Cluck Blog

As you can imagine, we hear a lot of chicken stories at CLUCK the Chicken Store. Some are hilarious, some gruesome and others are heart-warming. But we have to admit we have never seen a story like this: Mother spends THREE HOURS performing CPR on daughter's blind chicken after it falls in swimming pool (and it lived).

It came from the London Daily Mail, which has a penchant for sensationalism, but we have no reason not to believe it’s true. Everything on the Internet is true, isn’t it? Anyway, here’s how the Daily Mail covered it.

  • Chooky Wooky was pulled lifeless from the family pool in Sydney
  • Wandered too close to the water and was blown in by a strong gust of wind
  • Roberta Rapo spent hours pumping the hen's chest and it finally worked
  • After being given the 'all clear' by a vet Chooky Wooky laid an egg

You can read the whole story here.

blind chicken.pngDo you have a better chicken story than that? Let us know. We’d love to tell the world.

meet-up.jpgWe had a great chicken meet-up at CLUCK the Chicken Store this past Saturday morning. There were about a half dozen participants, which seemed like a good turnout for a first-time gathering. Next time, we decided, we’d have coffee and something sweet to eat!

The face-to-face get-together was organized by a group of folks who have gotten to know each other online through the Wisconsin Cheeseheads thread on the Backyard Poultry website forum. Online forums are great for some things, but this group wanted to actually meet each other and move beyond the virtual chat room.

Our friend, neighbor and CLUCK customer Sandy Rindy was one of the organizers. Sandy has a great garden, a layer flock and also raises meat birds at her place just down the road from our farm. She buys feed from CLUCK. We buy processed chickens from her. It all works out just the way the whole fresh and local food system is supposed to work. And we know that the chickens are leading the lives they love – chasing bugs, eating greens, scratching in the dirt and stretching their wings (and social skills) in a sunny, protected pasture.

Since CLUCK is pretty centrally located and, obviously, we love to talk about chickens, we invited them to sit around our round oak table and chat awhile. You never heard such a lot of chicken talk! You would think these people had been best friends for years, instead of chat room acquaintances. There were all the usual stories about crazy chicken – or duck – or guinea fowl behavior that we all get into with other chicken people. But also some really good information about ways to protect a relatively large flock from predators and where people get their meat birds processed. (More on that subject in our next post.)

Everyone had such a good time that we agreed to hold another meet-up probably on a Saturday morning towards December. Let us know if you would like to hear about it and maybe join us. And thanks for all the positive comments on the CLUCK Facebook page.

Iowa coop.pngNot grandpa's coop
If you want to see some imaginative chicken coops, head to the Iowa State University campus at Ames this week to see what a bunch of architectural students have dreamed up.

What do you think? Do backyard chickens attract people to a city, or drive them away? Like so much else in life, how you feel about backyard chickens is a matter of your attitude or point of view about a lot of other things, not just chickens. We happened to see two news stories recently that perfectly illustrate the 180 degrees of difference.

Denison, Iowa: Mayor opposes “urban chicken” request

Allowing people to raise chickens in town would make it more difficult to attract new residents, Denison Mayor Dennis Fineran said at a council meeting last month. They smell. There are diseases. There are other things why we've moved away from it 20 years ago," Fineran said. "I don't want to step back into the 1950s in Denison, Iowa. It's hard enough to get people to Denison."

Lafayette, Indiana: Lafayette residents hope chicken idea comes home to roost

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI-TV8) - Some Lafayette residents hope to bring a little country into the city, all to help become a community of choice. Ben Alkire, who organized Monday's meeting, said he was motivated by the city's recently completed 'Good to Great' survey, in which he found each of the seven other peer cities allows residents to raise egg-laying hens. "It has to do with the city of choice. Lafayette really needs to funkify [sic] itself in some ways," said Alkire.

FYI, of the seven “funky” cities Lafayette (home of Purdue University) wants to emulate, Madison, Ann Arbor and Iowa City are tied for first per a multi-point rating scale used by an urban planning consulting firm. The report recommends such amenities as more bike lanes, dog parks, and farmers markets, a sustainability initiative, a coop grocery store, and more restaurants serving whole, fresh and local products. We can't say we disagree with that.

Lafayette rank.png

Here’s another reason we are thankful to live in the Madison area; we have access to veterinarians who know about chickens! That’s not always the case, as a front-page Wall Street Journal story this weekend illustrated. Even New York City doesn’t have the resources we have.

According to the story: “As a growing number of suburbanites and weekend farmers raise poultry for fun, not just food, they are learning that top health care is hard to find. In many cases, they are left to wing it.” Read the rest here.

In the past year, CLUCK the Chicken Store has hosted seminars about chicken health and first aid featuring Dr. Stephanie Hirsbrunner Miesen from County View Vet Service, Dr. Amanda Pike from Comforts of Home and Dr. Julia Naber, a final year veterinary science student. We’ve learned a great deal from them, as well as from Melissa Leonard, who raises, shows and judges top poultry and Twain and Heather Lockhart, who have between them a lifetime of experience with chickens. It’s tremendously gratifying to have these good resources close to home.

What these experts have taught us about bird health isn’t just theoretical, either. In fact, two of my favorite customers came in on Sunday to pick up feed, full of news about their chickens. I was happy to hear that they had put what they learned from Dr. Stephanie to excellent use as they successfully repaired a prolapsed vent on a young hen in their flock. They credited Dr. Stephanie’s good instructions, some on-line advice, Preparation H, gentle handling and a quiet recuperation period – in other words, some knowledge and thoughtful animal husbandry. Oh, and they used the gloves they had in the first aid kit they took home from our seminar, so that was a help, too. It’s a good feeling to be able to prevent suffering, and to have some skills to at least know what to do in an emergency.

If you want to be notified of seminars coming up this fall and winter on chicken health and chicken keeping, please make sure we have your email address. You can click on the Contact Us link in the navigation bar and just drop us a note about what interests you.

Ronnie Hess sent us this message that was posted on the Regent Neighborhood listserv this morning.

"Missing a black bantam? She wandered into our neighborhood on Virginia Terrace near Regent. We herded her into our coop, but she squeezed through the wire of our coop, so we have her caged separately and waiting. Please respond if you're missing one of your egg machines and you can pick her up at 12 Virginia Terrace."

When you listen to the debates about allowing/not allowing chickens in the city, you often hear fears that chickens will be roaming the neighborhood causing havoc. As this post proves, chickens sometimes do escape and go on walk-abouts. But what it also show is that neighborhoods aren't just about putting a fence around your property to keep everyone out. They're also about connecting with your neighbors, even if it's just to rescue a wayward hen. And aren't bantams just the worst escape artists!

Most of us grew up keeping eggs in the refrigerator; most of us still do. But since we've had our own chickens - so we know where the eggs are coming from and how fresh they are to begin with - we keep them out on a countertop and only refrigerate them if we're not going to eat them within a week.

Now a new study from England says it’s perfectly OK to keep eggs at room temperature for up to two weeks. The Daily Mail reported this week that scientists in England monitored two batches of eggs for traces of E.coli, staphylococcus aureus, salmonella, listeria and campylobacter and found there was absolutely no difference between the ones kept chilled and the ones kept at room temperature.

Still, the debate is far from settled and there’s a lot of opinion on both sides. Here's the short version of what the Daily Mail had to say. Click on the link to read the whole story,

According to the British Egg Information Service, the only place to keep food cool and avoid temperature fluctuations is the fridge, ‘hence the advice on egg packs’. This view is backed by two experts at Bristol University’s School of Veterinary Science, Dr Rosamund Baird and Dr Janet Corry, who say that if an egg is contaminated with the bacteria salmonella, storing it at room temperature allows the salmonella to multiply. ‘Salmonella will not multiply in the fridge,’ they say.

The Mayo Clinic even recommends you throw away eggs if they have been left out of the fridge for more than two hours.

Utter nonsense, say the ‘warm eggers’, who insist that refrigerating eggs is not only futile in terms of safety, but also ruins their flavour and causes baking disasters because a cold egg does not bind with other ingredients.

Tim Hayward, who presents the Food Programme on BBC Radio 4 and is a restaurant columnist for the Financial Times, says: ‘A fresh, free-range egg should last beautifully at room temperature for at least a week. The racks in the fridge door are the worst place to store eggs. The constant shaking thins the whites and the flavours of other foods can penetrate the shell.’

So where do you keep your eggs? And what would it take to get you to change your behavior?

food for thought.png
Why did the chicken cross the Capitol Square? To get to REAP Food Group’s annual Food for Thought Festival, taking place Saturday, Sept. 21, on Martin Luther King, Jr., Boulevard, beginning at 8:30 a.m. and continuing ‘til 1:30 p.m.

Food for Thought is both fun and informative, with a complete schedule of talks, exhibits and demonstrations, large and small, all taking place in tents up and down the street. It’s a great way to celebrate the many opportunities we have in southwestern Wisconsin to eat more locally, mindfully and sustainably. Not everyone is so lucky, so we should be sure to support the great organizations and individuals we have here that make it all possible, from our innovative farmers to top notch chefs dedicated to creating delicious food with a strong sense of place. If you’re downtown for the Dane County Farmers’ Market anyway, stop in and treat your taste buds, get to know some local chefs, learn about various aspects of sustainable agriculture and connect with local farmers.

Oh yes. I will also be there, talking about . . . what else? Chickens, of course. Look for me in tent 3 of the Food Camp from 9:30 to about 10:15. We will be discussing which of the hundreds of breeds of chickens are best bets for the backyard urban homesteader – or just as pets with benefits. Who’s naughty and who’s nice…. Which breeds are the most winter-hardy…. Which are the friendliest and the most reliable egg producers. If you’re thinking about getting chickens, or you already have chickens and want to replace or expand your flock, come and join the conversation. Like all “best of” discussions, this one should be lively because there are loads of different opinions. It’s fun to talk to groups of chicken fans because I always learn something new. Maybe you will too. Hope to see you there.

windy city coop tour.pngWe love the flag!
While small towns and villages dither about the wisdom of allowing “farm animals” into their backyards, urban centers like Chicago are already enjoying the joys of chicks.

If you want to see how big city chicks live, you might partake of the Windy City Coop Tour on Saturday, Sept. 21 and Sunday, Sept. 22. Nineteen different coops around Chicago will open up to the public for tours.

Chicago Chicken Enthusiasts, a group whose mission is self-explanatory, is running the Windy City Coop Tour. The tour is entirely self-guided, with no need to register, pay or make an appointment. Simply download the map and spreadsheet and visit at your leisure. Make sure you check the dates - not every coop is open both days of the weekend.

In addition to chicken-keeping, many of the tour sites also have other home sustainability projects going on, including rooftop gardens, vermiculture, gray water systems and more. If you're into that sort of thing, we're sure that those residents would love to talk to you about their other projects too.

We got into this whole chicken business because of a hen named Consuela, who survived being gassed (along with thousands of others) at a factory farm and was rescued from the landfill (yes, that’s where they take the chicken carcasses) by Liz Perry, owner of Nutzy Mutts and Crazy Cats pet stores and chicken-rescuer extraordinaire.

I wrote a story about Consuela back when I was a reporter for The Capital Times. You can read it here. Her story is also told in the Mad City Chickens documentary from Tarazod Films and appears in my book CLUCK, from Jungle Fowl to City Chicks, published by Itchy Cat Press.

Consuela’s story had a happy ending, but last week we saw a story in the Christian Science Monitor that we hope will have a happy ending times 1,150! That’s how many chickens were rescued from a factory farm by an animal rescue group. Pretty impressive in itself. But what happened next gives whole new meaning to “flying the coop.”

The summary is below. You can read the whole story here.

Overnight Wednesday, 1,150 former commercial egg-laying hens flew pretty much first class – well, 10 to a crate – on an Embraer jet from California to New York, believed to be the first transnational all-chicken flight in history.

The flight came after an animal rescue group called Animal Place in Grass Valley, Calif., received the cluckers from a California egg factory, which had planned to gas the aging birds. An anonymous donor paid $43 a bird to have them shipped on a charter flight. The birds will be farmed out to backyard chicken coops in the Northeast and Midwest.

Animal Place, which was founded in 1989, rescues, houses, and places a wide array of farm animals. In this case, the flock facing extinction numbered more than 3,000 birds. The group had planned to rescue 2,000, which is all the group could place in California and Oregon. When the situation was brought up to the eventual donor, the plan to fly the rest of the flock to the East Coast began to form.

According to a press release, “The hens were carefully loaded from Animal Place's two facilities in Grass Valley and Vacaville, CA, then trucked to the Hayward Executive Airport for a 6:45 p.m. departure. They arrived at Elmira Corning Regional Airport in Horseheads, NY around 7 a.m. after two stops for refueling.”

“This is the first time any group has flown this many birds across the country,” says Ms. Beach, noting a “kind of expansion of consciousness” happening around animal rescue and welfare.


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