Thursday, December 27, 2007


Heee hee... this post was for the baby blog! Bye-bye!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Hens in the snow

The hens are holding up extremely well in the cold weather, ice and snow. They seem to relish eating snow, kicking at it, and they generally are undaunted by sub-freezing temperatures. We have noticed that when it is really, really cold (like below 10 degrees) the hens often stand on one foot like a flamingo to keep the other foot tucked up into their warm feathers. But that doesn't keep them from strutting about happily- it just seems to be a sensible habit for the cold ground when they want to stand still.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Article in Missoulian

Today's article in the Missoulian focuses mostly on important things like subdivisions and the retirement of a long time councilman. However, at the end, it goes over some chicken news...

The early visit by Santa - looking suspiciously like Mike Jakupcak, who earlier came to a meeting in a chicken costume - cheered council members already peppy from the tribute to Reidy. Jakupcak wished council members a “Merry Chickenmas” in a variation of “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

“The chickens were all huddled outside the city limits in pens / Awaiting the decision to stay put or gather speed, put on mittens and en masse descend,” he read.

But they probably won't descend en masse. At least one council member said passage of the ordinance will probably not lead to a sudden influx of chickens in city limits.

Article in Missoulian, in full

To celebrate, today we are giving the hens some stale bread and delicious bird seed. Tasty!

Monday, December 17, 2007


The chicken ordinance passed the city council tonight, with a 7 to 5 vote. Yeee haw!

At the last possible second, one of the 5 dissenters changed his vote to "yes" (making it 8 to 4) and thus enabling him (by an odd procedural rule) to call for a recount within the next two city council meetings. This means that when the new council takes their seats in January, this council member can call a re-vote.

This is a mean spirited and ultimately pointless attempt to get the chicken ordinance repealed. The new council that will take its seats is actually more pro-chicken then the currently active council.

Take that, suckers! Chickens rule!

Also- I came to the meeting late so I missed this, but Matt informed me that a man in a full Santa suit with the beard and everything got up at the start of the council and read a "T'was the night before christmas" adaptation urging a pro-chicken vote. I am so, so sad I missed this spectacle but I am addicted to my prenatal water aerobics class which had a small time overlap with the start of the council meeting.

Rumor has it that the local media will be publishing the poem in full tomorrow. I will link to it ASAP if that happens.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

One step closer to victory!

The chicken ordinance took a giant leap for chicken-kind today- we are almost there! Here is a reprint of the article in about the exciting developments. To sum up if you don't want to read it; the deadlock was broken and next week we'll get a real vote.

Missoula City Council’s Public Safety and Health committee Wednesday morning approved the urban chicken ordinance, including an amendment to require annual $15 permits, sending the contentious proposal to the Council floor for a final vote Monday evening.

The vote went 5 to 4, with Dave Strohmaier, Stacy Rye, Bob Jaffe, Heidi Kendall and Jerry Ballas all in favor.

If passed by the Council Monday, the ordinance would allow Missoulians to keep as many as six female chickens on their property, subject to certain standards and conditions.

The proposal was approved after Councilman Jon Wilkins proposed adding another amendment to the ordinance requiring Missoulians who want to raise chickens to receive permission from all immediate neighbors first. “I think it’s important to keep good neighbors,” he said.

But that motion failed by the same 5 to 4 vote. “I appreciate John’s effort,” Kendall said, “but I would oppose the amendment because there is no similar requirement for dogs” and other pets, which pose the same allergy problems that opponents of the chicken ordinance claim of chickens.

(ME!!) of East Missoula, a proponent of urban chickens, stood and made the point that requiring the permission of neighbors and the associated paperwork and management would just create another headache. “You’re actually greatly increasing the financial obligations of the city.”

City Council will meet and vote Monday, Dec. 17 at the Council Chambers on Spruce Street at 7:00 p.m.

For the actual article with a lovely photo of a chicken (not ours), visit the article itself on

Sunday, December 9, 2007

How to get the chickens back into the yard

6 out of 7 chickens agree- being bribed with tasty seeds is great.

1 of 7 chickens requires a more energy intensive method.

(note: Matt claims there is nothing funnier in the world than watching a pregnant woman trying to catch a crazed chicken. After watching a video of myself, I agree.)

A rainbow of eggs

Here is the photo of the egg color variety we are currently harvesting. Pale sage is Pot Pie, white is Beldar, the pinky-flesh browns are Wyandottes, the darker brick tint browns are Rockettes, and Tweedy laid the pale brown big diameter egg in the closest egg nook on the right side- see how it fills the compartment? She's a "large caliber" layer.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Beldar becomes a hen

I had a crazy dream last night that Beldar was really a rooster, and that we had all these baby chicks running around with black and white afros. It was weird. I woke up confused, and then I had to pee so I forgot about the dream for a while. That was at 6am when the world was dark and asleep.

At around 8:30 before I left the house, I checked the nestbox to collect eggs. To my utter shock, there was a white egg in there. A perfectly shaped, petite, white egg. I picked it up and examined it. It is almost translucent and very delicate feeling. Our Beldar, our spastic funky weirdo polish trainwreck of a chicken, has become a real hen! I'm so proud.

The white egg is a perfect counterpart to the pale sage green, peachy tan, and pale brick colors of the other girls' eggs. I took a photo of their gorgeous palette of eggs and I'll get it up on the blog soon.

My hope is that now that Beldar lays eggs, the other hens will respect her just a little bit more. Maybe that is unrealistic, but it is worth it to hope.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Winter is for the birds

We have discovered that wet snow likes to stick to the anti-hawk netting. Thwacking the netting with a leaf rake helps, but nothing short of a thaw will cure the problem. This photo was taken at around 6am, pre-dawn, when the hens are still locked safely away in their henhouse.

The hens seemed baffled by our sudden snow storm. Do we go out into that white stuff? Should we eat it? Should we stand in the freezing cold water dish? OK, only Beldar seems to think that standing in the water dish when it is 20 degrees out is a good idea.

Biggie, being the dominant hen and the explorer of all things new, was the first to venture out of the warm and well lit henhouse into the cold, cruel, snow filled world. She immediately headed into the chickenport, where she could hang out in the dry hay and stare into the snowy world from comfort. The second photo was taken around 7:30am, when the light is still faint in our backyard but the chickens and dog are intent on being awake.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

New chicken video!

We are in the news, again!

Another reporter decided to interview us for a story on the chicken controversy. Behold- a new chicken video for your watching pleasure... you can access it from this page.

Incidentally- Tweedy's limp went away completely and she is back to normal. We never did figure out what caused it, which suggests that it really was a muscle or ligament strain.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Limping is getting better

Tweedy seems to be getting a little bit better. I've increased the amounts of treats the chickens get (more sunflower seeds, and more mixed grains) so that if she needs extra energy right now, she gets it. Her limp yesterday looked really bad, but today it seems less painful, more mobile, and she looks more fluffy. Unhappy hens are not a fluffed up, while happy hens are fluffy and perky looking. Yesterday her feathers were definitely downcast, which concerns me.

I really hope she feels better soon. Poor girl.

Also, it has been wet here for a week or two, so the hen yard is a muddy, filthy mess. I really hope that isn't making her recovery more difficult. Her nails are pretty sharp so I doubt she is slipping in the mud, but still. It can't be making it any easier!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Tweedy's limping!

Poor Mrs. Tweedy! We don't know how or why, but sometime in the last two days she has hurt her leg. Both Matt and I have inspected her for injuries and failed to figure anything out, which is puzzling. She is still her aggressive, large, fluffy self- except that she is limping when she walks. Also, today she has been sitting on the ground (probably because standing is uncomfortable) which made me very nervous.

I hope she is OK soon. Matt replaced all the shavings in the coop today to make it fluffier and softer for her, so maybe that will help. With a sore leg she probably can't jump up onto the night roost, so I think she's sleeping on the floor. I really hope she gets better soon. There is nothing sadder to watch than a limping hen slowly walking across the hen yard.

Of course, she is still laying huge eggs. It is in her genes- I hope at least she is proud to keep that hard work up under such strain.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Adventures of Carrotzilla and Timmy, part two

"Don't move! Stay calm!" yelped Carrotzilla as he desperately tried to think of a way to escape.

But the giant birds could smell the fear in the air, and it was too late. They moved in closer, and closer.

"AAAAAAhhhhh my eye! My arm!" shrieked Timmy.

The red bird had made her move. Pleased with her predation of Timmy's right eyeball, and she sauntered off into the grass to consume it in private.

As Carrotzilla saw Timmy's disfigured face and severed arm, he gave up all hope for survival. "I'M DOOOOMED!" he bellowed.

One of the black and white birds moved in for the kill. Once she was done brutally dismembering Timmy, she moved on to Carrotzilla.

In a few brief seconds of brutal pecking and clucking, Carrotzilla was reduced to an eyeless, legless wreck.

As the orange juices seeped out of his nearly lifeless body, he regretted letting Timmy convince him that walking in the garden would be a fun and safe pasttime.

-- THE END --

Monday, October 8, 2007

Adventures of Carrotzilla and Timmy, part one

This story is dedicated to my mother...

One day, Carrotzilla and Timmy decided to venture out of the house for a walk.

"Such a nice afternoon!" Timmy declared.

Carrotzilla agreed, "Oh yes, delightful!"

They walked along in the pleasantly dry grass and came upon an overgrown chard.

"What a horribly large chard plant! It sure makes a nice place to sit down for a moment."

"Well, we shouldn't stay too long." Carrotzilla was concerned- he had noticed a gang of monsterous birds milling ominously in the distance.

Then, the birds began to approach.

"I'm scared!" Timmy said.

"Don't be frightened, I'm sure they are harmless." Carrotzilla was trying to comfort Timmy, but he didn't like the look of the black and white striped ones. Too... thug-like. All of a sudden, the birds were upon them.

"Eeeeek!" screeched Timmy.

to be continued...

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Giant egg report

I promised I'd write about the occasional giant eggs that the chickens lay. One of the chickens (we think maybe Tweedy) laid an absolute monster a few weeks ago. Because it takes months for eggs to go bad, we just kept it in the fridge until we got around to photographing, hardboiling, and dissecting it.

Recently I remembered that darn giant egg I was stockpiling. Here is the size comparison- on the right side is a normal sized egg. You can clearly see this egg is especially large!

After I took the photo, I hard boiled a bunch of eggs to make egg salad. Before I got too involved with the salad, I did remember to cut the giant egg in half and photo document the results. Results? Two yolks! This is pretty normal for free range chickens, especially in small flocks. One of our friends even found a triple yolker from one of her hens. That has to hurt coming out, I would think.

For the curious- A double yolk or a triple yolk is a mistake of the hen's reproductive tract. The yolk gets made first, then the white gets wrapped around it, and then the shell. It is kinda like an assembly line. In this case, two yolks get accidentally wrapped in one white, and then the shell just ends up encompassing the whole thing. Also, you would never get fraternal twin chicks tucked into the egg somehow- the egg is large, but it is not big enough to allow for two fully grown chicks at hatching age. The poor little twins would not survive.

I ate the whole thing, by the way. Delicious!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Laying eggs

Our hens are laying eggs like they are going out of style. We've had many, many 6 egg days and our 4 egg days seem to be rarer and rarer. The eggs are also getting larger, which is something I read would happen as the hens became more mature and adultlike. At 5 or 6 eggs a day, we have already reached 3 dozen eggs in the fridge twice in three weeks. Luckily, we've been able to give them to friends without complaints.

One of the eggs that was laid this week is absolutely huge. It doesn't really fit in an egg carton socket properly because it is so immense. This egg entertains me. It seems to have been laid by a Rockette, but of course we are not sure which one. I told Matt he is not allowed to eat it until we take a photo of it. Also, we have bets placed on whether or not it contains two yolks.

Not having the camera has been seriously cramping our blog-style. The camera returns this week from its little "vacation" in Boise for the last three weeks, and I am really glad. The hens have done so many ridiculous things that we were unable to document since we got home from New Zealand. Mostly they concentrate on destroying one of my tulip beds (AAAaaaaaarg) but also they do cuter, funnier things.

Also, the hens are all grown up. You won't believe how beautiful and fluffy they are! I promise I'll do glamour shots ASAP.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Angry hens

Yesterday, the hens were making really loud noises in the front yard. The front door was closed, but we could clearly hear at least two hens making an absolute ruckus. Matt and I were both puzzled- the hens never make loud noises except occasionally when they lay an egg. Had someone laid an egg in the cool grass of the front yard? It just seemed... so wrong.

Lucky and I went to the front door to investigate. I opened the door and there, sitting in between the two lilac trees, was a big grey cat. The cat was lying down, not looking too horribly aggressive, but there was no doubt that it seemed threatening to our hens! Three hens were pacing and ba-cocking loudly in the cat's direction, only a few feet away. I quickly commanded, "Lucky! Get the cat!" in my "Lucky go chase that squirrel out of the sunflowers" tone of voice. He locked eyes with the cat, took about two huge steps onto the front porch, and then launched himself clear off the porch, completely over the backs of the hens, and onto the spot that the cat was lying. Of course, the cat saw him coming so she was already up and over the front fence before his paws hit the dirt. Lucky did some pacing and quiet snarling as the cat hid under Matt's car, and then it ran across the street. I told Lucky he was a very, very good boy and he pranced proudly around the front yard. "I scared it! Did you see?!" he seemed to be announcing with his tail straight up and his posture especially erect.

Good dog. You protected the hens from the evil cat!

Saturday, September 1, 2007


Our chickens (and the two of us) got interviewed, photographed, and videotaped in the last few days. The results are on the web today. I'm stuck somewhere between proud and mortified, but mostly proud.

Feature story in online magazine- don't miss the video at the top of the story, it is pretty cool.

Video including clips of our chickens that focuses on a recent question about chicken cannibalism.

Local news story on chickens in Missoula. Nothing about our girls specifically, but still interesting.

The guy who interviewed us and came by the house to record the sights and sounds of chickens, Tim, was really friendly and nice. It was fun to talk about the hens "on the record."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Setback for urban chicken rights

Sadly, the meeting last night did not go as well as we had all hoped. The ordinance was not voted on; instead, it was sent back to committee for revisions. This is mostly a delay tactic by the opposition, which is frustrating.

To read a brief and over simplified version, you can look at the article in Missoulian today; Click here for article

So from here, what do we do? Well, the ordinance gets revised, then there are some tricky votes and such that will occur, and then after that the revised ordinance will return to public hearing and vote. At that time, it **should** pass.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Our loner hen

Beldar is really awkward and she's been socially rejected by all the other chickens. She can't really see anything because of her bizarre head feathers, and the other chickens all pick on her, both literally and figuratively.

Matt has been increasingly concerned for his little socially awkward hen. He's been talking about giving her a better "hair cut" so she can see, and I know he's been keeping a special eye on her. We finally did trim back her feathers today so she could see better, but it didn't have any immediate effects.

Poor thing. Matt is convinced she won't survive the winter, and I don't really disagree. At least, despite it all, she is beautiful.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Meeting on Monday

The official city council public hearing is on Monday the 27th, at 7pm in the City Council Chambers. This is on Pine next to Sean Kellys, in case any Missoulians need to know.

At this meeting, the public (as well as select city council members) will talk about the proposed ordinance change. Then, all members of the city council that are present will vote to either accept the ordinance change, or to "send it back" for revisions.

It is going to be a very tight vote. I have been asked to prepare a statement and present it at the meeting. I'm supposed to talk about my personal experiences owning backyard chickens just outside of city limits, as well as a couple of other odd issues that have come up (composting chicken poo, and feather allergies).

On a more personal note, all the brown layers laid today, but Pot Pie is having a day off. She's laid a minimum of 4 days in a row, so she deserves a break. Her eggs are really, really pretty.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Full report upon returning

We are back, and the hens are wonderful as ever. It is very fun (and very funny) to watch their egg-laying and bug chasing antics.

First of all, after talking with my mom, I wanted to mention that chickens DO really throw themselves a little post-egg celebration every day. My mom thought this was a purely cartoon and movie creation, which I suppose I might of thought too until I got my chicken literature and did some research. We heard them clucking, ba-cocking, and generally having a funny chicken party this morning as they were laying their eggs. Mrs Tweedy in particular seemed to like congratulating other hens on their eggs- she was very, very vocally supportive of Biggie's 10:30am egg (which was a nice brown egg).

I want to be clear that this is not a loud egg party. Hens are not loud. For instance, with the windows open, you could hear them faintly from the living room when two were having an egg party. With the bedroom window being at a 90 degree angle from the chicken pen, I doubt you could hear it from our bedroom at all. Also, I doubt my neighbors would have heard it unless they were in their backyard. Besides, 2 out of 3 of my direct next door neighbors are functionally deaf.

The real news is that the egg laying is going so well. We arrived home to 5 eggs on Tuesday, and another 5 were laid today. They are fascinatingly slightly different- different textures, finishes, speckly-ness, and shapes. We are still not sure on all the exact personal differences between the eggs, but a few things are clear;

Pot Pie lays a pale olive or avocado colored egg. In some lights, it looks kind of bluish in tint, but I'd say it is more on the light green side. It is a slightly smaller egg than a commercial AA egg, and more elongate. It is somewhere between matte and glossy finish, tending towards matte.

Mrs Tweedy lays a big, matte finish, perfectly brown egg. This is an egg you might buy at the store and not blink twice. Her eggs seem to be on the "plump" side, as opposed to elongated. They tend towards spherical, although not extremely so.

Biggie lays a bright brown, glossy finish egg. Her eggs are shiny and smooth, and tending towards elongated. Also, her eggs are a little bit small- about the size of Pot Pie's. This surprises me, as she should be a large size layer. I wonder if she'll grow into it.

Littles has yet to lay an egg that we can definitively pinpoint was hers.

Beldar has yet to lay an egg. Her eggs will be white. She is both the youngest chicken, and the one with the longest time to maturity, so it might be another month.

The Wyandotte sisters are laying medium sized, slightly pale, matte finish brown eggs with a very very subtle white dotted speckles on them. The speckles are a nice detail that sets them apart from the other eggs. Their eggs are the most conventionally egg shaped, although they are smallish. Like someone shrunk a brown AA egg about 15% and then airbrushed some perfect tiny white dots onto it. I hope soon we'll see if there are differences between Zippy and Rosie's respective eggs.

Hens, I am happy to report, like over-ripe tomatoes, accidentally kicked unripe pumpkins, too-large-to-eat cucumbers, enormous squash, and stale crackers.

We return!

We returned to 7 happy hens, 5 fresh eggs, and this in my email;

One of your chickens is a mutant. Well, beyond the obvious one. A brown egg laying chicken produced a very long egg, unusual in appearance. What was much more unusual- when I cracked it open, out popped....TWO yolks!! Creepy siamese twin chicks.
What is in your water?

Gotta love our housesitters. Thanks ladies and gentlemen!!!

More later.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Take the Chicken Survey

The Missoula City Council and the Urban Fowl Subcommittee have built a little survey to gauge public opinion on the chicken issue. If you live in or near Missoula, you are hereby encouraged to take the survey!

Also, FYI, here is the latest from our "farm" reports...

They are laying in the boxes! I haven't seen any eggs anywhere else. I can't really tell who is laying, Beldar may not be. I got 4 eggs today, 1 lg. brown, 1 small brown, 1 small-med brown slightly white speckled (only if you look closely), and 1 blue. Yesterday I think there was 2 small brown and I think the rest of the brown all varied in size... I'm enjoying your farm...!

Awesome. This suggests that everyone but Beldar is laying regularly. She was expected to be a late bloomer (she is more for show and amusement, less for egg production) so that is not a problem.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Eggs everywhere

The latest report from the field is highly encouraging-

The chickens are doing great. They must all be laying now, I've been collecting 7 eggs/day, all brown and one blue.

What is interesting about this is that we have 5 brown layers, 1 green/blue layer, and 1 white layer. So either my friend miscounted (certainly possible, and not a big deal) or one of the brown layers is double laying (also possible, but probably not good for that hen) or the white layer is laying brown eggs to spite us.

I'm forever indebited to my remarkable friends and their dedicated hen sitting. I know that the eggs are a nice bonus, but I just am sooooo glad that my friends are so thoughtful and careful to keep our hens watered, safe, fed, and happy. Thanks!! We'll be back soon and we'll bring presents!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

City Council victory

Another report from the chicken field is that the very biggest hurdle to chicken law supremacy was cleared recently.

I went to the Public Health and Safety Committee meeting today and we've got a public hearing!! Yea! It's August 27th at 7pm. (A UFC member) asked me to go and give a few comments so I did. It's slightly scary to talk in front of some of those folks. They've also approved the use of City Chat for public survey. Sounds like things are really rollin'. I'm going to round up the troops now to write their council members and give their support. It's so exciting!

Also, thought you'd be interested that it looks like Millie (our golden sex-link) is laying now too. By the time you guys come back we'll all be up to our eyeballs in eggs! I can't wait!

The chicken world is going very well in our absence. Egg-cellent.


Report from the Radwood Egg Cabin's housesitter came in via email. I am blogging from Christchurch NZ to relay this incredibly exciting info to you all...

Guess what I found this morning? AN EMBRYO! Well...a presumably unfertilized embryo....

Yes indeed, one of your lovely hens has laid an egg. It is little, about the size of a large peach pit. And green. Sorry, I haven't yet taken a picture of it. I was quite excited, I shouted, and the chickens jumped. It was on the floor of the shed, near the door. I don't know who did it- they were all excited...though maybe because they miss human attention.

The timing is impeccable. Perhaps they felt your expectations and felt too pressured to perform. Left alone, they gave up and succumbed to their own (cloacal) pressure.
Excellent, well I hope to find another on my return tonight. Not sure when they prefer to lay.

The green egg must, by the biology of our hens, have been none other than POT PIE! Atta girl! Daddy's little hen came through.

He is very, very proud. So am I.

NZ is lovely, and cold. Delightful!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Ordinance in Legalese

This just in! This is the ordinance that will be put in front of committee, and then up for public hearing! Remember, this is in the "No Livestock" section so it is phrased as an exception to the larger rule.


F. The prohibition to keeping chickens in this section also does not apply to the keeping of up to 6 female chickens while the animals are kept in such a manner that the following standards are complied with:

1. The chickens must be kept on a single-family parcel(s), and chickens may be kept on a parcel(s) under one ownership with more than one dwelling if all residents and the owner consent in writing to allowing the chickens on the property. When chickens are kept on a multi-dwelling parcel(s) the owner of the chickens shall keep a copy of the signed approval document for inspection upon request by animal control personnel.

2. The chickens shall be provided with a covered, predator-proof chicken house that is thoroughly ventilated, of sufficient size to admit free movement of the chickens, designed to be easily accessed, cleaned and maintained by the owners and be at least 2 square feet per chicken in size.

3. No chicken house shall be located closer than 20 feet to any residential structure occupied by someone other than the chicken owner, custodian, or keeper.

4. The chickens shall be shut into the chicken house at night, from sunset to sunrise.

5. During daylight hours the adult chickens shall have access to the chicken house and may have access to an outdoor enclosure on the subject property, adequately fenced to contain the chickens and to prevent access to the chickens by dogs and other predators.

6. Stored feed must be kept in a rodent- and predator-proof container.

7. It is unlawful for the owner, custodian, or keeper of any chicken to allow the animal(s) to be a nuisance to any neighbors, including but not limited to: noxious odors from the animals or their enclosure; and noise of a loud and persistent and habitual nature. Animal Control will determine whether or not a nuisance exists on a case-by-case basis.

Enforcement: Upon receiving a complaint of a possible violation within the city of Missoula, Animal Control will investigate, determine if a violation exists and when appropriate leave a notice of violation and order to take corrective action with the owner or temporary owner and provide them with written notice of the violations that require correction. Animal Control will revisit the owner’s address 10 days or more after the notice of violation is issued. If the owner has failed to comply with the ordinance, Animal Control may issue a citation to the owner, custodian or keeper for failure to comply with any applicable section of this chapter.

Monday, July 9, 2007

I'm on strike

The hens refuse to lay any eggs. I am getting frustrated!

They should start laying any moment, and I feel like I've been waiting forever. Every time I have to go buy eggs it is a painful reminder of my insufficiencies as a chicken owner. LAY! NOW!

So I'm on strike, too. I refuse to glorify chicken ownership via the blog, any further, until...

a) one of the chickens lays an egg
b) one of them does something extremely funny
c) one of them gets eaten by a bald eagle
d) we leave the country, trusting chicken keeping to our friends while we are away.

Let us see what happens first. Stay tuned!

P.S. Urban Fowl Subcommittee update will be posted on Friday. Exceptions for local politics must be made.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Ned the Naughty!

My friend's gorgeous Silver Laced Wyandotte has had a suspiciously large comb and wattles for a while. Sadly, the reality of this situation became apparent the other day when "Nettie" the hen transformed loudly and decisively into "Ned" the rooster. He spent the last two mornings crowing as loudly as physically possible- in a residential neighborhood, at 7:30am, where chickens of any kind are against the rules. No good!

Luckily, my friend's efforts to get Ned to a new home ASAP were very successful. He is being transported to a new happy home on a small farm tomorrow. She posted him on Freecycle and had a nice family offer to take him.

Farewell Ned! It was nice knowing you! Maybe your crowing is a sign that we'll soon get some EGGS.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Still no eggs

We returned triumphant from the great 2007 East Coast Niece Tour to seven very happy hens. I think somewhere in their tiny pea brains they missed our company. They've been clucking and cooing at us through the fence all afternoon. Our nice neighbors down the street took excellent (eggcellent?) care of the hens while we were gone- ten points! I harvested about a pound of strawberries and brought them over to them in thanks. Mmmmm... so good.

Alas, no eggs yet. I think my estimate of their laying start date was very optimistic. However, Mrs. Tweedy grew a big comb while we were out of town, which is a sign that she is reaching hormonal maturity. I think it will be any day now that we find an egg. You'll be the first ones to know!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Who could oppose chickens?

Seriously! They are fluffy, quiet, and very charismatic. Tomorrow is another meeting of the Urban Fowl Subcommittee (9am Wednesday morning, City Council Chambers!) and I am hopeful that it will go well. Matt is coming to the meeting, too, so that will be fun.

Sometimes, when I feel like I need to relax, I sit on the lawn and feed macaroni to the chickens. We all enjoy it very much- especially Mrs. Tweedy.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Over two dozen!!!!

Summer is officially here, and it gets dark around 9:45pm. You are probably not surprised to hear that our veggie garden is doing extremely well these days. Matt and I decided not to let a one month (August) adventure away from home prevent us from having the best garden we've ever had. Last year the wedding prevented us from fully realizing our garden's potential (failure to plant potatoes, with both Irish and Polish heritage, is almost a cardinal sin). This year, we planted weeded, tilled and mulched like crazy people.

This year everything is going according to plan. From broccoli to zucchini, if it grows in Montana, we are growing it. Yesterday I did the first big harvest of our incredibly awesome strawberry patch.

Over two dozen!!! Fooooooooled yoooooou!!!

Still no eggs. EggWatch 2007 is officially on.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Rough Draft of Ordinance!

The Missoula Urban Fowl Subcommittee is meeting next week to discuss the first draft of a pro-urban chicken ordinance. This ordinance, if the draft is approved, would then go to a vote in front of the whole city council (I think). Here is the wording of this first ordinance draft, care of one of the UFS members. This part follows a general no livestock in the city section of the Missoula city ordinances, hence the "prohibition in this section" verbage in the first sentence.

F. The prohibition in this section also does not apply to the keeping of up to 6 chickens within the city limits in situations in which the animals are kept in such a manner that the following standards are complied with:

1. No person shall keep any rooster.

2. The chickens must be kept on a single-family lot, unless all parties who share a multiple-family lot consent to allowing the chickens on the premises.

3. The chickens shall be provided with covered, predator-proof housing and must be kept in a covered or fenced enclosure at all times.

4. No enclosure shall be located closer than 25 feet to any residential structure occupied by someone other than the chicken owner, custodian, or keeper.

5. The enclosure must be thoroughly ventilated, of sufficient size to admit free movement of the chickens therein confined, and be at least 2 square feet per chicken in size.

6. No person shall slaughter any chickens within the city limits.

7. Feed must be kept in a rodent- and predator-proof container. The management of chickens and their feed shall comply with Ordinance 3330, Chapter 6.02.

8. It is unlawful for the owner, custodian, or keeper of any chicken to allow the animal(s) to be a nuisance to any neighbors, including but not limited to: noisome odors from the animals or their enclosure; and noise of a loud and persistent and habitual nature.

9. If a chicken owner is in violation of these standards, the mechanism for enforcement is as follows:

...i.Upon receiving a complaint of a possible violation at any given address within the city of Missoula, Animal Control will respond and leave a notice of violation/warning and/or a verbal warning with the chicken owner or temporary owner and provide them with written or oral information on how to correct the alleged violation.

...ii.Animal Control will revisit the chicken owner’s address 10 days or more after the notice of violation/warning is issued. If the chicken-owner has failed to comply with the ordinance, Animal Control may issue a citation to the owner, custodian or keeper of a chicken for failure to comply with any applicable section of this chapter. At this time, Animal Control may also confiscate the chickens without a court order. Animal Control may also recommend to the court that the chicken owner lose the right to keep any other chickens for 1 year or more.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Profiles: Littles Rockette

Littles is a sweet, skittish chicken. Her older sister Biggie is constantly getting all the treats, all the attention, and all the publicity. Littles prefers to quietly graze on grass in the background, nervously eyeing the other chickens, the dog, the sky, the ground, and anything else that might somehow pose a threat to her existence. You can see in this first photo that Biggie is hogging the shot, while Littles is lost in a sea of chickens in the back. Typical.

Don't get me wrong. She isn't named for "Chicken Little" as you might think. She is named because her big sister got spontaneously named Biggie, and Littles just seemed like a nice counterpart. We considered "Smalls" but "Biggie Smalls" is the name of a rap star (I think) and that did not appeal to me. The pluralness of her name, Littles, is just because I thought it was a better name that way.

She is a curious bird- much more so than some of her fellow hens. But if I had to guess where she is on the pecking order, I would say she is only above Zippy and Beldar, and below Biggie, Mrs. Tweedy, and Rosie.

Littles' head is smaller than Biggies. I know that sounds funny but the most noticeable side effect of that fact is that Little's eyes are kinda bugging out of her head. Subtle, but funny, and it adds to her nervous persona. The other thing is that Littles' head feathers are darker and denser than Biggies'. She looks more black with white stripes, while Biggie is sort of really dark grey with really light grey stripes.

I looked through my past photos and discovered that there are two kinds of photos of Littles- ones where I am not sure if it is Littles or Biggie, and ones where both of them are in the picture. So I set out today to get some good pictures of her. The three shot sequence that I captured is the result of cheese-baiting her. Mmmmmm... cheese... I think it is pretty funny. She came, she pecked, she left.

Littles Rockette will lay large brown eggs and should be a steady hen in bad weather and cold winters. Even if she isn't a big clown like her sister Biggie, we still think she is very cool.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Free Ranging

This afternoon we visited our friend's chickens over in the University district. They have a chicken tractor (very cool portable chicken housing unit) and 6 young hens. Their hens free range around their yard pretty frequently, and Matt and I decided after our visit it was time to let our free range.

The hens have been outside their pen before, but never for very long. When we let them out they wandered for while and then moved to the far edge of our lot to scratch around in the potato and pumpkin garden. You can see the majority of the chickens in the first photo are in the pumpkin patch (back left of the photo), while Pot Pie calmly allowed me to photograph her. She looked so nice in front of our flower bed.

After they scratched around in there for a while, Matt and I decided they needed some leftover macaroni and cheese. Mmmmm... They swarmed Matt for this tasty treat. You can clearly see in these photos how fabulous Beldar's poof has become. She is a beautiful bird. Her personality leaves something to be desired- she is skittish, whiney, and antisocial. It is not easy being gorgeous, I guess.

Pot Pie, on the other hand, is a very placid, accepting hen. Matt scooped her up and she calmly stood on his hand, observing her chicken domain. "Some day, Pot Pie, all this will be yours."

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

UFC meeting #2

The Urban Fowl Committee met again today. Again, very fun and productive.

Here are the current ideas for the ordinance as I recall them from the meeting this morning;

- 6 hens (chickens only, no turkeys)
- No roosters
- Coop must be 25 ft from nearest neighboring dwelling
- No butchering
- Run must be fenced, Henhouse must be covered/enclosed
- Hens causing a nuisance are covered by animal nuisances clauses elsewhere
- Feed attracting wildlife is covered by Wildlife Attractant clauses elsewhere

Pretty straightforward. It is mostly modeled on the Madison WI ordinance, but of course they don't have bears that roam around downtown so the Wildlife Attractant clause is something a bit more special for Montana.

The wording of the ordinance will be drafted by the end of next week. I'll post it here for reference and general interest once I get it. After that, we'll have a third meeting to agree on the wording. Then, it goes before the whole city council. I hope this all happens before we leave for our big vacation!

My favorite quote from the meeting was, "Does the 25 feet have to be horizontal, or could you put a coop on the roof of your home?"

Good question, sort of. I can see it now...


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Built a new feeder

I've been displeased with my feeder lately. I feel like it is too prone to feeding other things (mice, starlings) and just a few days ago a whole flock of house sparrows descended upon it. I decided then that I wanted to make a new feeder.

The idea with the new feeder was this; I wanted to have the food access be inside the coop, but the food refilling be outside the coop. Simple, right? I thought about this for a while and decided that what I really needed was some kind of feeder tube that went through the wall. What is a tube that goes through walls? Duct work tubes! Where can I find duct work tubes? My favorite place! The used building supply place!

So here are the steps to building a new feeder.
1) Think up the design for the new feeder.

2) Go to the used building supply place and spend $2 on four old ductwork fittings. The pieces I bought were; end cap (to cover the feed from the outside), double end fitting (to allow the cap to fit on the next piece), 90 degree elbow (to tilt the tube through the wall), and rectangular register fitting (to dispense feed into the bowl).

3) Distract hens with honeydew melon rinds. Mmmmmmmm... tasty.
4) Assemble ductwork fittings on the lawn and take measurements.

5) Cut a big hole in the wall of the coop with the reciprocating saw and a spade bit. Fun! Super duper deafeningly loud with the corrugated tin!

6) Re-fit ductwork together inside (register/dispenser and food pan) and then attach the outside tubes from the outside (90 degree elbow, double end fitting).

7) Fill with feed to test system

8) Place cap on new feeder
9) Watch as dominant hen, Biggie Rockette, immediately attacks new feed. Go Biggie! Good hen!

Now all I need to do is fill the small gaps from the rough cut I made in the wall of the coop. It is hard to cut an 8" diameter hole in 1" of plywood and corrugated tin, with a reciprocating saw. I'm thinking expandable insulating foam plus some kind of "cuff" to keep the hens from pecking at the foam. We'll see how that turns out. For now the weather is nice enough that those gaps are not a problem.

Friday, June 8, 2007

The cat came back

The big black cat was at the back door last night, looking in. I don't know where this cat came from, but I worry about him. Apparently, Gladys and Ray have one of his toes held hostage- the cat got caught in their extremely frightening raccoon leg hold trap that is in their tree (no kiddin') and left a black fuzzy kitty toe behind. I feel bad for the cat... sort of. It harasses our chickens, poos in our gardens, and screams in the middle of the night sometimes. Not a good kitty, really. And only 15 toes, so I know it is him when he walks on my car with muddy paws.

Anyway! The cat was stalking across the lawn this evening towards the hens so I snuck up on it and threw a shoe at it. Missed, but he got the message. Honestly, I picked the wrong shoe. I think I would have hit him with a "chaco," but I grabbed a "croc" instead- totally an amateur mistake.

While I was wearing only one shoe in the cool evening grass, I remembered I should take some photos of the hens enjoying a snack for the blog. I got the other shoe and the camera and took some photos of them eating diced spinach stalks out of a tupperware container whose lid I lost at least a year ago. It is the chicken treat bin now.

Pot Pie is just so very... special. She is not interested in treats the vast majority of the time. She spent the photo shoot preening her feathers (her favorite past time) and staring into space. You can see her preening some belly feathers in the first shot. I took a photo of just her when she deigned to make eye contact. She is really weird, and by weird I mean wonderful in a very unique way.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Snowy day for hens?

Today is a rather stark contrast in weather from my last post. It is about 45 degrees and it has been pouring rain, cats and dogs style, all day. The mountains around the house have been getting some very wet snow. For those of you that are familiar with the topography, there is snow on Marshall, snow on the back of Pattee Canyon, snow on the top of Sentinel, and a hint of snow on the ridge above Jumbo.

The hens are not entirely displeased with this weather. They don't mind rain all that much. I've seen them scampering about in the rain, taking mud baths in their dirt bath hole (filled with mud today, of course, not dirt right now), and even perching and preening in the rain. Their feathers seem very water resistant. Beldar's hairdo is not water resistant, however, and she is not looking very sassy in these conditions. She's gone from Cher/Liberace to more of a... Sonny Bono. Not flattering.

I've put some extra food in their coop to allow them to eat in the warmer location during this cold spell. They still go outside to eat all the time, but I'm just a little nervous about them with all the moisture so I figure better safe than sorry.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Hot day for hens

Today it is really hot out- I'm talking bright sun, low 90's. The hens are getting so big that yesterday when two friends of mine came over for dinner, they both exclaimed "Holy Sh**t they got big!" when they saw the girls. The combination of these two things (big birds, hot day) means that the girls are trying really hard to keep comfortable. All those adult bird feathers makes it hard to stay cool, I think.

Apparently, the preferred techniques if you are a hen for staying cool are;

1) panting in the dark henhouse
2) taking dirt baths in nice dry dirt
3) sitting in the shade under the plum tree and panting some more
4) drinking cool water

I think these all sound pretty reasonable. The Wyandottes, who are the thickest set birds and are built for cold winters, are having a tough time with the heat. Rosie is panting very aggressively- she's huge, fluffy, and very, very plump. You can see in the picture that Biggie barely has her beak open (front and center), while Zippy (out of focus in the back) and Rosie (foreground) are both panting quite obviously.

I'm thinking that some more shade might be good once summer gets into full swing. Maybe something like an extra awning near the chicken-port could be good. I'll have to think about that.

I took a week off from posting to the blog because I was distracted by the birth of my new niece, Eleanor Caroline!!! So exciting. Now I have two beautiful baby nieces; Jacqueline Sage (now 3 months old) and Eleanor Caroline (now 5 days old). I'm really really happy about these little additions to our families.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pria's new owners

Pria got adopted yesterday! Very exciting.

Pria was a rooster and we didn't want any roosters. I posted a note on the local freecycle listserver here in town a few weeks ago and got two really good responses, so I just picked the first one.

The family that adopted Pria lives West of here in a small town farming area. Their town is kind of near Tarkio, where Matt and I got married last year. The youngest son raises chickens for 4-H, and as you can see in the photo, he has dwarfism. He was really good at catching and handling Pria, so that made me happy to see that despite his physical challenges he's got a farming-related hobby that he can be good at. His older brother is on the right- very nice kid. Pria is inside the cat carrier in the photo- you can't see him, but he is there.

In this picture of Beldar (left) and Pria (right) you can clearly see that Beldar is calm, while Pria is freaking out. This is a constant state of affairs for Pria, and one of the reasons that we didn't even consider keeping him on the long term.

Farewell Pria!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

First ever Radwood Chicken movie

Today Pria is getting adopted by a nice family. One of the kids breeds Polish chickens for 4-H and he's coming to get Pria this afternoon. I'm sort of sad.

To make myself feel better, I decided to give Pria his favorite treat- cheese! All the chickens love cheese. Mmmmmmm... doesn't everything in the world love cheese? Anyway, I tested out the movie capabilities of our little, slightly out of date, digital camera and I was pleased/amused by the result.

This is a movie I took by propping the camera on an overturned flower pot, and then hitting go. The action is a little off center, the chickens are sort of out of focus, but it is still funny. Also, the second half of the movie is me tormenting the chickens in a very funny way.

Note that at the end, Pria stares right into the camera for split second. I think he knows his days at the Radwood Egg Cabin are over.

Friday, May 25, 2007

I am in the news!

OK, sort of. A friend of a friend writes this local food and farming column in the free "hip" newspaper, and he published my question in his Q & A section. I am referred to under the psuedonym "Chick Chick" which is think is hilarious.

Click here to see the weekly "Flash in the Pan" column.
My question is at the bottom.

See "Chickens in the News" link on the right for the link, too.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

I love Biggie

Biggie is definitely my favorite chicken. She is plump, very fluffy, and acts like a dog. She runs up to the fence whenever I am anywhere nearby, and stares out longingly. She is good at taking treats out of my fingers without nipping me, and when you pick her up she coos and chortles in a very sweet way.

I think she is at the top of the pecking order. She gets her way all the time, and she has no problem shoving another hen out of the way with her big hen bosom. She is kind of a bruiser, really- large and in charge. I like that about her. She isn't mean like Tweedy, of course. Biggie rules with a fluffy fist, not an iron one.

Last night at about 11pm I went out to shut the door to the henhouse for the night. All the chickens were sleeping under the warming light. Biggie saw me coming through the little chicken door, jumped up, and came to the edge of the henhouse to say hello. It was raining, so she just stood on the threshold and cooed. I had to gently nudge her backwards to close the door tightly- wouldn't want to snag a toenail or something.

I'm going to bet that Biggie lays the first egg. I'll be so proud!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The first UFS meeting

I know, I know, I've totally gone off the deep end.

I was invited to join the first ever meeting of the UFS- the Urban Fowl Subcommittee.

Yes folks, it is true, the City of Missoula has formed a sub-committee of City Councilmembers to propose a new ordinance allowing a yet undetermined number of hens to be kept on city lots within the city limits. It was really interesting to go to the UFS meeting.

First off, I was the only "out" chicken keeper there. The other guy that was there that had chickens didn't want to talk about them (we talked beforehand so I was privy to his illegal chicken ownership) because:

1) he lives in city limits and could get busted
2) he is there to make impartial recommendations as part of his work for a local sustainable agriculture non-profit

So I was the smiling face that represented the chicken owners of Missoula! So exciting! I think I did my fellow chicken owners proud. I talked about how quiet and nice hens are, the amount of space that chickens need, and some realistic ideas for how to help Missoula pass a good ordinance allowing small all-hen flocks.

I feel like the meeting went really well. Everyone was positive and engaged in the conversation, and in the end the concerns raised by the UFS members were all reasonable and thoughtful.

Here is my educated prediction- Missoula will pass the following basic ordinance sometime this summer:

- Six hens allowed per household
- No roosters allowed
- $10 annual licensing fee administered by Animal Control
- Hens must be enclosed and coop must be 20ft from nearest neighbor's structures
- Chicken feed must adhere to the pre-existing "wildlife attractant" ordinances in Missoula (to keep bears and such away from people and houses)
- No butchering allowed
- Coop must be tidy, low odor, and judged sanitary

That sounds really good to me. I think this would be a big victory for urban hens.


I'll keep the blog updated on this topic. The next UFS meeting is on the 6th of June, I think, and the draft ordinance will be there for us to comment and edit.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Pics of the netting

I've been slacking on getting some photos of the anti-hawk netting onto the blog. Mostly that is because Matt and I agreed that we needed to sink two more posts to make the netting sit properly, and then the netting needed to be trimmed up. Now, with these things accomplished, the netting is ready for primetime.

You can see in some of the photos that we had to put a center post in, and we strung some support lines (kinda like a circus tent) to keep the netting from sagging too much. Now that we have the center post and support lines, Matt doesn't brush up against the netting in about 50% of the pen, and I don't in about 75%. The remaining section is mostly next to Lucille's yard and under the plum tree, which is not a problem because you have to hunch over by the tree no matter what.

As much as the netting is to keep hawks out, it is to keep the chickens in. Pot Pie and Beldar in particular are forecasted to be pretty decent flapping/jumping chickens and a 5ft fence would be a very achievable clearance for them.

In other news- Tweedy, the Rockettes and Rosie and now all bigger than Pot Pie. Zippy still is a little petite but I'm confident that she'll get big soon. The size order when mature will probably be (smallest to largest): Beldar, Pot Pie, Tweedy, Rockettes, Wyandottes. I am leaving Pria off the list because we are giving him away very soon. Otherwise he'd probably end up between Beldar and Pot Pie.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

New feature on this blog!

Chickens have been causing a huge "flap" in Missoula lately, and so I've decided to track the progress of the whole thing. At the right side of the blog, I have a sequential list of articles in local (and a few non-local) papers and magazines that deal with city chicken ownership and conflicts.

This list is as much for me as it is for the readers of the blog. It is getting hard for me to keep track of this coverage so I wanted to make a centralized location for it all. I hope you all find it interesting, too.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Profiles: Pria (Prymaat)

Pria is a rooster. I thought he was going to be the female of the two Polish chickens, but instead Pria has decisively turned into an aggressive, weird, and awkward young rooster.

Pria started out life with a kind of "high and tight" hairdo- similar to Montana's senator Jon Tester. Because Pria's hairdo was less impressive than Beldar's, I (wrongly) assumed that he would be the hen. That is why I named them in that order, of course. However, had I done more homework on the internet about Polish chicken breeds, I would have discovered that with Polish chicks, the hairdo starts fluffier and more hilarious in the females and the males only surpass them around 3 to 4 months old. Ahhhh... so that is why Beldar (the hen) is now looking gorgeous in sort of a drag queen in a former life kind of way, while Pria still looks kinda strung out on acid.

Pria is going to a nice adoptive home near here. The people that want to adopt him are a family that raises fancy chickens for 4-H. I think he'll be happy there- lots of hens to bother, lots of space- literally, a stud. They said they'd wait a year or two until they eat him, which I think sounds pretty fair.

One of the reasons that we cannot keep a rooster is that roosters are downright mean. Tonight we watched as Pria attacked Little- pecking her in the face, biting her head, and chasing her around the pen as the other hens all watched in horror. Poor Little is kind of low on the chicken hierarchy, so noone stepped in to stop Pria's vicious abuse. We didn't bother either- I've read that if you interrupt their pecking order battles, they will just do it again later. No need to torture Little twice in one night.

Pria's wattles are pretty amazing. They seem to grow more scarlet red and longer every day. It is really neat, and it gives me faith that the other chickens are all females.