Tag Archives: Urban chicken

How to protect chickens from foxes

This is a great article by Andy Blackmore and I thougbht would prove useful for all us poultry keepers!  You can read more of Andy’s great blogs HERE

Know your enemy: Mr Fox makes a wily opponent for those new to poultry keeping (Picture: Getty)
Know your enemy: Mr Fox makes a wily opponent for those new to poultry keeping

Even if you’ve decided that keeping urban chickens is not for you it’s a fair bet you will encounter their nemesis – the fox. The first thing that says you are the subject of unwanted fox attention is the disagreeable smell – a sharp choking musty aroma – an unpleasant amalgam of musk, blocked drains and stale urine.

Foxes are wily adversaries of those inexperienced in keeping poultry. And any small mistake will be punished unmercifully – so let’s take it as red that your coop or hutch is sturdy, strong and perhaps has even been sold to you as fox proof.

Even so you might want to consider a little help in skewing things further in your favour  – so here are a few suggestions.

Electric fencing: Foxes check everything with their noses first so it shouldn’t take too many shocking encounters for them to get the message. While being the most obvious solution it can seem quite expensive – but worth it to protect both your investment and your feathered friends.

Light and sound: Leaving a radio on in the coop overnight can be very effective simply because a fox would generally prefer not to be in the presence of humans and simple lighting arrays that mimic the eyes of another predator like the Nite Guard Solar can also work wonders.

Sonic repellents: They do work but you get what you pay for and as they start at around £20. But remember these will be audible to dogs; so opt for models that only sound when they detect a threat and not one on all day – or you could send your pets barking mad.

Chemical repellents: There are a couple on the market but Scoop is widely acclaimed as the most effective product of its type on the market. It’s totally safe for use in gardens, near chickens, on plants and edible crops and is humane, bio-degradable and very effective.

Scent marking: Most of us won’t have access to Lion dung (as used by one well known comedian to protect his brood) but we have the next best thing – for free. This involves directly mimicking the territorial behaviour of a fox by the application of male urine to your boundaries – I’ll leave issues of supply and demand to your imagination. However, if that’s too much for you, consider using human hair (male works best), either your own after a cut or try asking at your local barbers. Stuff some into a pair of old tights and hang around the margins of your garden – good luck.

Source: http://metro.co.uk/2013/06/11/pet-blog-how-to-protect-chickens-from-foxes-3836084/

From Cities to Suburbs, Raising Backyard Chickens is All the Rage

Boots crusted over with a layer of dried dirt, Matthew Wilson holds one of his Barred Rock hens as he walks through his garden. “Bitey developed more slowly than the others,” he says as he strokes her comb as if tending to his most fragile child. Bitey, so named because it often mistook his children’s toes for worms, has the characteristic black and white stripes of the breed, known for its high egg production, meaty body, and docile personality.

Matthew Wilson is standing in the middle of his large backyard in the suburban city of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, where he raises egg-laying hens. Photo courtesy of Matthew Wilson

His other Barred Rock hens are actively scavenging the remains of his garden, a growth of foot-high spindly Swiss chard and kale stems, the leaflessness a result of the voracious appetites of his hens. He feeds them food scraps such as old bread, tomatoes, grapes, and spent grains that he himself collects from a local brewery but they still overwhelm his garden vegetables. Yet, he shrugs off the loss of his garden: “We get it all back. It all shows up in the egg yolks. The yolks are a dark, rich, orange color.” Wilson points to a photograph that his friend snapped comparing a store-bought, yellow-yolked egg next to one of his dark orange-yolked eggs and the differences are obvious. He raves, “My egg shells are visibly different than store-bought eggs. Store-bought eggs are all very uniform, because the odd-shaped or odd-colored ones are thrown out. Mine are gloriously random.”

There’s nothing like fresh eggs. Photo courtesy of Matthew Wilson

Wilson is passionate about raising egg-laying hens and he can talk at length about different breeds of chickens, how they work together to trap sparrows, and how he monitors their egg-laying throughout the season. But Wilson is no farmer. He is standing in the middle of his large backyard in the suburban city of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, a suburb in the greater Cleveland metropolitan area of three million, and works full-time, but not in anything remotely related to farming. Remarkably, Wilson is a software engineer. Concern for their food supply is increasingly the reason that people in urban or suburban neighborhoods are now raising backyard or urban chickens.

In 2010, more than 500 million eggs were recalled when two large egg producers were linked to salmonella-related illnesses in 1,500 people. Wilson and his wife, Lindsey Wilson, were concerned about factory farming practices and routinely shop at their local farmer’s market even before they owned chickens. Wilson explains that his job as a software engineer parallels his passion for gardening and chicken-keeping. “A lot of us [engineers] are interested in understanding food stuff. I think it comes from the fact that being a computer programmer, in order to build anything, you really have to understand what we call the “whole stack.” A lot of us are interested in the fact that our food supply is so awful that if we really want to be healthy, we really have to start thinking downward.” Another chicken raiser, Melissa Bencivengo of North Olmsted, also cites her family’s health as the primary reason to raise chickens. A mom to two young daughters and also an engineer, Bencivengo watched her friend’s daughter start puberty at age 9 and decided that she wanted more control of her food supply. “My grandparents had a farm and they had cows, horses, chickens, and turkeys. So, I said you know what, chicken farming is something that I know that I can do.”

From suburban towns to urban centers, chicken coops are appearing everywhere in residential backyards. Cleveland has allowed chickens in residential backyards with some restrictions since 2009. Toledo requires a health inspection for backyard chickens but allowed them for several years. Wilson repeatedly wrote to the Cleveland Heights City Council asking them to approve backyard chickens and was elated when the City Council finally passed a series of green zoning ordinances in May 2012.  Despite this lag in approving urban chickens, the Cleveland Heights green zoning ordinances in 2012 was so comprehensive that it allowed conditional use permits for everything from renewable energy generators, rain water barrels, front-yard gardens, and backyard chicken coops in residential districts. To get a conditional use permit for chickens, a Cleveland Heights resident must submit an application that includes detailed descriptions and scale drawings of the project and appear before the planning commission. Once approved, a conditional permit allows up to four egg-laying hens for the resident’s own use.

From suburban towns to urban centers, chicken coops are appearing everywhere in residential backyards. Photo courtesy of Kara O’Donnell, City of Cleveland Heights

Cleveland Heights City Planner Kara O’Donnell says the trend in her city is that “younger families, with younger children, or younger singles” apply for the chicken permits and the Wilsons are a prime example. Wilson thinks it is worth the effort to teach his kids the relationship between raising chickens and their food supply. Only a couple hours of work per week are required to feed and water the hens, which lay an average of 12-18 eggs per week, and clean the coop. Wilson tasked his oldest son, Charlie, age 7, to guard the chickens from hawks and collect eggs daily, which Charlie describes as “actually very fun.” Lindsey Wilson shares why she raises chickens: “I wanted [my kids] to know how to take care of the animals. That they require us to take care of them.” Bencivengo is also teaching her kids something similar: “I want my kids to understand that food comes from somewhere other than the grocery store, in a package.”

The chicken ordinance has been the most popular of all the Cleveland Heights sustainable ordinances. From June to November 2012, one to three people per month applied to raise chickens on their property and Cleveland Heights approved each of these applications. The popularity of the chicken ordinance has been reflected in the range of property types to which the permits are applied. Cleveland Heights has approved permits for small, efficiently-used backyards and even large properties in the prestigious Chestnut Hills neighborhood.

O’Donnell says that Cleveland Heights has been successful at keeping neighbors of the chicken owners happy through the conditions set in the permitting process. Only one complaint has been lodged against any chicken keeper and this offense involved owners that had accidentally bought roosters, which are not allowed because they are noisy and potentially aggressive. The roosters were safely re-homed and the neighbors were satisfied. Lindsey Wilson initially worried about her neighbors’ reactions to their new chickens. She says, “We thought that we had to hide them from our neighbors but everybody just loves to watch them and [the neighbors] said really nice things for Matt at the Planning Commission meeting. They’re actually pretty quiet.”

The experience of Cleveland Heights mirrors the rising trend in chicken keeping across the country. Since 2009, Meyer Hatchery, an Ohio-based, nation-wide supplier of live poultry, has seen the doubling of the number of small chicken orders, which are usually between 3-14 live chicks and placed by urban or suburban residents. Jess Brushaber, Marketing and Advertising Director of Meyer Hatchery, says, “We have seen a significant increase in backyard chicken keeping which we attribute to folks wanting to live more sustainably. With cities making it legal to own a few backyard hens, jumping into the hobby is relatively inexpensive and easy.”

In fact, the Cleveland Heights chicken ordinance is clear and straightforward. A resident is required to keep the chickens in the backyard; the chicken coop and run has to be 10 feet from the house and property lines; and the chickens and the yard have to be kept clean and sanitary. Even with these regulations, Wilson would like to see Cleveland Heights focus more on animal welfare and training for new chicken keepers. He says that the number of allowable birds is important but so is the space per bird and an educated owner who knows how to maintain them.

Matthew Wilson thinks it is worth the effort to teach his kids the relationship between raising chickens and their food supply. Photo courtesy of Kara O’Donnell, City of Cleveland Heights

Wilson taught himself the skills to raise urban chickens through sources like Backyard Poultry Magazine, community websites such as backyardchickens.com and reddit.com/r/BackYardChickens, and by learning from friends with chicken experience. Wilson’s free-range chickens and chicken coop are largely odor-free and he invites people to take a whiff of his chicken coop to judge for themselves. He uses aerobic decomposition of his chicken manure by mixing it with straw and pine shavings to create rich compost for his garden. The compost smells vaguely vinegary but only from a distance of a couple feet. Lindsey Wilson says that she was initially against the idea when Matt mentioned raising chickens. “I initially thought they are dirty and they probably smell. I had had no past history with chickens. [But] I’ve really fallen in love with them. It’s kinda cute to watch them follow [Matt] around.”

Wilson shares a story about Lindsey Wilson’s grandparents when they lived on the West Side of Cleveland. Lindsey’s grandfather was attending an important meeting when her grandmother called. She asked that he come to the phone immediately because it was a family emergency. In truth, her grandmother had called her grandfather because she wanted to share some exciting news with him. She told him that one of their chickens had laid their first egg for them! Wilson smiles as he can relate to the wonder and excitement over each new egg. He says of his chickens, “So far it’s been nothing but good things. They’re wonderful. They’re an asset.”

Source: http://ecowatch.com/2013/raising-backyard-chickens/

Keeping Freerange Chickens: Are You Ready?

What Are You Taking On?

Keeping chickens in the backyard is something of a commitment, and should not be entered into lightly. If you’re going to get into this wonderful passtime, make sure you understand what you’re taking on!

Freerange chicken with chick

Chickens don’t demand a lot of work, but they do need a little daily attention to ensure they have fresh food and clean water. Your chickens’ lives are literally in your hands: you’ll need to check on them every day, rain, snow or shine.

If you go away from home overnight, you’ll need to find someone to check in on your chickens and give them food and water. Most neighbours, especially those with kids, will be only too happy to help you – especially if you let them keep any eggs they collect during this time.

Manure will build up in your chicken coop, and you’ll need to occasionally clean it out and lay fresh bedding for them. Depending upon how many chickens you have, this will probably only need doing once every 2-3 months and needn’t take long. The old bedding is great for the compost and will give your garden a boost, so think of it as harvesting a valuable resource!

Chicken Health

While they are generally low maintenance, chickens do occasionally suffer from parasites or diseases. Most issues are fairly easy to diagnose and treat, with a little knowledge (be sure to check out our Health & Welfare pages). And be sure you buy a good chicken keeping book that covers the common problems.

Before committing to keeping backyard chickens, try to find a friend, colleague or neighbour with chickens and have a chat with them. There’s no substitute for first-hand advice.

If you have any doubts after considering all the above, you could search for a business in your local area that rents out chickens and coops. If you try out chicken keeping and find it’s not for you, they can simply be returned without fuss. If things go well, you’ll be able to buy the chickens and the coop from the rental service.

Although most towns and cities are fine with residents keeping backyard chickens, many have a few rules about where you can site the coop, how many chickens you can keep, whether or not you can keep roosters, and so on. It’s worth a quick phone call to your local government office to check what you need to do. And believe it or not, there are still a few cities where backyard chickens are banned!

Backyard chicken keeping is not hard work, but it’s important to make sure you understand the commitment you’re making when you take on your own flock. And keep your eye on the prize – for relatively little cost and a small amount of effort, you will be rewarded with plenty of fresh eggs and entertainment!

Source: http://backyard-chicken-keeping.com/backyard-chicken-keeping-are-you-ready