Friday, August 27, 2010

I thought we were novel...

You know, the whole movement of raising chickens in small urban or suburban backyards? Did you think it was a new thing? Well, I did.

Of course, we all know that raising chickens used to be 'standard procedure' on family farms a century ago. Those hard-working farmers raised enough meat birds and eggs for the family and sold the extras. But what about city people? Weren't urban folks the ones who were buying the extra meat and eggs from the farming families? That's what I thought. However, an article from the American Poultry Journal discusses how some city dwellers are choosing to raise their own chickens. And it was published in 1921. Here's the text:

You can click the images above to read the text, if you would like.

Ecclesiastes 1:9

9 What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.

These look familiar...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Can legislation solve the egg problem?

Some people think that creating more rules for the factory farms can help reduce (or eliminate?) food-borne illness outbreaks. This recent NPR story supports that premise. Can the FDA really solve the problem? I'm not so sure. I mean, they still think it's fine for BPA to be in contact with (and IN) our food and throughout our environment, even though there is evidence that it is not completely safe.

The FDA seems to always be behind the curve. Only this year did they admit that BPA might be "of concern". Come on, people have been talking about the dangers of BPA for years!

This is not how factory farmers gather their eggs :)
Image credit: woodleywonderworks

So, back to the original question, can the FDA, or any other government agency, prevent food-borne illness? Is this a realistic goal?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The price of eggs: Then and Now

Recently, I've been reading old chicken literature. Specifically the American Poultry Journal. I was reading about Black Langshans (thanks to Clare) when I noticed something. The lady who wrote the article mentions the price that she's getting for her eggs in fall/winter. They were 53 cents per dozen in October, 67 cents in November, and 70 cents in December.

So, I was reading this article without knowing the date that it was written. When I read those prices, I though maybe the article was from the 1960s or 70s? But NO! It was from 1921...that's 90 years ago.

That got me to thinking... If eggs cost $0.70 in 1921, what would that be like in today's dollars? The interwebs came to the rescue. The answer is: $0.70 in 1921 = $8.32 in 2009. Can you imagine?

A friend of mine, who is a poor college student, told me that he buys eggs from Safeway when they go on sale for $2 for one and a half dozen. Unbelievable how cheap eggs are! No wonder the lives of those hens are so terrible!

The American Poultry Journal has some great advertisements. I'll probably be including some of them when I post about chickens. Here is one you might like:
Click to enlarge. People used to actually make money with a small backyard flock.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A stay-clean, efficient, and easy watering device for the chickens

So, who likes cleaning out their old-fashioned, galvanized chicken waterer? Not me. That's a chore that I did not look forward to everyday. Fortunately, I ran across another idea on The basic design is to attach a specially designed water nipple to the bottom of a plastic bucket. This design is similar to what a guinea pig or hamster might drink out of.

I purchased 6 of these nipples from for $2.05 each.

I bought a 2-gallon white plastic bucket from Home Depot ($3) and drilled 2 holes (3/8 " in diameter) into the bottom of the bucket. Then I screwed the nipples into these holes. Based on reading about someone else's experience, I didn't think I would need a washer and a nut. But I did. The bucket leaked without adding a rubber washer and a metric-sized nut to the inside of the bucket. Home Depot didn't have the washers and nuts, but a nice guy at Napa found them for me in his store. (He also mentioned that his adult son wants to get chickens. I encouraged him on this, of course.)

I was concerned that the chickens might not know how to use the nipple waterer. But it only took them about 30 seconds to figure it out. Smart girls.

This was such as easy project! I'm so glad that I found out about it. It's nice not to have to deal with the mess of the old waterer. And even more importantly, I like knowing that the girls always have clean water to drink.

This is my feeder, which also is working well.

Notice that it's raised off the ground, which seems to prevent some degree.

Friday, August 13, 2010

I was wondering when this was going to happen...

Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA and chickens... This story makes me glad (again) that I don't live in Carmel. Tourists think that Carmel is a magical, wonderful place. Regular people who live around here tend to think it's snooty, persnickety, and ridiculous. And I'm one of those regular people.
Anyway, Carmel is also known for being a very "pet-friendly" town. But maybe not. They are currently struggling with chickens. The Carmel Pine Cone is a small paper that I read sometimes just to laugh about what's going on in Carmel. It's usually just the same old arguments between neighbors about who can put in a new window and what type of material the window frame must be made out of, etc. But this week it's about chickens and how they may or may not be dangerous to the fancy-pants lives of some residents. Here's the scoop:

Anna Yateman "asked the city council in April to allow people to keep chickens, pointing out that they lay good eggs and eat pests while their waste makes good compost." She currently has 3 hens and didn't know they were illegal pets. Her neighbor (of course, 50% of the stories in this paper are about petty disputes between neighbors) doesn't want her or anybody else to have chickens. The neighbor, James Jungroth, "told the commission, he didn’t want his $1.5 million home to be anywhere near a chicken farm." He said he only agreed to the purchase after the realtor told him hens were against the law. "Think of 1,000 people each getting two chickens,” he said, speculating the runoff from their coops would create a nuisance or a hazard. And “the cages become larger and larger — they become McMansions for the chickens.” He then went on to complain about other neighbor issues with Yateman, which he said his attorney directed him to do, but commissioner Robin Wilson cut him off, saying that was not the purpose of the commission or the hearing. “I do not want my neighbor to have chickens,” Jungroth reiterated, before sitting down.

Just another reason I'm proud to live in the poor, blue-collar town of Seaside, where chickens can live happily in their "McMansions" :)

Friday, August 6, 2010

What a long, strange, trip it's been

It's been a cold spring and summer. In fact, it's been the coldest July on record and one of the top 3 coldest Junes. But, you don't have to ask the weatherman to find this out. Just look at my garden. I've only picked 3 ripe tomatoes so far. The plants were started from seed in late January and planted out during the first half of April. Four looong months later, on August 3, I picked the first one - a Costoluto Genovese.

This is the first tomato of the year, just a few days before I picked it.

Costoluto Genovese

Japanese Black Trifele

August 3 is a full month later than I got my first ripe tomato last year! (And I even set out my plants about a week earlier this year.) A lot of blossoms aren't setting.

Principe Borghese is good about setting fruit in cold weather. (Way to go! You sweet little Italian heirloom, you!)

On the bright side, the beans are growing well. Especially, the Scarlet Runner beans.

Witness the chicken damage below knee-height :) The girls love their greens.

Plus lots of zucchini (surprise).

And several nice-looking spaghetti squash.

Cucumbers are painfully slow.

I still have some lettuce that's growing pretty well, this is Gentilla (green) and Lollo Rossa (red).
I hate the ugly, chicken-deterrent cages, but at least I'll have lettuce to pick.

Here are the recent additions. Two hardy kiwis: the male is on the left and the female (Ken's Red) is on the right. Also, 2 everbearing red raspberries in the center: Jaclyn (left) and Caroline (right). Jaclyn has buds right now.

I'm proud of myself for actually remembering to put in some flowers: