Tag Archives: Massachusetts

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/

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No Rest For The Wicked

A couple of tom turkeys are terrorizing folks in Frederick, Massachusetts in the USA are harassing church-goers, drivers inside their cars, and cyclists.

People are keeping a wary eye on Opossomtown Pike for the gobbling, pecking and scratching animals.

“We were preparing our community dinner, which was turkey,” says Pastor Katie Penick of Faith United Church of Christ, whose daughter Meg was among the first attacked.”Hello, whoa, hello!…,” squeals Meg, on video she shot of the assault.The tom turkeys were apparently out to protect their hens. They gobbled, and then chased after her and first grade teacher Debra Wilcox, who had noticed a whole rafter of turkeys in the church yard and gone out to investigate.

“My camera clicked,” says Wilcox. “And they both turned their heads turned my way and it was kind of like slow motion, they turned toward me and I started running in slow motion toward me.”

Wilcox says they were like the velociraptors in Jurassic Park.

“I haven’t run that fast in years.”

The turkeys are even attacking cars on Opossomtown Pike. One guy says he was sitting in the drivers seat when the two toms jumped up on his hood and started pecking at the windshield with their beaks and slashing at them with their spurs.

Turns out wild turkeys are plenty territorial, and if you search YouTube, you will find all kinds of video of them attacking people.

Meg took refuge on top of a play set. “She was safe up there,” says her mom. “You know they can fly?” “Don’t tell my daughter!”

Despite their nervousness,  church members now feel they to protect the turkeys, especially considering their motto. “Whoever you are or wherever you are in life’s journey, you are welcome here. Now we welcome turkeys,” says Pastor Penick.

Spring turkey hunting season in Maryland starts in less than a month. And if those toms keep acting the way they’re acting, they’re SITTING DUCKS!

Portraits of the Fairest Fowl

I love these photos of chickens by Tamara Staples.  They are from her new book The Magnificent Chicken: Portraits of the Fairest Fowl.

Tamara Staples The Magnificent Chicken Bearded Buff Frizzle Polish Bantam hen
Bearded Buff Frizzle Polish Bantam hen.  Photo by Tamara Staples

Tamara Staples vividly remembers her first time at a poultry show.

“I remember stepping inside and being blown away by the birds,” Staples recounted. “They were gorgeous! And the show itself—the people, the smell, the sounds, the camaraderie of the shows and the beauty of the birds—who knew there were so many varieties of chickens beyond what you think about when they’re on your dinner plate?”

Staples’ love for the birds began during visits with her favorite relative, Uncle Ron, who lived in Athens, Ga., and was a chicken breeder. “I would go visit him and hang out behind his henhouse, and I started asking about chickens, and he invited me to that first poultry show 20 years ago,” said Staples.

With some guidance from her uncle, Staples began photographing the birds around the Midwest in Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Indiana over four years to get enough material for her first book, The Fairest Fowl: Portraits of Championship Chickens, published by Chronicle Books in 2001.

Tamara Staples The Magnificent Chicken Self Blue Bearded D'anvers Cockerel

Self Blue Bearded D’anvers Cockerel.  Photo by Tamara Staples
Tamara Staples The Magnificent Chicken White Showgirl Bantam Cockerel.

White Showgirl Bantam Cockerel.  Photo by Tamara Staples

The hardest part for Staples was getting accustomed to shooting on location. Once she mastered that, she began to think more about styling for the portraits.

“I originally started using things you would think of with chickens: gingham, burlap, even hay,” Staples said about the styling. “And one day my assistant said he wanted to come with me. He was amazing. He showed up with all of these fabrics … and when we put them behind the chickens, it was just ‘wow.’ ”

Staples began looking for fabrics in thrift stores and started collecting samples from friends and friends of friends in the design world to enhance the portraits.

“For the second book I knew I wanted to try something more exciting and fashionable,” Staples said.

Tamara Staples The Magnificent Chicken Black Langshan Cockerel

Black Langshan Cockerel.  Photo by Tamara Staples
Tamara Staples The Magnificent Chicken White Leghorn Bantam Cock.

White Leghorn Bantam Cock.  Photo by Tamara Staples

Staples’ second book, The Magnificent Chicken: Portraits of the Fairest Fowl, will be available Feb. 19 from Chronicle Books. Staples shot mostly around Massachusetts, New Jersey, and upstate New York with a Hasselblad camera, and typically spends between 10 minutes and half an hour with each bird during their portrait session. Of course, it all depends on the mood of her models.

“Look, the birds get into a cage, then into a car or truck, and travel long distances and then get to the show—they’re fragile little animals! They’re in a show in a huge hall with a million other birds; they may fight with their neighbors, they may be afraid of them, they may smell funny. You have to think about their experience, so when they go to me they’ve already been cooped up for maybe two days, so they’re either exhausted or ready to take off.”

Tamara Staples The Magnificent Chicken Porcelain Belgian Bearded D'uccle Bantam Pullet.

Porcelain Belgian Bearded D’uccle Bantam Pullet.  Photo by Tamara Staples

Ideally, Staples will get a bird in a mood that falls somewhere between fatigue and the desire to flee for the session.

“Everyone is different, of course,” explained Staples. “You want someone with vigor who will look around or pose. Some of them just sit down; some crap all over the background immediately as if to say, ‘what’s this?’ ”

For now, two books is enough for Staples, who is moving on to some new projects, but don’t expect her to stay away from the chickens for too long.

“I will always have a very special place in my heart for the chickens, and I hope there is another project that leads me to them—I really enjoy working with the birds, and I enjoy the people in the shows,” said Staples.

Tamara Staples The Magnificent Chicken Silver Duckwing Modern Game Large Fowl Hen.

Silver Duckwing Modern Game Large Fowl Hen.  Photo by Tamara Staples

The Goosinator

geese.chaser.water

Canada geese can cause significant damage to turf grass in parks and golf courses due to foraging on short grass and their fecal contamination.  Many devices have been employed in the past to combat this problem, from decoys to sheep dogs, but none have proven effective.

Meet the Goosinator, a bright orange robot being tested as a way to keep geese moving along.

The Goosinator is a remote-controlled, battery-powered robot made from orange foam painted to resemble a devilish, grinning beast. It can move up to 25 miles per hour.

video made by its creators shows the robot continuously scaring geese away by moving along grass, snow, concrete and icy water. It also emits a loud motorized sound. Colorado-based Goosinator designer Randy Claussen said his challenge was to come up with a craft that could move along all kinds of different surfaces and be intimidating to geese.

geese.chaser.grass

“We humanely are returning wildlife back to the wild, at your fingertips,” said Claussen. Denver parks officials recently bought two Goosinators, costing about $3,000 each, and plan to have college interns operate them. It sounds expensive but just cleaning up after the geese can cost up to $1,000 a week.

So far the robots have been deployed in urban parks in Massachusetts, Wisconsin and New York. Residents in Westchester, N.Y., are trying it as an alternative to rounding up geese and killing them.