Thursday, May 27, 2010

Rodale gets chickens!

Leah Zerbe, Online Editor for, asked me for information on traditional breeds for an article on chickens. This drawing from Piper's Chickens illustrates several bantam breeds. The article is now posted at She has been interested in chickens over the years that we have communicated about them, and got some of her own this year. Here’s her first report:

I welcomed my chicks into my life last week. Leghorns, Ameraucanas, Delawares, Dominiques, Jersey Giants, Wyandottes, Silkies and other bantams, Polish, Buff Orpingtons, and Rhode Island Reds. They are in two kiddie pools for a few more days, and then we are moving them into the secure eggmobile.

We're now livestreaming them at and hope to follow their pastured life on the farm long-term to show people the beauty of these breeds.

Thank you for introducing me to chickens! It's only been a week, and I am totally in love already!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Spring comes to the wild turkeys

Wild turkeys have been gobbling under my windows this past week. I photographed this pair next to the neighbor’s deck. Perhaps they are getting ready to nest.

This handsome tom displayed tirelessly to his graceful lady. She preened herself coquettishly throughout, showing little regard for his beautiful feathers and prominent beard.

She turns her head, from reaching into her preening gland to oil her feathers.

I hope we’ll soon have poults running around. They are delightful to watch.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dorkings hatch

Carol of LOWCOUNTRY MEDIA SOLUTIONS in South Carolina posted this charming video of her Colored Dorking chicks hatching, She adds these caveats about splay leg:

"As a newbie, I didn't know that the slick floor of my RCom incubator could be hazardous for new chicks. One of my chicks couldn't get a grip on the slick floor and over-extended his little legs WHILE I was watching. It almost broke my heart.
I found this website that is likely to expire sometime because the owner is sick and does not keep chickens anymore and it absolutely worked:
1 Week and 1 Chicken Prosthesis later, my little chick is kickin' and scratchin' with the rest :-)"

Monday, May 17, 2010

What's a Guin?

Here's something new under the sun: a chicken guineafowl cross -- that has four wings! I can't help but wonder whether this is some kind of genetic throwback to ancient precursors of domestic chickens.

At first I was delighted, but now I wonder if it's some kind of monster. Anyone with experience in this area got a more informed opinion?

Friday, May 14, 2010

USDA Department of Justice Workshop

Alabama A&M University will host the next USDA/DOJ workshop May 21, 2010, in Normal, Ala., at the Ernest L. Knight Reception Center at Alabama A & M University. The workshop, the second of five, will focus on the poultry industry.

This U.S. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) joint public workshop will explore competition issues affecting the poultry industry and the appropriate role for antitrust and regulatory enforcement.

Overview of the Workshop
This workshop is the second in a series of joint Department of Justice/USDA workshops being held to discuss competition and regulatory issues in the agriculture industry. The goals of the workshops are to promote dialogue among interested parties and foster learning with respect to the appropriate legal and economic analyses of these issues, as well as to listen to and learn from parties with real-world experience in the agricultural sector.

The workshop will address the dynamics of competition in poultry. It will examine legal doctrines and jurisprudence, as well as current economic learning, and will provide an opportunity for farmers, ranchers, consumer groups, processors, agribusiness, and other interested parties to provide examples of potentially anticompetitive conduct and to discuss any concerns about the application of the antitrust laws to the agricultural sectors.

I won't be able to attend, but I'd sure like to know someone who does. Anyone out there who will be in Alabama who can report on this?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Good hatch!

Monte Bowen of Kansas is renowned for his hatching success. Not all eggs can ever be expected to hatch, but if it's possible, Monte will hatch it. Colleague Ed Hart in Illinois said Monte could probably get a perfect hatch from an EZ-Bake Oven with a defective lightbulb.

Monte updates his report on May 18:

The second and final BIG setting of eggs for the year is complete. The rest of the settings are small; no more than 50 eggs in the next one and even fewer in the last one. I have one more batch to set, and that will be the end of it for the year. Not hatching as many this year.

Final Count:
13 of 15 Dominickers
19 of 19 RC Nankins
25 of 28 Partridge Wyandottes
12 of 13 Partridge Rocks
29 of 40 Mottled Javas (probably most of the "Blacks" will turn Mottled, so don't need many of these!)
4 of 6 Black Dutch
17 of 19 SC Nankins
4 of 5 Delawares
12 of 12 of the Millinery Secret Project (the one I keep under my hat) [CH: I'm sure looking forward to finding out what that is!]

May have to tweak that incubator a tad to get some better hatches next year!

His advice:

"It helps to run a bit high on the humidity. Ed was running his machine at manufacturer's suggested humid level and half the chicks died in the shell. They never pipped. I run mine about 60%, increasing it as it gets closer to hatch time. It is often at 70% so the last week and a half of the run. He tried more water and finds he gets much better hatches than with what the incubator manufacturer recommended.

"What they think looks good on paper ain't always the way the world turns. Sometimes we just gotta read to 'em from the book. If they be real dumb, we have to show 'em the pictures only and readin' to 'em from the book comes later."

Monte has a colorful way of expressing himself.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

This rooster is loved!

The folks who live on Edgar Court, a cul-de-sac in Erlanger, Kentucky love their rooster, He wandered into their yards and lives two years ago, and they aren't about to give him up.

All was well with the bird they called Cocky-Doodle-Do, or Chicky, or Henry, until last month when someone complained that he was pecking at kids at the bus stop. The county picked him up and brought him to the animal shelter, but his special friend on Edgar Court claimed him and brought him back to the neighborhood.

The wording of the city ordinance governing chickens makes it unclear how to deal with a rooster no one owns, so the mayor appointed a "rooster committee" to review the situation. They'll meet May 25 and come up with a recommendation June 1.

Can we get those kids and parents together and make friends with Cocky and let the local officials get back to work?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Chickens in the Trees

Tina Tyzzer of Indiana looked around for her chickens the other day -- and found them looking down on her!

"I heard the chickens behind me yesterday and looked around to see no one…until I looked up in the tree," she writes. "Guess they were taking a rest from free-ranging to tree ranging!"

Her chickens are an Ameraucana cross that lay green eggs. That makes it obvious when there's some egg envy going on.

"Our chicken eggs were disappearing," she writes. "The chickens were laying eggs where the lettuce leaf is and we would go to collect them and they wouldn’t be there. This turkey hen was rolling them over into her own nest…all the green ones are CHICKEN eggs! All of the turkey hens were doing this, so we were losing most of our chicken eggs…I think we have it under control now though and the chickens are again laying in their boxes where they should be. "

The turkey hen in question is Turkey Girl, who was featured in the October/November issue of Backyard Poultry magazine. She's a Royal Palm, a small heritage breed turkey. They are so pretty, some keep them as ornamental birds.

Tina is also watching over a robin's nest. "It's right outside our garage on top of all of my Tomato cage poles," she writes. "We have changed our route to the garden, so we don’t disturb her every time we walk past, 20 times a day. Guess we won’t be putting up tomato cages for awhile!"

All these feathered friends are keeping Tina entertained. "As you can see, all of my 'girls' are very busy this time of year!" she writes.
Thanks, Tina, for sharing these stories with us.