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 Anyway, I tested out the movie capabilities of our little, slightly out of date, digital camera and I was pleased/amused by the result.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.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Will they eat it? Part Two

Added to the list of things they will eat: craisins, leftover bird seed from chickadee research experiments, pear cores, and macaroni & cheese.

Started a list of things that they have attempted to eat and failed: shoe laces, leg hair (Matt), leg hair stubble (me), sandal straps, string, the rivets on pants, and Lucky's delicate wet nose.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Tweedy: 2, Lucky: 0

Lucky is very interested in the chickens, and the chickens like to come over to him (from the other side of the fence) and say hello. It is kind of cute, and Lucky seems to enjoy it seeing them get that close to him.

Mrs. Tweedy has become a very aggressive and accurate "pecker" lately. She is getting to the point now where I cannot trust her enough to give her a piece of cheese with my fingers. She has bitten me often enough, and hard enough, that I really think she is doing it on purpose. None of the other chickens bite, although occasionally Biggie will accidentally grab your finger in a quest for a treat. There is a crucial difference between Tweedy and Biggie, though. One does it hard, every time, and the other does it fairly gently and very rarely.

Back to Lucky Dog. So today Lucky was sitting next to the chickens, whining quietly and sniffing at them, and Mrs. Tweedy and Biggie walked up to him. Biggie looked at him, tilted her head, thought for a while, and walked away. Biggie's Assessment: Big fuzzy black thing is not edible. Mrs. Tweedy did the same, except then she pecked him- hard- on the nose. Lucky was startled, and Mrs. Tweedy ran off a few feet. Matt and I laughed. Then, Mrs. Tweedy walked back over to the fence. Lucky, again, was sniffing and so forth right towards Mrs. Tweedy. Matt and I were watching, fascinated. Would she peck him again? Does somehow he deserve it this time? Then, she pecked him really really hard in the right nostril. Lucky jumped and sort of half snapped at her, but she was off and running, clearly triumphant.

I think Mrs. Tweedy is going to end up teaching Lucky that he cannot, and will not, mess with chickens.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Will they eat it?

I've heard of this thing called "Will it Blend?" that is supposedly a commercial about a high powered blender. I think the host puts weird things in the blender, and then blends them while being videotaped. Things like iPods, and video cameras.

Ok, now I just googled it and apparently they have a website; Are you really surprised? Me neither.

That isn't the point, though. I've started to conduct my own sort of experiment that I've entitled, "Will they eat it?" Perhaps you know that chickens will eat most things. I've actually read up on the subject and discovered (via the internet) that there are a few basic rules to feeding weird things to chickens.

1) Nothing that has "gone bad," has mold on it, or is otherwise suspiciously slimy
2) No raw potato peels. Bad for digestion
3) Not too much meat. A little niblet is ok, but stick to an amount that mimics a bug or small lizard that the chicken would theoretically catch and eat naturally.
4) If they are laying eggs, and you want those eggs to taste good, nothing that seems unwise like garlic, cabbage, asparagus, or onions.
5) Rumor has it that coffee grounds are too acidic for them.
6) Chicken meat. Don't feed chicken meat to chickens. Got it.

Other than that, I think I have a carte blanc to feed them just about anything. So Matt and I have been giving them random things.

I know you are all wondering what they have eaten so far. Here you go: cooked white rice, cooked brown rice, carrot peelings, Maui Kettle chip bottom-of-the-bag crumblets, Hint of Lime Tostito bits, shredded cheese of virtually every flavor, raw spinach, cooked spinach, burnt bagel crust, cooked leftover cous-cous, cooked rotelli, scrambled eggs, hard boiled eggs, pie crust crumbs, the crusty stuff stuck in a casserole dish after I baked a Mexican Lasagna and forgot to soak the dish over night, dandelions, large black squirmy beetles, earthworms, caterpillars, grubs, thinned squash seedlings, thinned lettuce seedlings, crumbled graham crackers, uncooked quinoa, dead flies, stale raspberry crunch granola, uncooked broccoli, cream cheese, butter, and yeah... chicken feed.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Profiles: Zippy

Zippy is the other Silver Laced Wyandotte. She conforms to breed standard, by which I mean that her comb is a squishy little flattened blob. This is good in cold weather because it minimizes the chances of getting frostbite on the comb. Pot Pie is the only other chicken with this kind of comb- Rosie should have had this kind but, well, she doesn't.

In this picture, it is Rosie in the foreground, Zippy to the back right, Pria in the middle left, and you can just see Beldar's poof behind Rosie's tail. The Wyandottes tend to stick together and are a bit shy, which might relate to the fact that the Rockettes are kind of bossy while Mrs. Tweedy and Pot Pie are very... Jay and Silent Bob.

Zippy doesn't really like to be held as much as Biggie and Rosie. Really, Zippy just likes to run around and eat stuff. She is a plump, vigorous bird. She actually clucks, and said, "Ba- Caaawk!" the other day. I was really proud of her.

The feathering on the Wyandottes is really gorgeous. They should be very good layers of large light brown eggs, and the Wyandotte breed is specially prized for quality cold-weather egg laying. They were bred for egg production in Wisconsin, and that is why they are big plump birds with frost-bite resistant combs and a high tolerance for cold winter nights.

Speaking of cold winter nights- look at my tulips!! Spring is sooooo here.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Netting is complete

We had feared that putting up the netting would be sort of a "grandpa and the christmas lights" kind of chaotic stupidity scenario, but instead it went rather smoothly. The whole run is now covered with used fish netting that I bought on Ebay for a very reasonable price. It is black and seems quite durable.

I'll post pictures in a day or two. It is getting dark and the netting hasn't been trimmed on the edges yet, so I think waiting a little bit is a good idea.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Oh no! Cat!

A big black cat was seen stalking our girls at dusk this evening. Matt saw it from the bathroom window just in time. He ran outside yelling to scare the bad kitty (which in turn startled me). It was apparently on top of the coop roof, slinking along, trying to get close enough to pounce.

Bad kitty! Bad!

We are putting up the netting tomorrow. The girls need to be safe from evil neighborhood cats. Perhaps we ought to leave Lucky out at dusk for the next few days just to be sure- he would intimidate the darn cat just by being there.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Profiles: Rosie

Rosie is a Silver Laced Wyandotte, which is a breed from Wisconsin. She is an Aries- she likes long walks in the run, earthworms, and being held in a firm but gentle fashion. As a Wyandottes she is destined to be plump and attractive with white "lacing" that will decorate every one of her feathers. Wyandottes are supposed to have compact, flattened combs, but Rosie is not "breed standard" and instead she has a single comb. This means that her comb is taller and more fingery-looking than it is supposed to be. No matter- she is beautiful to us!

Rosie doesn't like to be picked up, but once you have gotten her in your arms she soon starts to coo and chatter quietly, and she very rarely struggles to be put back down. In this photo, she is inspecting my fingers as she perches nicely on my arm. She likes cheddar cheese, noodles, and cooked white rice. She doesn't nip like a certain other chicken (bad Mrs. Tweedy!!!) but instead delicately plucks food in a very dainty and (true to her midwestern roots) polite manner.

When Rosie was a little bitty fluff ball, she had reddish feathers on her head. That is how she got her name. Now that she is an adult, she has lost these colors and instead we tell her from Zippy by Rosie's single comb. What is kind of funny is that the formal name of Zippy's comb type is a "Rose" comb. So Zippy has a Rose Comb and Rosie has a Single comb. EEEeek! Don't sweat it. Zippy's comb is sleek for better aerodynamics, while Rosie's is more perky and cute.