The Chicken Pax

Sharon April 3rd, 2008

The first livestock we got, a few months after we moved out here, were chickens.  That was 6 1/2 years ago.  Most of my family thought it was weird.  Little did they know that poultry carry a dangerous disease…the chicken pax.  Its major symptom - the sudden desire to have your own chickens.  Symptoms include praising egg quality, paging through the Murray McMurray catalog and craning your neck to see if that thing in your neighbor’s backyard is a coop or a shed.  No one, no matter where you live, is immune.

 It started with my mother and step-mother.  My mother was at first grossed out by the idea of us eating eggs that came out of the chicken’s butt (I’m not clear on where she thought the supermarket eggs came from - I think the part that she liked about them was that they didn’t make her think about it at all), but eventually had to admit that my chickens were kind cute.  But Susie, my step-Mom, well, she really liked them.  So much so that she started working on my Mom to let her get chickens.  Eventually, Mom caved.

 Well, last spring, when I ordered chicks, we got some for Susie.  She built a coop that my mother grumbles cost more than their house (she exaggerates, but it is one heck of a nice coop ;-)), and reared her four “girls” (one of them had a little gender issue, and had to be replaced, but I’ll save that story for Susie) and now my mother likes their backyard chickens just fine, happily eat the eggs - and Susie loves them.  She says they changed everything - got the neighbors engaged, gave her a new passion, was a source of just endless pleasure.   Last week my Mom was on her way out, when a little girl she’d never seen before rang the bell, and said, “I saw the chickens before - can I go show them to my Mom?”  My Mom went out, the little girl and her Mom went back into the yard, and the beginnings of a new relationship were formed! 

After the chickens came, a neighbor girl started visiting regularly to help with the hens.  She even came down to the garden with my step-Mom, ate strawberries and began to learn about gardening - all because of the chickens.  The girls have made such a difference that Susie has now taken on the project of helping other people become backyard chicken raisers.  She’s got a blog - she’s new to it, and there’s only one post yet, but I thought a few comments might encourage her to write more ;-).  Now she has a mission - changing people’s lives, one hen at a time!

But it doesn’t end there.  Due to that little bit of chicken gender trouble, one of the babies came to live at my farm (once called “Cora” now “Cory” rules our flock with an iron hand), and had to be replaced.  So Susie and my Mom went off to a poultry auction last fall, and brought my brother in law, Billy along.  Now my sister Vicky (married to Billy) doesn’t like birds.  Billy does.  I’d offered them some chicks, mostly in the spirit of affectionate driving one’s sister crazy, but they’d never quite taken me up on it.  But off to the poultry auction Billy went, and home he came with 9 chicks and two ducks.  A coop was constructed, and my sister has almost forgiven my brother in law for the incident where the poor ducks got cold and Billy put them in the bathtub.  Unfortunately, 7 of the 9 chicks turned out to be roosters, and thus my farm becomes the home for unwelcome roosters, but that’s what pesky big sisters with farms are for.  And there’s talk of their raising more chicks this spring…

Now my other sister, Rachael doesn’t have chickens…yet.  She wants the Polish kind, the ones that look like they are wearing hats.  Not this year - they have to build a coop, and she and her husband aren’t the haphazard sort.  They are going to do things in the right order.   But they are coming.  In the meantime, my mother tells me that Rachael is going on a “Coop Loop”-  a walk to visit all the chickens in a suburban neighborhood near her. 

It doesn’t end there.  One of my best friends from college called me up last week saying they are going to get their chickens, and asking what kind to get!  Guess who’ll be ordering them and taking back any roosters ;-)?  And then there’s the friend in a neighborhood of Boston who is checking with his zoning committee, and the grad school girlfriend who is building a coop in a mid-sized city in Indiana. 

All of which suggests to me the simple truth that chickens are contagious.  And it is one heck of a good disease to get - because the answer to factory farming is not just to buy sustainable eggs.  Oh, that’s good, and some of us can’t keep chickens.   But the reality is that if small organic chicken farms get too big, they’ll stop being able to give the chickens what they really need - enough air, pasture, light and nature - and those compromises are bad for chickens and bad for the environment.  Some more farms will be created by demand, but one way to balance supply and demand with ecological concerns is to bring chickens into our yards.  We don’t want monocultured chicken farms that raise only poultry - monoculture is never a good thing.  We want diversity - of crops, of livestock, of chicken breeds. 

Which means that the best way to stop factory egg farming is this - for people to raise a few chickens in their backyards whenever possible.  3 chickens create less mess and trouble than a dog, eat your pests, create manure for your garden, keep wastes out of the garbage stream, provide you with rich, healthy eggs and enormous pleasure.  3 million chickens in an egg farm are an ecological disaster, a health hazard, a risk for avian flu and an animal lover’s nightmare.  3 million of the same kind of chickens together means the potential extinction of valuable genes designed for backyard flocks. 

The chicken pax is the answer to a host of horrors - if you can keep chickens, and you like them and eat eggs, you probably should.  After all, they change everything.

 BTW, in July we’re planning to add Nigerian Dwarf milk goats, courtesy of our wonderful friends Jamey and Carol.  Among the reasons we picked this breed is that they are the perfect sized milk goat for suburban lots - and we plan to help get them there.  Don’t tell my Mom, but I’m pretty sure that cute little milk goats may be highly contagious too ;-)!


42 Responses to “The Chicken Pax”

  1. Lisa Zon 03 Apr 2008 at 11:09 am

    I have the chicken pax! Bad. I have to either work to get my city’s ordinance changed or do it behind the city’s back, however. Boo hoo hoo! I don’t really want to 1) work that hard to change an ordinance or 2) go behind the city’s back because I am active in my city/neighborhood and don’t really want to be known as a person who really wants the city to enforce some ordinances but *not* others.

    I know a lot of people who want chickens though, and I could easily round up a group of them to work on this. I even know some who’ve had chickens and gotten in trouble for it. Oh, why does it have to be so hard?

    I am going to get me some chickens to raise soon. Thanks for helping to spread this disease, Sharon.

    (and p.s. I made the first comment on your stepmom’s blog. I look forward to reading more there!)

  2. Idaho Locavoreon 03 Apr 2008 at 11:30 am

    We had a lovely little flock of chicks and ducks once upon a longago, and they were just as much fun for us as they seem to be for your family. I wish we could have them here, but the city we live in now wants to charge you a fee of FIFTY BUCKS PER HEN to keep them within the city limits. So, needless to say, that’s out for now. I’m hoping to get to help change that backwards thinking some time.

    Nigerian Dwarf milk goats are on my “wanna have” list, too! I get a goat catalog now and then (I bought cheesemaking stuff from them a while back) and my husband always gives me the sidelong “don’t you dare” look whenever he sees me reading it. ;-)

  3. Greenpaon 03 Apr 2008 at 11:47 am

    Ah, that slippery slope. :-) I’m probably launching down it soon, having previously set foot out there, and retreated. We just NEED animals here to keep the farm balanced; can’t really avoid it. Have to have something to get rid of that grass - or we’ll have mice an prairie grass fires- so; lawn mower, or herbivore?

    One thing about zillions of more chickens- if we DO move that way, we need to move AWAY from always ordering chicks at the store, and breed our own. The local genetic diversity will be critical to dealing with future bird disease problems- a huge population of genetically similar birds would be a disaster. Kinda like the current efforts to keep bird flu in check by slaughtering millions of birds. yuck.

    Somebody needs to breed roosters that DON’T crow. Having lived in areas where illicit game cocks abounded- most of the angry neighbors were unhappiest about the noise before the crack of dawn. Why not quiet chickens, please?

  4. deweyon 03 Apr 2008 at 12:05 pm

    How high a fence do backyard chickens really need? Our backyard came with metal chainlink fence about 3′ high on both sides. I’ve seen a book that said you need a 6′ fence, and that would be too expensive. If it helps, the grass would NOT be greener on the other side of the fence.

    Of course this is purely asked out of curiosity, since my husband has already threatened to turn me into Dewey Tenders if I try getting chickens…

  5. rdheatheron 03 Apr 2008 at 12:14 pm

    I’ve had the dread chicken pax for years-and do want to breed my own. I just need to build more roving chicken coops in my spare time.

    And the little goats are contagious too. Even when the first birth is a c-section and the mom is a bit grumpy about being milked. (We’re working on “If you stand still you get more chicken scratch!”, combined with a stanchion.)

  6. Sharonon 03 Apr 2008 at 12:14 pm

    If you get a heavy breed of chickens (good layers, good for cold climates) like Buff Orpingtons, Rhode Island Reds, Plymouth Rocks, etc… they can’t really fly much once they hit full size, so a 3′ fence should keep them pretty much in. You can also make a chicken tractor - a small, light movable pen that you shift to new ground every day. They are cheap and easy to make and that way, the chickens aren’t roaming.


  7. Leila Abu-Sabaon 03 Apr 2008 at 12:20 pm

    3 reasons not to catch chicken pax if you live in suburbia:

    1) Salmonella. My kid almost died from playing around the chickens at Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard garden. Salmonella doesn’t care if the chickens and the whole garden are organic.

    2) Raccoons. They can get into any coop it seems. You keep your children from watching slasher movies and then they discover headless or footless chickens in the coop one morning. Trauma.

    3) Cats. See raccoons above.

    But other than those I understand the draw. I’m not doing it myself but I live in an old “garden suburb” with large lots and there are indeed chickens all over the neighborhood. Inner city Oakland and people sell eggs out of their back yards. I’ve already bragged about the beekeeper down the street. All this two blocks from the freeway and eight minutes from the San Francisco Bay Bridge.

    The previous owner of our house kept Muscovy ducks, and the pen is still back there, moldering next to the little creek. However our raccoon population is so numerous, well-fed, bold and fierce that I wouldn’t think of putting in chix. Shudder. First we’d have to kill all the raccoons and I have never shot a gun (plus that’s probably illegal in Oakland). There may be other ways to cull a raccoon population but I am just going to let them all work it out on their own in our “back 40.”

  8. Karenon 03 Apr 2008 at 12:27 pm

    I’m afraid I really do have this illness. I’ve been envying a friends chickens for weeks now and have begun fantasizing. I have two problems:
    I don’ t know where to start & I think we might move in a year and what if I can’t take them with me? What will I do?

  9. Leila Abu-Sabaon 03 Apr 2008 at 12:28 pm

    BTW for those of you with a little $ looking to relocate to the country, read to the bottom of this NY Times article. Seems you can buy a 7 acre farm with house in Taylorsville, NC for $89K or maybe less, since nobody’s buying.

    I know my uncle in South Carolina (Columbia) is having trouble selling his brick ranch on a large country lot.

    Again we’re not moving to NC. but somebody else might find this attractive.

    Guess I would investigate the water situation at such a property…

  10. Beaweezilon 03 Apr 2008 at 1:00 pm

    Ummm… me too. The chickens are coming this spring. I am telling everyone I am becoming a chicken herder - beats running away to join the circus I figure.

  11. Sarahon 03 Apr 2008 at 1:23 pm

    Yeah…I kind of want chickens, too. Someday I will have a cute little house with chickens. And alpacas. I want alpacas.

    For now, I have no time and not really enough yard to keep them properly happy. And I think the landlord might object.

  12. catskillmamalaon 03 Apr 2008 at 1:47 pm

    We have a flock of 30 or so. Mostly Rhode Island Reds with a few white leghorns and black bantams thrown in. We have 2 roosters (rose comb black bantams) who patrol our brood. They live in a coop in the barn and we have chicken tubes (large chickenwire/wood habitrails) that lead out to a movable pen with a top.

    We’ve tried free range, but it was more like free chicken dinner for the neighborhood. We’ve lost birds to coyote, foxes and hawks. Roosters really protect the flock against predators. In addition, we’ve had to rat proof the coop (machine wire lining).

    One major thing you must remember is that:
    YOU CAN NEVER EAT EGGS OUT AGAIN. Give up that Saturday brunch, because it won’t be nearly as good as what you get at home! In addition to great eggs, and great manure, we’ve penned them around our fruit trees and they eat pests like you wouldn’t believe.

    This year we are going to try to incubate some of our own in an incubator. The black bantams are crazy ladies, and seem the most “real” to me. When I go to feed them they charge to get out of the coop. If any of them were broody, my guess would be them. Perhaps one day we’ll see about that.

  13. Wendyon 03 Apr 2008 at 1:58 pm

    I caught Chicken Pax two years ago. We bought three chicks, three different breeds. Our flock is now six (all different breeds, but all cold hardy, because we’re in Maine) with plans for two more hens, and we’re also going to raise broilers this year.

    My husband was NOT happy with me when we brought the chickens home, but not only is he okay with the chickens now, he is also the one who opens the hen house and feeds them every morning and the one who closes them up at night ;). I swear, I never asked him to do those things!

    I’m researching dairy goats, too. I like the Pygora, which is a cross between angora and pygmy goats, so they’re small enough for a suburban lot. AND they are an American breed, which is kind of interesting.

    Now, just to convince hubby that goats are a good idea ….

  14. Anon.on 03 Apr 2008 at 2:09 pm

    Can someone explain the rat problem and its remedy in a bit more detail?

    This is the reason my spouse doesn’t want any, although I’d like to make the case for just a few one day when we have a home. In the meantime, I can dream.


  15. Pine Ridgeon 03 Apr 2008 at 2:13 pm

    I just cured myself of chicken pax on Monday. 30 little chicks-straight run, mix of RIRs and Cochins- are peeping away in my retro-fitted woodbox in the basement. This will be our third summer here and we have yet to build a coop, I figured the only way to get DH motivated was to get the chicks first, then we have to do something!

    I had a flock of “girls” at my old home and gave them to a neighbor when we moved. It’s funny how much I missed them.

  16. Ailsa Ekon 03 Apr 2008 at 2:33 pm

    I tried to get permission from the town to keep chickens, ducks, and goats last summer. That got ugly. This year I’m pondering trying again with just chickens, or chickens and turkeys, but I haven’t quite decided yet. Making the attempt is expensive and time-consuming, even before I factor in the cost of the chickens themselves.

    I adore Nigies.

  17. Greenpaon 03 Apr 2008 at 2:43 pm

    Anon- rats will eat all the eggs, and chicks, they can get; and they will gnaw their way through wood and sometimes wire.

    I’ve avoided chickens for years because they’d just be fox/raccoon/hawk food; but am about to take that jump anyway; hoping the dog will help. I’ve talked to some oldtimers who claim dogs can make all the difference.

    Meanwhile- anybody had any experience with guineas? I know my father grew up with them; but his details are fuzzy these days. As I understand it, their flock flew up into the trees at night; safe from a lot of predators. Eggs were good, he says, but so tough skinned they’d play catch with them. And they make good watchdogs, so I hear. And they eat weevils in orchards and gardens; not much else is good at that.

  18. Greenpaon 03 Apr 2008 at 2:46 pm

    Sharon, I’m curious again- why “pax”? The normal Latin meaning is pretty much counterindicated by all the chicken stories I’ve ever heard. Who gets the pax? :-)

  19. Robyn M.on 03 Apr 2008 at 2:58 pm

    How well do chickens interact with gardens? We’ve got a large-ish lot, and I know our neighbors have chickens already (our city operates on a “don’t ask, don’t tell” chicken policy). But most of my lot is taken up by a garden, and frankly I get a lot more food out of that than I would get by replacing it with laying hens. Can chickens roam gardens?

  20. catskillmamalaon 03 Apr 2008 at 3:08 pm

    Rats are drawn to the chicken feed. And rats can eat their way through wood. Probably some types of metal too. We’ve tried every kind of rat killing here, including trapping, drowning, beating with a shovel, etc.

    Really the best prevention is to cut rats off from the feed. If they can’t get to it, they don’t tend to come. We store our feed in metal garbage cans, feed the chickens just what we think they’ll eat and covered the entire inside of the coop with metal machine cloth (much stronger than chicken wire). Now they just don’t come around.

    Chickens would be a mess right in your garden. They scratch and dig up everything in sight. On the other hand. part of my garden is fallow and I would let the chickens in there. Probably if you had raised beds or used portable fencing to restrict their access it would be ok. You could use a chicken tractor to create raised beds and move it every so often.

  21. Sharonon 03 Apr 2008 at 3:19 pm

    I think a chicken tractor is the perfect way to combine chickens with gardens - you can put it on a raised bed, even and have them scratch and manure it for you, or let them clean up the garden at the end of the season.

    Our American Working Farmcollies have been a huge deterrant against predators, except the weasel that got into the chicks (they couldn’t fit to go after them). I’m thinking of getting a terrier, since they are designed to hunt small predators. But we’ve pretty much gotten rid of the deer in the garden, the coyotes, foxes, and Rufus, our older AWF once chased a raccoon up a tree - I don’t mean it went up a tree, I mean he went up the tree after it.

    The only problem we have with the dogs is that I cannot break them of the habit of herding the chickens into the barn constantly - so I have to seperate them to give the chickens a break - but this is minor, and they are well worth the price.


  22. Anonymouson 03 Apr 2008 at 3:22 pm

    Robyn M., I find that free range chickens, (we have about 18), are not very good for the garden. You have to cover the plants with a wire cage when they are small or the hens will scratch them up. I run chicken wire down the rows like an A frame till the plants get big. Once the corn , peas, potatoes get to be good size they are okay. Keep them out of the tomatoes or they will peck holes in them. I now surround the my garden with a 3ft plastic fence ( Walmart 50′ for about $14.00). It keeps them out for the most part. I’d rather fence the chickens in but my DW refuses to let me.

  23. Frogdanceron 03 Apr 2008 at 3:45 pm

    I live in the suburbs of Melbourne Australia, and one of the other teachers at work has chickens. She is trying to get me to follow siut, (I’ve already planted a huge veggie garden like hers) but I’m a bit wary of chickens. They look like their beaks are sharp….

  24. Lynneton 03 Apr 2008 at 3:55 pm

    I’ve been in chicken withdrawal since last year, when we lost three to a bear and three to a bobcat, and took the rest to my favorite farm. I think the only way we can keep them out here is with electric fence, which I’m reluctant to do. Or a dog, which I’d worry would eat the chicken as soon as the predators would. It’s a problem.

    But I’ve got my little chicken fix now: 25 chicks in the mail last Sunday which I’m raising for the farm. I can watch them by the hour, twittering, running around, napping. They’re six days old now, and starting to become airborne.

    There’s nothing like breakfast eggs cooked while still warm from the hen. Chickens are dandy on the food scraps too. I took out everything EXCEPT chicken (it’s evil to feed chicken to chickens). They ate most of it. Favorites: watermelon rind, fruits, squash.

  25. Robinon 03 Apr 2008 at 4:26 pm


    Guineas are LOUD. I was considering some for tick control until I walked into the feed store after hours and met the watch-guineas. They drowned out my conversation with their owner. I crossed that idea off the list.


  26. homebrewlibrarianon 03 Apr 2008 at 4:38 pm

    I was exposed to chicken pax back in the early 1990s when I visited some friends who had a couple of silkie hens. Niccoleta and Carluta; they were the cutest things! Produced an egg about every day through most of the year.

    But chicken pax symptoms didn’t erupt until last year when I moved back to Alaska. I can tell you the exact moment even: when a friend and I visited a local hatchery looking for sources of local eggs. But the symptoms were minor and easily ignored. Then I met Terrisa who had a 2 acre yard full of poultry - mostly chickens but also ducks, geese, quail, chukkars and a lone pheasant (also rabbits, a horse and two goats). That’s when the chicken pax spread throughout my entire body.

    Last fall the municipal assembly was debating the issue of backyard animals (mostly dogs but also included poultry and rabbits). Chicken lovers from across Anchorage showed up to testify but the whole issue got tabled. Nothing has happened since then but as far as I know it’s okay to have a small number of chickens (only hens) but they have to be located so many feet from the property line. I have to investigate further on the specifics as it’s getting harder to ignore full blown chicken pax.

    While I don’t have to worry about raccoons (none in Alaska) or rats (they exist but not in great numbers and not where I live), there are stray cats that roam around mostly at night. Terrisa tells me that ravens will attack her chickens and Anchorage is full of ravens from October to May. She has an area covered with bird netting but still has to keep a watchful eye since her chickens roam the entire property. I’m guessing chicken tractors during the day would work best here especially since we plan to put in a bunch of raised beds and don’t need chickens scratching out (or eating) the starts! It would also protect the girls from cats and ravens.

    Must. Resist. Must. Not. Get. Chickens. Yet. Resolve. Wavering.

    Kerri in Alaska

  27. Crunchy Chickenon 03 Apr 2008 at 5:22 pm

    I’ve had the chicken pax for years. DH isn’t too keen on it, but he can be pursuaded as long as I do all the work. Maybe next year if things settle down.

    We can legally keep 3 chickens (as well as pygmy goats - they are considered “pets”) in Seattle, but my neighborhood has covenants against chickens. It’s an old community and the covenants were written a while back so I may be able to squeeze around them since I live on the border. Either way, I’ve read far too many books from the library on chicken keeping, but one day, I’ll work something out.

    Maybe I need to start a new blog: “I Dream of Chickens”.

  28. Gretchenon 03 Apr 2008 at 6:10 pm

    We got our chickens in January. There are five, and one of them might have a “gender issue,” too. If only you lived closer ;-)

  29. homebrewlibrarianon 03 Apr 2008 at 8:23 pm

    I just checked local ordinances and it looks like up to five chickens would be allowable. There’s no mention of coop placement either. Someone in my neighborhood had chickens several years ago but either they moved or got rid of the chickens since I’ve seen no evidence of chickens lately.

    While this is good news for me, I have to wonder about the neighbor lady across the alley who is notorious for filing complaints about property infractions throughout the neighborhood. I’m going to have to make absolutely sure about ordinances before getting any chickens.

    I may be overcome with the chicken pax soon!

    Kerri in Alaska

  30. Mandarinaon 03 Apr 2008 at 10:39 pm

    Sharon, you say chickens were the “first” livestock you got - and I know about your AWCs - I wondered what else you have - or considered? Do you have a mouser in the house? (all that food storage makes me think you must do)… Have you considered horses for transport? or animals for fibre?

  31. Teartayeon 04 Apr 2008 at 1:26 am

    Please do not give me goat pax. I already want them badly enough :P
    Plus, I’m currently being shuffled about and I’m not sure if I’ll end up with a yard and keeping a goat in my bedroom would probably not be a good idea :(

    I do want chickens as soon as I’m sure I have a yard, though. I should start checking the ordinances now, though. *puts on to-do list*

  32. Rebeccaon 04 Apr 2008 at 6:59 am

    I wish I could have chickens here, but the city banned them long ago as being “too rural” and “dirty”. Why would anyone want to have some dirty chickens in their yard when they can go buy eggs from the store????? Then there’s the lawn maintenance laws which are extreme, and clothelines aren’t banned (I don’t think so, and if they are, I’m breaking the law, ha) but they are heavily frowned upon.

    There’s a lot of money in this city, but also a lot of people without it, and I can’t help but wonder what’s going to happen to those laws as things get worse.

    I expect they’ll simply fade into oblivion. ;-)

  33. Amyon 04 Apr 2008 at 7:52 am

    Hi Sharon and everyone,
    We’ve got it here. Trying to sell our house with 1.6 acres to move to our little farm down the road, but we didn’t want to wait. Dh built a little (heavy!) chicken tractor for 12 hens that we got from friends - Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rocks.

    Right now, I have them slowly moving down a garden row that we used last fall. They are cleaning it up and manuring. I was planning on mulching heavily until I plant it later this summer. (Anyone have advice on whether this is safe, or how long to wait before using? The chickens are staying in one spot 2-3 days, then moving.)

    My real question: How much pasture/scrub should one plan per Nigerian Dwarf goatie? Maybe that is something we could do here on 1.6 acres, too, if we can’t sell & move. They look like pets, right!? Our town doesn’t allow the chickens, but we are hoping no one will tell or ask.

    -Amy in central NC

  34. rdheatheron 04 Apr 2008 at 8:47 am

    I have 2 guineas(boy/girl) and sometimes they’re loud. But they eat grasshoppers! And I’ve trained them to roost in their house at night-I’ve heard that owls will take them at night from trees.

    And for Nigerian Dwarf goats-you can’t just have one-it will be lonely. But they’re small-mine are knee-high, smaller than my big dog. So they look more pet like/less livestock-ish. Just make sure they come from a quiet line of goats. I thought my first two goats were noisy-then I got the screaming sisters. Wow.

  35. megon 04 Apr 2008 at 9:08 am

    Since I started working on a farm that had chickens I have never looked back to store-bought eggs. It’s amazing to me how beautiful–and diverse–eggs are. They come in so many colors–blue, greenish, brown, speckled–that it’s sort of spooky going to the grocery store and seeing rows and rows of those white, uniform things they call eggs. Makes me think of Brave New World. And then the yolks of farm eggs are so much brighter. Do you know if there’s any nutritional difference in factory farm eggs and real eggs?

  36. Crunchy Chickenon 04 Apr 2008 at 10:50 am

    meg - Mother Earth News recently ran a comparison between free-range eggs and their commercially produced counterparts:

  37. Rosaon 04 Apr 2008 at 12:28 pm

    My partner is very softhearted and is absolutely convinced that if we get chickens the neighborhood cats & squirrels would kill them all. I think if I keep working on him, eventually he’ll relax - he was also sure that if we had a baby every time the kid got a bump or scrape he’d be traumatized, and he’s coping fine with our rambunctious toddler so far.

    What I would really, really like to do is get chicks from one of the local flocks or from feral chickens out in farm country. Long time ago we had friends who were burned out of their house and moved to town, but there were still chicken escapees living and raising chicks in a hollow tree, two winters later. *Those* are useful chicken genes. And we used to have alley-neighbors whose chickens spent most days in a tree overlooking the alley. They *clearly* could have left the fenced yard but didn’t, and also clearly were coping just fine with cats & other critters.

    Minneapolis has an interesting statute: you have to get the written permission of a certain percentage of the people who live within 200 yards of your property line at the time you apply for your chicken permit.

  38. Saraon 04 Apr 2008 at 5:28 pm

    I would NOT keep heavies in a yard with a 3′ fence, unless you want them to become your neighbors’ chickens — I have a small flock of Buff Orpingtons and they could clear that no problem. We have a 6′ fence and even so I worry a bit.

    But yes: chickens! Eggs! Yum!

    (And really, Sharon, tell your relations to start buying pullets! They are not that much more money….)

  39. Lyleon 04 Apr 2008 at 7:20 pm

    My father, I think, has demonstrated that you can get the Chicken Pax from yourself.

    Many years ago, we raised large numbers of breeders in a cage-free setting (indoors, but with free run of the different enclosed rooms in the barn). The largest number that we had at one time was about 3,500 on two floors of the barn.

    Not that long ago, after more than 30 years with no chickens on the farm, my father decided to start raising chickens again for local sale of the eggs. He started with 50 chickens (about 3 of which were roosters). Shortly after that, a cousin gave him six more (there is nothing quite like the sound of an adolescent rooster trying to crow). Not too long after that, he increased the numbers again so that he had 170 chickens (about 6 roosters) in two rooms of the barn — I was involved in moving an interior wall to expand one of the rooms so that the chickens wouldn’t be too crowded. That number has been reduced slightly through natural attrition.

    He hasn’t gotten the eggs certified as organic, because the grain that he feeds them isn’t certified as organic, but a number of people are happy enough that they’re locally produced.

    I’ve threatened to repair one of the old chicken coops on the farm so that it can be used for the chickens again (he’s been using it to store firewood), including a yard for them to scratch around in. We’ll see how that goes this summer, I think.

  40. Jameyon 05 Apr 2008 at 9:13 am

    @Amy The rule of thumb on “all-pasture” for livestock is 2000 lbs per pasture. So, one cow and her calf, one horse, 4-500 pullets, etc. Our Nigies top out around 100 lbs (buck) and 70-80 lbs (doe), so you should be able to rotate about 20 during the growing season. Rotate here means portable electric fencing to confine them.

    Outside of the growing season, you have to give them hay during the season(s) when the grass isn’t growing. Up here in upstate NY, we have them on pasture from mid-April to Halloween.

    That being said, they are wonderful - we have about 3 acres for them and the noises are pretty low key. Except at breakfast time :D

  41. Sharonon 06 Apr 2008 at 8:34 am

    I think that maybe the difference on the low fence may be our over-herding dogs. The chickens are *happier* behind the fence than with the dogs herding them into the barn endlessly ;-).

    Re: livestock - right now we have chickens, ducks, angora bunnies, cats and the dogs. We had turkeys last year, and will have them again this year, and this year I plan to keep them over. I too have been contemplating Guineas, because of the tick situation. And we used to have geese - and I’m debating pilgrim geese. Oh, and bees.

    The goats come in July, and my friend Elaine is talking about pasturing some of her sheep up on my pasture, and I’m thinking of at least buying a lamb to butcher at the end of the season, and maybe some older ewes….

    Oh, the possibilities!


  42. Green Hill Farmon 06 Apr 2008 at 7:37 pm

    I’ve had chickens for 10 years you think regular chicken pax is bad don’t buy an incubator, maybe one of the most fun things ever :).

    I have a few eggs in bator now I only expect 3+ to hatch had quite a few clears don’t think the roos are performing or more likely the girls who are older and some bigger don’t like them :).

    A link to some pic see the chick Tiara on page one grown on page two I have one of her eggs in bator and its developing, I think it going to be half bantam that should be cute :).

    Beth in Massachusetts if you live near come visit :).

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