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Posts Tagged: chickens

Got chickens? Backyard poultry workshop offered in Oakland March 12

For tips on raising healthy chickens in your backyard, attend the Backyard Poultry Workshop in Oakland on Saturday, March 12. Poultry experts will share valuable information for experienced poultry owners and for those just getting started.

The workshop is sponsored by the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Cooperative Extension in Alameda County and the California Poultry Federation.

Discussion topics will include:

  • Poultry behavior in backyard chickens
  • Backyard biosecurity
  • Backyard poultry cleaning and disinfecting
  • Backyard flock pests and management techniques
  • Using the California Animal Health and Food Safety Lab (CAHFS)

Speakers include Maurice Pitesky, UC Cooperative Extension poultry specialist in the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis, Richard Blatchford, UC Cooperative Extension poultry specialist in the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis; Amy Murillo, UC Riverside Ph.D. candidate; and Nancy Reimers, poultry veterinarian. Rob Bennaton, UC Cooperative Extension advisor, will be on hand to answer questions about urban agriculture.

The workshop will be held 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 12, at the Trans Pacific Center at 1000 Broadway in Oakland. The building is on the corner of Broadway and 11th Street, near the 12th Street BART Station.

Registration is $20 and includes lunch. To register, call or email Monica Della Maggiore at (209) 576-6355 or monica@cpif.org.

Based in Modesto, the California Poultry Federation represents the state's diverse poultry industry and is the official state agency for the National Poultry Improvement Plan.

For more information about raising poultry, visit http://ucanr.edu/sites/poultry. For information about urban agriculture, visit www.ucanr.edu/urbanag.

 

Posted on Friday, February 12, 2016 at 2:57 PM

The case of the cannibal chicken

Blondie
We love to watch our three hens. They roam contentedly now in our Sacramento backyard, eating bugs and greens. We've named them, of course: Blondie, Queenie, and big Lizzy. They are a little flock, raised together since they were day-old hatchlings from the feed store. They're about three years old now, and still laying two or three eggs between them most days, before we let them out of their covered run in the afternoons. Our next-door neighbor has built a coop too, and there's another little flock on the other side of the fence. Our girls even have neighbors to cackle with.

About six months ago we started seeing a problem - pecked eggs! When we went to gather our one, two or three eggs every day from the nesting box inside their run, which was open to the sky then, more often than not one of the eggs would have a pecked hole in it. Sometimes some of the egg inside would be clearly gone, eaten by something or someone. An Internet search told us that, yes, chickens can peck at their own eggs, and that usually this could not be cured once it started.

Queenie
We suspected Blondie, as she was the ornery one, the one who pecked at our calves when we cleaned the coop. We even started planning the stew-pot for Blondie, and talked seriously about which of us was farmer enough to do the necessary deed, cleanly and humanely of course. But before we sharpened the knife, we asked for advice.

The feed store told us that egg-pecking could be from calcium deficiency and that we should always provide a bowl of oyster shells in the coop. So we did. They also sold us some wooden eggs to slip into the laying nest when we took the eggs, to fool the birds. We tried that, with no luck. A poultry farmer friend suggested blowing out an egg and then filling it with garlic and black pepper and putting it in the nest. We tried that. For a few weeks everything was fine, but then we came home to more pecked eggs.

In May, we rode our bikes around Davis for the Tour de Cluck, an annual tour of backyard chicken coops, mostly to seek advice from other chicken keepers about how to deal with our cannibal chicken. At Davis Central Park, we met Richard Blatchford, a post-doc with the UC Department of Animal Sciences, who had a poster about various poultry behavior problems, including egg-pecking. We talked, and his advice was similar: oyster shells, decoy eggs, gathering eggs early in the day, and, again, the news that this bad habit might spread to others in the flock and was hard to stop once it started.

Lizzy
Before we cut our little flock down to two, we wanted to make sure that we had the right culprit in the stew-pot. So we build a separate little covered and enclosed chicken run, complete with its own nesting box, to isolate one hen at a time. None of the girls pecked their own eggs when isolated in the covered little run, not even Blondie. But there were still pecked eggs in the larger open run with no cover. So Blondie was saved, but our mystery was not solved. Who was the culprit?

Finally, another chicken-keeper friend suggested a different villain - those chatty bluejays so often perched on the chicken wire fence of the chicken run. We spent a weekend covering the chicken run and resolved to keep the hens inside and the bluejays locked out until we had gathered the eggs. It worked; no more pecked eggs! Our problem was solved and we are so glad that our Blondie is not a cannibal.

UC Cooperative Extension provides resources for raising backyard chickens on the Foothill Farming website.

Researchers from the UC Davis Center for Animal Welfare have conducted a survey of urban chicken keepers about their resource needs, and will soon have available more information about the health and welfare of backyard poultry.

Posted on Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 7:33 AM
Tags: chickens (5), urban agriculture (13)

Raising chickens at home is rewarding

Backyard chickens are pets with perks. Laying hens provide a steady supply of fresh, organic eggs; unusual breeds can satisfy birdwatchers' desire to observe an animal exploring its surroundings; and poultry manure is an excellent soil amendment.

Surprisingly, chickens are pretty good companion animals as well. My family keeps two chickens in a 10-foot-square pen in the side yard of our tract home. The birds are as thrilled to see us at the end of the day as our dog and cats. They provide enough eggs for us to share with neighbors and, as one might expect, their food expenses amount to chicken feed.

Chicken rearing in urban areas seems to be keeping pace with growing interest in gardening. Among the California cities that permit backyard chickens are San Francisco, Anaheim, Long Beach, Oakland, Bakersfield and San Diego. Last summer, the Sacramento City Council passed an ordinance that allows citizens to raise up to three chickens in their backyards. Before bringing home chickens, check to see whether they are permitted under local ordinances where you live.

UC Cooperative Extension offers resources on selecting and caring for chickens. A free pamphlet, Selecting Chickens for Home Use, has guidelines for people who want chickens for eggs, meat or exhibition stock.

The best egg-laying breeds, the authors say, are Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire Red and Single-Comp White Leghorn. Characteristics sought for meat producers include fast growth and efficient feed utilization. The most common meat chicken is a cross between White Plymouth Rock hens and White Cornish cocks.

Chicken rearing is a popular 4-H project that goes back to the inception of the program in California nearly 100 years ago. At the outset, UC Cooperative Extension 4-H placed a heavy emphasis on farm production and farm family activities. As the state became increasingly urban and suburban, the scope of 4-H expanded into such projects as recycling, robotics, foods and nutrition and leadership. Now that popular culture is turning Californians back to rural roots - raising chickens and tending vegetable gardens - 4-H is uniquely poised to show them how.

The California 4-H Poultry Project Sheet can be used to engage children in raising backyard chickens, whether they are enrolled in 4-H or not. The National 4-H poultry curriculum details the responsible and humane care and raising of chickens. It outlines the the best management practices used on farms and in industry and the value of poultry meat and eggs in human nutrition.

The 4-H poultry curriculum is available for a nominal cost in the 4-H online store.

Get more information about enrolling in 4-H on the UC 4-H Youth Development Program website.

Chickens make great pets.
Chickens make great pets.

Posted on Thursday, May 17, 2012 at 7:40 AM
Tags: chickens (5)

December farm stories

Davis Wednesday afternoon farmers' market can be quiet in December, so what better time to learn a little about what's going on back at the farms? Every farmer I talked with today had delicious treats to sell and a story to tell. Here are a few:

Did you know that Gridley is the kiwi capital of America? There used to be a kiwi festival and a kiwi queen, but that all got too expensive for Gridley's kiwi farmers quite a few years ago, Frank Stenzel reports. He's getting ready to start pruning his 14 acres of kiwi vines next week; pruning will take a crew of 12 about two weeks. After pruning, each of the 25 or 30 canes on each kiwi vine will need to be tied to a trellis, very much like grape vines, to be ready for next year's growth.

The fuzzy green fruit for sale today from Stenzel's Kiwi Farm was harvested late in October and has been held in cold storage at 32 degrees since then. The fruit will last about six months stored this way, allowing Stenzel to bring out what he needs, grade it by size, let it ripen a little, but sell it while it's still firm. When you bring your kiwis home, let them ripen three or four days more for the best flavor.

Now that the weather is getting colder, the older chickens at Annette Jones' Islote Farms in Esparto have started molting. For a few weeks, they will lose feathers and stop laying eggs. But Jones isn't worried; in fact, she planned for this. Younger hens are picking up the slack because they hatched later in springtime and are just starting to lay eggs in December and January. The older hens can take their much needed break while the youngsters get busy.  The fresh eggs from the younger hens are available at the market today in small and medium sizes. When springtime comes, all the birds will be laying again and eggs will be plentiful.

On Federico Toledo's Toledo Farm in Lodi, his son, brother, brother-in-law and other family members are busy planting this month - cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, beets, cilantro, carrots, onions and curly parsley. What they're planting now will be at the farmers markets in March, April and May, if the weather cooperates. The 20 long rows of onions going in now will yield green onions in February and March, full-size fresh onions in April and May, and then dry onions in June and July. Today's market table has stories too: The last red tomatoes of the year are for sale today; they were picked green in November and ripened with a heater. The winter squash was actually grown in summer and harvested in August - it gets sweeter over the months and keeps well in winter. The persimmons, grapefruit, lemons and apples were all fresh-picked by the farm family.

All the rice has been harvested now at Robin Harlan's Bullfrog Farms in Winters, and the 3,000 hives of Bullfrog Bees are getting pollen patties to make it through the winter since there aren't enough blossoms to keep them fed without help this time of year. There's time now for bottling the honey; it's been stored in big stainless steel barrels since the Harlans harvested it in the summer. Bullfrog Farms grows more than 200 acres of almond trees which start blooming in January, so the bees will have blossoms very soon to pollinate and pollen to gather for more honey. After working in the Bullfrog orchards, they'll go to Blue Diamond almond orchards, and then to orange groves in Winters. Local honey is the sweet result of these hard-working bees.

Todd Evans works at certified organic Mount Moriah Farms in Clements. Today he's selling crisp Fuji and Pink Lady apples. Up until two days ago, Evans, farm owner Steve Smit, and a couple of other guys were harvesting apples. Now they're getting ready to prune all the trees, which will take the four of them about a month. The apples should last in storage until about May, just long enough for the cherries to be ready.

Give it a try - visit your local winter farmers market and learn some new stories!

To find farmers' markets in your community, visit the UC small farm program's California Agriculture Tourism Directory.

Posted on Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 8:12 AM
Tags: chickens (5), Davis Farmers Market (1), eggs (4), Honey bees (7), kiwis (2), onions (2), winter (3)

Chickens, chickens everywhere

The surge in popularity of home chicken-raising is astounding. From cities to farms, more and more people are keeping small numbers of chickens for egg production, as family pets, and sometimes for meat production. The city of Davis, Calif. even had a “Tour de Cluck” recently – a bicycle tour of 25 home chicken coops in Davis (the tour sold all 500 tickets and served as a local educational fundraiser).

The amount of attention and care that families spend on their chickens shows that chickens are a labor of love, much as any family pet. Every hen I visited on the Tour de Cluck had a name, and each owner assured me that their “girls” all have their own personalities. Some of the chicken coops were woodworking pieces of art.

Chicken stories are showing up in all types of mainstream media. Feature articles have appeared recently in The New Yorker (Susan Orlean’s home chickens), the New York Times (why Americans raise chickens; women in Berkeley who raise chickens); and a book review of raising chickens in the city), and in the CA&ES Outlook alumni magazine where I work at UC Davis – the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (backyard chicken farming, page 10).

Chickens aren’t difficult to manage, but like raising any animal, the prospective chicken owner should know what he or she is taking on, and should be a responsible animal owner. While it may be fun to muse over the fancy breeds, or to salivate over the thought of fresh omelets each day, it’s important to learn about housing, nutrition, health, local ordinances (which may limit the number of hens and/or the ability to keep roosters), and other pertinent topics.

Where to get information?

  • Bookstore shelves are awash with chicken-raising books. Check your local bookstore or online book source. There are even chicken-raising books in the “idiot’s” and “dummies” series (The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Raising Chickens; Raising Chickens for Dummies; and Building Chicken Coops for Dummies).
  • Sunset magazine has a useful list of books on raising chickens
  • Sunset magazine also has a free download on how to raise chickens
  • Backyard Poultry is a popular bimonthly magazine with special topics each month (breeds, health, nutrition, etc.).
  • Your local Cooperative Extension or 4-H office should be able to match you up with chicken-raising resources. Here are two University of California sites with information on raising chickens: UC Davis Poultry Page, and ANR publications.

Whatever your reason for raising chickens — and the reasons are many — do your homework first and make sure you get the proper supplies and the breeds that will give you years of pleasure . . . and fresh eggs.

Posted on Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 9:07 AM
Tags: backyard chickens (1), chickens (5), eggs (4), Tour de Cluck (1), UC Davis (35)
 
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