Cluck Blog

Homeowners in the City of Waupaca can now legally have up to 5 chickens, according to the Waupaca County News. The Common Council approved the ordinance 9-1 at its March 1 meeting. The only dissent came from a council member who thought the $50 fee and the requirement to get written approval from neighbors were excessive. We agree, but we're pleased to see such broad support anyway. Way to go, Waupaca!

Exotic cat

Everybody likes chicken, including some who don't even belong here. One of our customers who lives near New Glarus found this cat in her chicken coop. It killed 4 of her chickens and scared the hell out of her. She thought it was a bobcat because it was BIG! But, apparently it belongs to a neighbor and got outside accidentally. The neighbor eventually captured it. So, we're wondering what it is? Some kind of African crossbreed?

Pewaukee has joined Brookfield in saying NO to chickens. The village board on Dec. 15 turned down a proposed ordinance for all the usual reasons, according to the Lake Country Reporter: noise, odor and attracting coyotes.

Of course, one trustee conceded that coyotes and foxes already frequent Pewaukee.
Trustee Cathy Baumann, who voted anti-chicken, said without even a hint of irony: "I bet that coyote that walks through my yard every once in a while would really like to find a chicken. As well as the two foxes that sit and watch me drink my coffee in the morning some days."

Maybe it’s better that Pewaukee just said no. The proposed ordinance included a total of 22 conditions, including specifying how the hen house should be constructed, how far away from the lot line it should be, and banning the keeping of roosters and crowing hens. These people don’t have enough to worry about in Pewaukee.

Meanwhile the Racine Journal-Times has editorialized in favor of chickens in reaction to their rejection by the Village of Caledonia. Here's their conclusion:

Although Racine and Milwaukee have similarly accommodating ordinances, the Village of Mount Pleasant has lot size restrictions for the keeping of the birds, as does the Village of Sturtevant. In Racine, the most hens a homeowner can keep is four. But that’s Racine, which has far more urban neighborhoods than Caledonia.

We recognize that Caledonia is not all farmland, nor is it all large suburban lots. We also recognize that the village has within it several houses and lots which represent a sizable investment on the parts of the respective landowners.

But we also feel that if urban Racine and suburban-rural Mount Pleasant and Sturtevant can find a way to strike a balance between the interests of those who wish to keep backyard chickens and those who live next door to the chicken keepers, so too can Caledonia allow its homeowners a bit more latitude in keeping hens.

Amen to that!

Photo by Kiana Leeder

Kiana Leeder is one of our young chicken-loving customers at CLUCK. We were astounded when she told us that her Instagram account – chickens 168 - has more than 5,000 followers, and it consists of nothing but photos of chickens. Recently she sent us a little narrative about how her chicken adventure started. It’s a fun read. And be sure to check out her photos.

Ever since I was little, I have always had a passion for animals and wanted to ditch the city life and move to the country. And when I was 13 years old we did! Within the first month of our big move we decided that if we live in the country we might as-well get some chickens. So for weeks we researched breeds, coops, and everything in between. Finally, on March 20th, 2014, we drove to Illinois to pick out 6 precious little chicks from a show-quality breeder of our favorite breeds to start our first flock! Then the thought dawned on us; we have fast growing chicks but no coop! We found that most coops are pretty expensive and a little small to fit six chicks, so we decided to build our own. We had an old shed that had no use so we gave it a little facelift and a polish and turned it into a coop. Then we fenced in the perimeter so our chickens could enjoy scratching for food and dust bathing without having to worry about predators. Since we started our flock, I have fallen in love with chicks, and all things chicken. I decided to give up eating chicken and later all other types of meat after seeing what cute things it came from. I also started my Chickens168 Instagram that day to post pictures of my chicks and other pets.

I have always been inspired by nature and animals, and I loved photography, thus my chicken Instagram was born. At first I thought it might get 50 or 100 followers, so I was shocked when it blew up to over 5,000 followers! I love taking pictures of my chickens and especially my rooster “Rosie” who loves all of the attention! I would sit out in my coop for hours on end if I could. My chickens have taught me how to truly appreciate nature and have a greater respect for all of Earth’s creatures.

Recently we decided to double our flock by hatching 11 chicks from an incubator, and this was such an amazing experience that I’ll never forget. We were so excited that we stayed up until 1:00 in the morning watching them hatch! Now the chicks are running around in a Pack ‘n Play in my room for the next six weeks, until they are old enough to join their parents in the coop. Recently we added our latest addition for the chicks, which is a special mini-coop that is attached to the main coop; this will keep them separated and protected from the adult chickens until they are ready to hold their own in the pecking order. Getting chickens changed my life in so many ways; they are always a joy to be around!

Janesville and Fond du Lac have recently approved chicken ordinances, although why that should be such a contentious issue, we don't quite know. Interesting that one of the strongest arguments in both places is that banning hens is closed-minded and backward.

We still think the permit fees are way too steep, considering that most cities report no problems with backyard chickens and virtually no enforcement expenses. Maybe that's something Janesville can address in the future. Meanwhile, we did like the editorial from the Janesville Gazette, which we'll post here.

The city council’s divisive decision to allow backyard chickens at single-family homes in Janesville is nothing to get your feathers ruffled about.

Don’t expect coops to pop up on every block in the city. Most of those who oppose the ordinance, which passed Monday on a 4-3 vote, probably didn’t realize that a longtime ordinance allows residents to raise up to 25 chickens in “outlying” areas, though development has left few spots that qualify.

Critics might wonder why the proposal returned after the council rejected it, 5-2, in 2010. It did because times change and so do faces on the council. Voting “yes” this time were Sam Liebert, Kay Deupree, Carol Tidwell and Mark Bobzien. None was serving when the last vote occurred.

More cities are allowing backyard chickens. They include Fort Atkinson, Jefferson and Madison. Janesville “peer” cities of Green Bay, La Crosse, Oshkosh, Racine and Wauwatosa permit chickens. If any Wisconsin city has rescinded its ordinance because of troubles chickens have caused, we haven’t heard of it.

Janesville modeled its ordinance after one Beloit passed two years ago. Most important, the city won’t allow roosters, which can crow and awaken neighbors, and the city reduced the proposal to limit hens to four instead of six. Likewise, Beloit’s limit is four.

Janesville’s initial permit fee will be $50 with an annual renewal of $25. That doesn’t make keeping chickens for fresh eggs very cost effective, but it also means only people serious about raising hens and maintaining their coops and runs will apply. Besides, residents will have to allow city inspectors on their property to check for rule compliance.

The ordinance passed after repeated reviews by the plan commission and Sustainable Janesville Committee. The plan commission made no recommendation, but the sustainability committee unanimously backed it.

“I really think this is a good-image story,” Aaron Aegerter, a member of the sustainability committee, told the council.

Some people fear chickens might carry diseases. That’s a weak argument given that chickens must be kept in modest enclosures, rather than running around inside homes like in some countries.

Chickens eat ticks and other insects that plague lawns. Chickens won’t be any messier and possibly cleaner than that dog your neighbor seldom picks up after. Without roosters, chickens will be quieter than most canines.

If someone’s chickens create a nuisance or are neglected, the city can deal with that offender just like it would someone who mistreats a pet.

Rejecting this proposal would have been close-minded. It would have reconfirmed what many people think about Janesville, that the community is averse to change. It would have given progressive, environmentally conscious people one more reason to live elsewhere.

Raising chickens for food is growing in popularity. Applaud the council for going with this “green” movement.

Slate cheese serving trays make great holiday gifts and what could be more personal that a slate you have painted yourself?

 Anzu wyliei

We are always fascinated by how much our chickens resemble their dinosaur ancestors. They are just like little velociraptors running around the yard and digging in the garden for anything that looks like a tasty treat. But maybe we’ll have to stop calling them velociraptors and giving them a more proper name: Anzu wyliei. Othewise known as the Chicken from Hell.

Here’s how The Washington Post reported the discovery:
Scientists have discovered a freakish, birdlike species of dinosaur — 11 feet long, 500 pounds, with a beak, no teeth, a bony crest atop its head, murderous claws, prize-fighter arms, spindly legs, a thin tail and feathers sprouting all over the place. Officially, it’s a member of a group of dinosaurs called oviraptorosaurs.

Unofficially, it’s the Chicken From Hell.

That’s the nickname the scientists have been using. It’s the term in the news release associated with the discovery. This dino-bird is not literally a chicken, or even a bird. It’s definitely a dinosaur, and it lived at the end of the Cretaceous period, from about 68 million to 66 million years ago.

“It would look like a really absurd, stretched-out chicken,” said paleontologist Emma Schachner of the University of Utah, one of the scientists describing the new species.

“It would have been a cross between a chicken and a lizard,” said Tyler Lyson, a paleontologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, who excavated some of the fossils on his uncle’s North Dakota ranch in 1999.

We’re really glad they found this dinosaur, but we still like to think of them as little velociraptors.

chickens hate snow

About the time we finally put away the shorts and flip-flops and get out the sweaters, we should also give some thought to helping our chickens through the cold, dark months ahead. Fortunately, the warm days of fall are the best time to work around the coop.

Here are a few things to keep in mind before the freezing weather catches you and your birds unprepared.

Heat or no heat? Most of the heritage breeds tolerate cold quite well. They are wearing their little down jackets, of course, so adding extra heat to the coop is really optional. We have seen things on the Internet that say your coop has to be above 35 degrees, but don’t tell that to our chickens. They seem to be lively even when it falls below zero.

If you do choose to heat, please keep in mind that unprotected heat lamps and even light bulbs can start a fire if they break or fall into the bedding. It has happened to several of our customers. We recommend using a Sweeter Heater because it is safe. If you choose to use a heat lamp, ceramic heater or other heat source, be sure it is securely caged so no amount of abuse could allow it to contact feathers or bedding. Also be sure whatever you are using is rated for outdoor use.

Whether you heat or not, your chickens still need protection from the wind, snow and rain. Batten down the hatches, and use plastic, plywood, plexi-glass or whatever you please to protect the coop, but remember to leave some ventilation open; high humidity causes frostbite and encourages mold. For the same reason, you should place your flock’s water in a sheltered location outside of the roost area, not in an enclosed roost house.

For those who have a large enough hen house to use the deep litter bedding method, natural composting action may produce enough heat to keep your birds warm, but be sure to turn the bedding frequently so you don’t produce deadly ammonia.

To light or not to light? Some chicken breeds will lay through the winter with no problem, especially when they are young. But most older hens and most heritage breeds need at least 14 hours of light per day to keep producing. You may choose to let them rest for the winter (we do) but if you want eggs year-round, you can add a small amount of light to make up for what nature isn’t providing. The rule of thumb is that the light should be enough to read a newspaper, not that our chickens read a newspaper, but maybe yours do. Put the light on a timer and set it to come on at about 3 or 4 a.m. and then turn off after the sun is up, say around 8 a.m. If you add light in the evening, you risk catching your birds off their roosts when the light suddenly snaps off. Chickens don’t see well in the dark, and they may end up sleeping on the cold floor if there’s not enough natural light for them to find their roosts. As with heat lamps, be sure to mount the light in a secure way.

Water is key. Eggs are 2/3 water so you must provide access to clean, unfrozen water. That’s a problem in Wisconsin. They also need water to encourage them to eat. If you are at home during the day, you can take them fresh water several times a day. If not, you will need some kind of heater. A heated dog dish will work. So will a birdbath heater. The easiest and most reliable (and most expensive) method is a heater base with a metal waterer. We have used that arrangement for many years and have found it foolproof even at -20. We are told that nipple waterers can be kept from freezing, but we haven’t heard from anyone locally who has used one through the winter. If you’ve had good luck with one, please let us know about it.

Feed your chickens well. Your chickens need plenty of high quality feed to keep warm, so be sure they have a good base diet of layer feed and then you can supplement with scratch grain and table scraps. Many people like to give their birds some warm oatmeal to get them going on a cold morning. A late afternoon snack of scratch grain will stay in their crops and help keep them warm overnight. But don’t feed or water after your birds have gone to bed unless you really intend to feed the rodents.

Snow’s no fun. Chickens demand their freedom, even in winter, but most chickens don’t like walking in snow in their bare feet. We do have chicken booties at CLUCK, but they’re for first-aid purposes, not weather protection. The best option we’ve found is to put up a little roof, tarp or lean-to where your chickens can get outside without floundering in the drifts.

Do you have some favorite winterizing ideas we haven’t mentioned. Let us know and we’ll add to our blog.

Another Dane County community has joined the flock. According to The DeForest Times Tribune, the DeForest Village trustees voted 6-1 last week to allow backyard coops. The ordinance allows up to six hens and does not require licensing or inspection. However, any subdivisions that have deed restrictions and covenants may still prohibit chickens.

Can you taste the difference between local free-range, farm-raised chickens and factory-raised birds from the supermarket?

Let’s find out. On October 11, CLUCK the Chicken Store will host a small-plate taste test to compare three kinds of meat chickens: Mass produced like you buy at the supermarket, locally raised free-range Rock-Cornish cross chickens, and locally raised free-range Freedom Rangers. You could be part of the exclusive group checking out the differences.

For those not familiar with chicken breeds, most supermarket chicken is the extremely fast-developing Rock-Cornish cross which are produced by the billions in factory farms.

For starters, we’ll compare the factory-raised supermarket chicken with pasture-raised or free range birds of the same breed. We’ll also taste the difference between Rock-Cornish cross chickens and free-range Freedom Rangers, which are bred to forage, and generally live a more old-fashioned chicken life. They grow slower and move around more than the sedentary Cornish cross. Both the free-range Cornish crosses and the Freedom Rangers have been raised by local farmers who use agricultural methods that allow their birds a life that would be familiar to our grandparents. These birds see the sunshine, scratch in the grass, dust bathe, catch bugs and live in small flocks with plenty of space.

The roast chickens will be prepared Nate Pranke, sous chef at Cow & Quince, the highly acclaimed farm-to-table restaurant in New Glarus. Participants will sample both white and dark meat from each of the three types of chicken, along with home-made coleslaw and bread. Chef Nate, whose culinary method is guided by a philosophy that equates good food with good health, will talk about the differences he sees in the three types of birds, and how home cooks can prepare them.

This event is sponsored by Nutrena Feeds and is the brainchild of Twain Lockhart, Nutrena’s poultry specialist. This is the first time it has been done, so we can’t predict the results. But we are interested in the impact that a sustainable method of raising meat birds has on the quality of their lives, as well as the quality of what we put on our table. We hope you will join us from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11, at CLUCK for what is likely to be an informative, delicious afternoon. The event is free but it will be limited to 60 participants, so you must register in advance. Email to sign up.


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