Saturday, June 13, 2009

Chicken, Gardens and Agrarianism

While deciding to become and egg harvester and chicken babysitter, I decided to get back into gardening. I have taken a 10 year hiatus while I turned my house into the Winchester Mystery House. I really can't help myself as I love gardening, am enjoying this chicken craze and will soon be hand-augering a well in my backyard so I can irrigate everything. I have a small piece of property it is 100 x 100 and 35% is house another 20% is driveway and lawn. So I am not a land-barron and don't want anyone feeling inhibited by a perception of money... negative tower.... no money here. Which leads me to my next point.

My desire is to get off the grid; solar on the house, eggs in the coop, veggies in the garden and water in the well. In as much as I can tell this is neo-agrarianism. Since we don't live in villages where someone is stomping out wine or kneeding bread or pressing olives or making some shoes. The best we can do is; water, sun, wind, dirt, seeds and chickens, unless you have land and ordinances that let you slaughter - then meat..I don't and wouldn't anyway, unless I had to.
I have read enough to know, our economy will never be the bloated self it was from 2002-2006. That was 4 years of Fantasy Island. I also know from my years studying and applying economics in business, that we are in for lean times. As the government turns on the printing presses, our money will buy less. This begs the need to keep it in your pocket and food being one of our larger monthly expenses, why not provide it for yourself - no matter the size of lot you have.
Above are kaliedescope carrots. These are offered by Cook Gardens. I have bought many seeds from Cook over the past 20 years and they have been the best - by far. They are awesome to eat, beautiful to look at, kids like them and they "sell". Many local gardeners can make money selling to neighbors or at Farmers Markets, but more importantly you can provide for yourself.
So, while I am tending to my chickens, I will be harvesting some veggies too. If your not doing it, give it a try. Neo-Agrarianism is coming to a street near you.
Le Coop du Jour T-Shirts coming soon.

COOP Maintenance

OK... sorry for the late post.... I spent some time at Concord Feed and picked up the following;

CornCob by Green Pet Incorporated. This really neat stuff, super absorbent, natural, edible, biodegradible, compostable and the chickens love it. It is like they are on crack right now - ok bad reference... coffee!!! Yeah... too much caffeine. I spread it out with the pine shavings and some hay for a nice all-in-one bedding.

Very cool stuff. I will keep you posted on the success and the ability... for it to keep the ammonia smell down and the COOP fresh as my socks. Also in the shopping basket was;

Garden and Poultry Dust which is designed to take care of the poultry mites among other pesky pests. I sprinkled this in the bedding.

The chickens are now resting since I spent 10 minutes in the coop cleaning and prepping, they were freaking!!!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Raising Chickens - Trend or Stupidity?

Here is an article I read on Reuters today -

Despite Jack Shafer's recent complaints, newspapers continue to report on the "trend" of people raising chickens in their back yards.

The latest: The Dubuque, Iowa, Telegraph-Herald, which has taken it even further than a trend—according to that newspaper (whose article was picked up by the Chicago Tribune), it's a "movement": "Whether they are owned as pets or food sources, chickens have become the animals du jour, the darlings of the growing 'backyard flock' movement," the paper reports.
Of course, there is nothing to support the idea that such a "movement" actually exists; the article is built on nothing but anecdotes. The only trend here is of newspaper reporters insisting that there is a trend.

It may well be true that more people are raising their own chickens. But these stories offer no real data to indicate that it is so.

The Telegraph Herald attributes the "trend" to "a recession and rising food costs or ... food safety and animal welfare concerns." But as Shafer, Slate's media critic, noted a couple of weeks ago when he recounted several similarly flimsy articles, "keeping chickens is a filthy, time-consuming, and expensive way to keep the pantry filled with eggs."If the recession or safety are the primary motivations for raising chickens, the chicken-raisers aren't very smart. A part-time job at Popeye's would be a far more effective way to offset the effects of the recession than would building and maintaining a backyard coop."

Seriously, this person doesn't know the first thing about raising chickens. It is painfully obvious this person enjoys the confines of a second-rate fast food restaurant, e-coli and endless teasing to raising chickens, working the land, producing food, controling pests and having a constant supply of humor and entertainment.

Week Two: June 12, 2009

Hoot on the rod....!
This chicken is a hoot. She is the friendliest bird I have ever seen, my experience being the other five! So, this bird is really something. It is as though the bird wants to come with you every where you go. As I took this picture, I think she wanted to make a call. Cool looking beek and really pretty markings on her head... the rest of her looks like she spent the night in a gutter.
And then there are three on the rod! Hoot encouraged a couple others... Millie (RIR) and Kapalua (Arcauna) to join her. Then Hoot jumped on Kapalua and knocked them both off the rod... A big crash was heard as Kapalua landed on her back on the ramp.
Fun stuff.
Then we have the two foreigners... Scat and Sunny...
These two are unbelievable... always following, always talking. They are still the prettiest, currently and seem to stunted in growth. They still look chick-ish. I am changing their names to Yanna and Ulrika.
More to come...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Chicken Panic?

I am not sure I like this.... This is a new game from Techno Bubble Entertainment in Sweden (yeppo the Swede's again). It is designed for the iPhone. The object is to not let the colored chickens drop to the bottom of the screen or they escape from the coop. Whew! With the little guys eyes popping out, I thought for sure he was cooked.

Here are some screen grabs. The guy looks like a poorly dressed hick drunk coming out of the back entrance to some dive bar. Oh, where chickens happen to be meandering amongst the spent wine barrels. OK, there is some fencing, but I am not buying the whole setting. A stupid hat, skinny arms made for fighting, a shirt that harkens any women to him and tight pants. As you can tell also the syntax in the second picture is perfect English. They might as well write it like a ranson note... " oH NO, mY colOr cHiCKenS eSkapE AgAin." UGH... nice try. The fur-ball chickens are miserable as well.

At least chickens have made it to the iPhone.

Feed Stores, Stables and The Internet

Sorry... but I realized why I like chickens, feedstores and stables.

Time stands still.

No amount of technology is going to change the chicken, their needs, their habitats, their care and the egg.

No amount of technology is going to change the stable, the horse, the experience of riding one.

No amount of technology is going to change the feedstore, the trough, the food, the equipment. And while computers may control the inventory, they do not change the basic essence of the need as to why people are coming there. Whether for bedding, hay, feed, tack etc walking into a feedstore evokes days gone by - maybe safer, maybe calmer, maybe simpler days.

I need to walk away from the computer and weep. (tissue please)

Chickens and Dinosaurs

(pictured are Hoot (Easter Egger), Millie (RIR) and Scat (Buff Orpington) on the ramp)

Good grief, I am not trying to be cruel, but these things are the strangest two legged winged creatures I have ever seen. I was told they go through a "questionable" appearance stage but this is ridiculous. They have bed head, they are disproportionate, their feet are the size of a pterodactyl and their heads look like a mish-mash of hair, feathers and a raisin. Now to pick on one breed.. the Arcauna is really the oddest. The Buff and the Rhode Island's are actually aging gracefully.
Now on to more kind observations - they not only have found the ramp and the second floor.. they are now flying up and sitting on the wood clothes rod. Well not all of them... the Arcauna's and the RIR are there but Buff's are still like foreigners.

"Oh luuk Sven....the others are sitting up dere, shall vee join demm?" "No, jus snap unz picture and send zem baak to Sveeden" - ( Oh my lord I cannot believe I just tried to mimic a Swede forgive me if you are Swedish). Since the Buff's originate in England read it with an English accent. "A look Clare... they've popped up to the rod... shall we join them?" "Oh Imogen you're so impetuous, let's just relax and sip some water..." (ahh that's better)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


What a great breed of chicken....
(splash, blue and buff)

Chickens Are Smarter Than Dogs.....!!!?

I do not like PETA, I think they are an activist group that has taken their charter WAY TOO FAR. I believe it is conceivable to get behind "causes" with tact, shrewdness and effectiveness. PETA has taken their cause to a level of unnecessary shock, lewdness and division. This is no way to sway thoughts or beliefs and usually galvanizes people against them.

A chicken could figure this out.

Why the PETA comments, because much of the information on livestock, poultry and household pets comes from organizations like PETA. When I say information - I mean "learnings" things which are going to teach you about the creature. Since becoming a Backyard Chicken Farmer, I have jumped into the deep end and wanted to learn everything there is; based on my preconceived notions that chickens are dumb, of which my chickens are not helping my notion. Since they appear to be "cute", I thought I would research this a bit and lo and behold lookie here! Chickens are smart. Simply stated, they have personality therefore they must have some vein of intelligence somewhere. Well here is what I found out.

"Leading animal behavior scientists from across the globe now tell us that chickens are inquisitive and interesting animals whose cognitive abilities are more advanced than those of cats, dogs, and even some primates. Chickens understand sophisticated intellectual concepts, learn from watching each other, demonstrate self-control, worry about the future, and even have cultural knowledge that is passed from generation to generation. Dr. Chris Evans, who studies animal behavior and communication at Macquarie University in Australia, says, "As a trick at conferences, I sometimes list these attributes, without mentioning chickens, and people think I am talking about monkeys.""

Chickens comprehend cause-and-effect relationships and understand that objects still exist even after they are hidden from view.(2) This puts the cognitive abilities of chickens above those of small human children(3). Scientists are so impressed with what we now know about the intellect of chickens and other birds that a group of international experts recently called for a new naming system to reflect the complex, mammal-like structure of avian brains.(4) Dr. Christine Nicol, who studies chicken intelligence, reflected, "They may be "bird brains" but we need to redefine what we mean by "bird brains" Chickens have shown us they can do things people didn't think they could do. There are hidden depths to chickens, definitely"(5)

When in their natural surroundings, not on factory farms, chickens form complex social hierarchies, also known as "pecking orders" and every chicken knows his or her place on the social ladder and remembers the faces and ranks of more than 100 other birds. People who have spent time with chickens know that each bird has a different personality that often relates to his or her place in the pecking order, some are gregarious and fearless, while others are more shy and watchful; some chickens enjoy human company, while others are standoffish, shy, or even a bit aggressive. Just like dogs, cats, and humans, each chicken is an individual with a distinct personality."(6)

Attribution for this article is here -
1 William Grimes, If Chickens Are So Smart, Why Aren't They Eating Us? The New York Times 12 Jan. 2003, late ed..
2 Grimes.
3 Grimes.
4 Rick Weiss, Bird Brains Get Some New Names, and New Respect, The Washington Post 1 Feb. 2005: A10.
5 Ananova, Chickens Not Just Bird Brains, 2005.
6 Michael Specter, The Extremist, The New Yorker 14 Apr. 2003.

More to come

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Week Two: June 10, 2009

The chickens have found the ramp to the Hen House...

Pretty cool. I come home from work and the chickens have found the ramp to the Hen House and have even traveled up there, pooped of course, and scratched the hay down to the lower level. They are also practicing their flying skills by getting up on the ramp and flying down. It is as though they are challenging each other and practicing - not sure whether this is good, as flying was not one of my pre-requisites for owning them.

The Arcauna's are the most daring and, by far, the most spirited. The two Buff's are like foreigners, seemingly wandering the COOP looking for a place to stay and good restaurant. They follow everyone else and stick together. They are the most vocal though.

The RIR is completely aloof to everything, yet has grown, in size, substantially. Kapalua the one pictured in the middle with the white stripe is a freak. You walk into the coop and she goes nuts... Hoot right in front to the right... is like a dog. Walk in the coop and she runs off because all the others do and then eventually saunters over to me and just looks.

They are eating like pigs and drinking like sailors. We are feeding them (pictured here)

My next determination is how to water them without their need to take a dump in the trough!

Chicken Wreck

It doesn't get much worse than this....

These were fryers... so their fate was sealed, but what a way to go. Actually probably more humane than a processing facility.

Chick Flick

A quick 1 min video from my handheld... nothing special.

Carmel Valley and Chickens Part 2

As you ramble down Carmel Valley road it becomes clear you have moved from the well-to-do retirees to well-to-do wineries like Bernardus, Chateau Julian, Talbott among many others. The landscape is stunning and as you drive the valley seems to narrow with oak studded mountains becoming closer and closer.

Is it any wonder why celebrities and dignitaries call this place home; Doris Day, Betty White, Clint Eastwood, Earth, Wind and Fire (at one time), Merv Griffin, Leon Panetta, Charles Schultz (Peanuts), Charles Schwab, The Kohler Family, The Firestone Family to name a scant few.

Once deeper into the Valley you come upon the Village. Once a cowboy hitching post has now become a village of great restaurants, unique shops and artisans. The newest and one of the more lively is the Volcano Grill owned by Billy Quon Lee. Mr. Lee made a name for himself back in the 80's by opening a string of successful restaurants on the Monterey Peninsula. His success seems to continue.

If you dig a little deeper there are great spots to stop and take in the view, the Carmel River and even go for a horseback ride through the foothills and wineries at Holman Ranch.

My point to this travel tip is; ranches and farms are everywhere. Chickens meander about along with wild turkey, quail and jack rabbits. Horse stables abound and discoveries are awaiting.

This is getting too sappy...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Coop maintenance and your garden....

I stumbled across this video on You Tube. Grab your pillow and a binky, cause this guy should be professional bedtime story-teller. After I wiped the drool from my keyboard, I realized he had some great information. Pine shavings and chicken waste, already cut down and ready to be amended into the soil - brilliant.

Nighty night.....

Week Two: June 8, 2009

They made it through the weekend, without us. Like they wouldn't have... they are in a protected area, have water, food, warmth, other curious birds, sun, each other, hay, stuff to scratch and pick at and bugs! If life could be so simple. Can you imagine if they had more responsibilty? Wait... where did the term "Hen-Pecked" come from? Maybe there is tremendous stress in this coop, maybe I need music, a counselor - maybe there are other bird types they can "serve" them... quail? duck? goose....? If there are "Horse Whisperers" are there Chicken Cluckerers...? This is going to cost me a lot!!!!

Chicken Breeds

Here is a great link to chicken breeds. Makes me second-guess my choices, but this is a learning process.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Carmel Valley and Chickens

Carmel, CA

OK, when most of us think of Carmel we think of Clint Eastwood, golf, quaint shops, incredible beach and a storied history and tradition. How many of us, know or realize there is much more to this area than the aforementioned? This place has it all. As Robert Louis Stevenson said - "It is the greatest meeting of land and sea and chickens and sustainable living in the world" OK, RLS did not say this, but if he was living today, he might have.

Having grown up on the Monterey Peninsula, I have had the chance to explore, learn and grow to love it. There is not place I have ever been which brings such an incredible peace. I am feeling very vulnerable right now and need to cry for a moment... OK I am over it. Really this is a wonderful place and should be visited by all. Just make sure I am not there and not all at once.

So, off the beaten path you head south on Hwy 1 to Carmel Valley Road making a left you are now heading southeast. Essentially this road, Carmel Valley Road, is a treasure trove of fun. Not to turn this into a travel site, I wanted to focus the imagery on sustainability and travel, inspiration and, of course, chickens - really this is what it is all about. As you head out you have "The Barnyard" a group of shops set right at the mouth of the Valley... in a, well, barn-ish setting. The irony is thick here, as The Barnyard (pictured to the left) telegraphs the Valley's true character.

As you meander through the pines, oaks and homes, you will also begin noticing fields, horse-ranches and wineries. Dotted in between, there are nurseries, golf courses and FEED STORES!!!! Yeah.... The coolest one I've come across is Hacienda Hay and Feed at 7180 Carmel Valley Road.

This place, situated due east of Quail Lodge and the Wagon Wheel restaurant (Good Breakfast Spot). This is essentially a working feed store, providing all the essentials to many working ranches and horse stables, but is a wonderful garden center and, yes, even petting zoo. Although one time we were there and there was a peacock roaming around and it freaked us out as it followed us, step for step, mocking us... we'd stop, he'd stop, we walked, he walked, we ran, he ran - utterly unnerving. This is a place to stop, eat at the local restaurants, visit the stores and take in some memories. Oh yeah and some killer chickens. More to come on Carmel Valley.