, Derbyshire DE4 2AY.


Breaking Out

Life is often taken for granted.  And sometimes it’s easy to forget the struggle all life goes through to emerge from our fetal development to emerge as new life in the arms of our parents.  This lovely little video shows a baby chick fighting to escape the safety of it’s egg and take it’s first glimpse of a new world.  We’ve also included a small chart to show you what happens as the embryo develops into a chick.

Do baby chicks need grit?

Yes indeed, baby chicks do need grit.  Just like their older parents and siblings, they use grit to grind down food in their gizzards.  Take a look at this article for more information about a chickens digestive system: