Cluck Blog

Our three Lavender Orpington chicks who hatched at the end of July have reached that awkward, teenage stage. They’ve moved out of the brooder and are now busy little inhabitants of our outdoor coop area at the store, catching bugs, entertaining visitors and begging for treats. Time will tell whether we have girls or boys or both. I had hoped to hatch a few more chicks with the help of our Blue American Orpington hen, Indigo, but three for her was the magic number. After a couple of weeks, she was more than ready to return to her friends and turn the babies over to us, and we took them to the store.

But I still wanted a few more homegrown birds to add to our flock, which had suffered a loss over the summer from an exceptionally brazen fox. I kept hoping another of my girls would go broody, but, in typical chicken fashion, no one was particularly interested in cooperating with my plans.

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Luckily, our good friends and neighbors Rod and Sandy Rindy (check out Sandy’s blog at ) have a cute little bantam Wyandotte named Blue with big and pretty constant dreams of motherhood. A determined setter, Blue was thrilled when we introduced her to seven eggs produced by our hens and our now-deceased Lavender Orp rooster, Oscar. Blue carefully nurtured them for 21 days, successfully hatching out four healthy chicks. Two are Lavender Orpingtons, and two appear to be buff/lavender crosses that look like they will be some kind of blue-laced buff, or red. These aren’t show birds, but they sure are pretty, and if they take after the hens in our flock they will be friendly, productive, winter-hardy chickens. Blue has been an attentive, excellent mother, teaching the chicks all the things little chickens need to know. But now she’s losing interest, and it’s time for the chicks to move on to the next phase of their little lives.

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Two have been claimed by our young chicken whisperer friend, Meagan Edwards, who picked out one of the lavenders and one of the blue-laced buffs. In no time at all, she had the anxious babies calmly eating out of her hands, and perching on her arms. We know they’ve found a good new home. As for the other two little chicks that Blue fostered, we’re now ready to take them to the store. At CLUCK they’ll live in the wonderful brooder that our friend Steve built from copper pipe and Plexiglas. It’s been a beautiful and highly creative temporary home to a half dozen of our own birds, and perhaps a dozen of the babies that our friend Virginia raises as started pullets to sell. Although we don’t sell birds from the store, we think it’s fun for visitors to see firsthand what it’s like to raise baby chicks. And, of course, there are few cuter sounds than the contented peeping of small birds, which is another thing we’re looking, forward to living with at the store for the next few weeks.

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So, thanks to everyone who is helping our CLUCK village raise some chicks. Now we’ll just have to wait and see about the boy/girl ratios. Luckily, we think these will be attractive birds with a good future, no matter what their gender.

Not everyone has a spare shed standing around to keep their chickens in, but this story from 77 Square about a unique setup created by Cheri Carr and Scott Clippinger might spark some ideas among chicken-keepers. It sure looks easy.
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If you missed the Q&A, you can see it here.

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Dale Fix and Cindy Cameron-Fix's house looks pretty much like any other ranch house in Madison, but secretly it's an urban farm. Dale and Cindy grow most of their own food on their quarter-acre lot. They have chickens for eggs, bees for honey, hops for beer, trees for fruit and on and on. Here's a picture of their back yard:
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Clearly some heavy gardening is going on here, but nothing beyond the bounds of what you might find in the back yard of many Dane County gardening aficionados. All is neatly kept and clean. Nothing to make the neighbors concerned. Here's a view of the pergola with the chicken coop in the background. It could be a kids' playhouse:
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We can't tell you everything that Dale and Cindy shared with our enthusiastic audience Saturday morning. They covered a lot of ground, so to speak. But we did like Cindy's answer to the "what should we grow?" question. "Plant what you like to eat," she advised. Want to know more? Watch for a story coming soon in the Wisconsin State Journal.
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Our store flock consists of four very friendly and colorful chickens who love visitors and don’t even mind having children poke their fingers through the fence. One is a Lavender Orpington and the other three we generally call Ameraucanas. But after reading this story by Rachel Conlin in Mother Earth News, we might have to start calling one of them an Easter Egger.

We are well aware that true Araucanas are both rare and difficult to keep in these northern climes, so we generally have been skeptical when we hear that someone has Araucanas for sale unless it’s a reputable breeder. But we have assumed that most of the birds who lay blue or green eggs and look sort of Araucana-like probably are Ameraucanas. Now we're not so sure.

Which do you have? There’s a lot more information in the Mother Earth News story, but here’s the short version:

There are only 3 breeds of chickens that lay colored eggs and only two are actually recognized breeds; the Ameraucana and the Araucana. The third, known as the Easter Egger, is not a recognized breed, but rather a cross between any other chicken and either an Ameraucana or an Araucana. True Ameraucana & Araucana chickens are in fact not that common. Many people believe they may have one of these breeds, but it is more likely that most people have the Easter Egger. Araucanas originally came from Chile and were introduced to North America around 1921. They were standardized and accepted into the American Poultry Association (APA) in 1976. They do not do well in cold climates and are quite rare. Araucanas are rumpless (no or little tail feathers) and have ear tufts - feathers protruding from the ear area. They lay blue eggs only. The Ameraucana is not very common either. It is America’s most newly recognized APA breed. There has been much discrepancy over the years regarding origins, standards and such for these two breeds. APA created a standard and recognized the Ameraucana breed in 1984.

The characteristics to meet the APA standard for a true Ameraucana are as follows:
• Must be a blue egg layer; the shade of blue can vary, but it must be blue
• Must have a ‘pea’ comb, a small, plump red comb towards the front of head
• Must be bearded and muffed, but cannot have ear tufts
• Must have slate blue legs, although the black variety sometimes has black legs
• Males must have red ear lobes
• Cock weight is 6 ½ lbs. and hen weight is 5 ½ lbs
• There are 8 accepted colors: Black, Blue, Blue Wheaten, Brown Red, Buff, Silver, Wheaten, White

Other characteristics include curved beaks, large expressive eyes, absent or small wattles, full hackle, a well spread tail carried at an angle and 4 toes. Those characteristics apply to both males and females. The breed also comes in a recognized bantam variety.

We have been told by people who know about these things that our hens qualify on all those counts, so they probably are Ameraucanas. The breed standard doesn't say anything about being friendly, people-oriented and, in general, just big personalities. So if anyone comes up with a breed with those characteristics, we'll be happy to sign our chickens up!
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Dubuque, which formerly had a $300 permit fee for backyard chickens, has recently changed its ordinance to virtually eliminate the permitting process and lift the cap on the number of hens residents can keep.

Cori Burbach, Dubuque's sustainability coordinator, said the change reflects rising popularity of chickens. "A lot of people want to know where their food comes from and really be kind of self-supportive. That's the biggest thing that we hear people that are excited about chickens say."

Meanwhile, Rockford isn’t so sure about chickens, but at least they're thinking about it. Chickens are currently illegal in Rockford, but the City Council is considering a change to allow them, according to the Rock River Times.

Loves Park and Machesney Park in Northern Illinois also prohibit chickens, but Beloit, Wisconsin, went pro-chicken last year.

In Iowa, Waterloo, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Waverly allow urban chickens, but people must apply for a permit and pay a fee, which varies from city to city. Iowa City charges a $100 permit fee and Waterloo charges $200. Cedar Falls doesn’t allow chickens.

Perhaps now they will all look to Dubuque for leadership and join the chicken revolution.

In the old days, like way back in the ‘60s, going “back to the land” usually involved buying a broken down farmstead and trying to live the simple life. Speaking as ones who did something on that order, we can say it certainly had its attractions, as well as its difficulties. But these days, people are bringing the back to the land ethic into the city in places like New York, Chicago and Madison. Just like the backyard chicken movement, it’s all part of the local food revolution. We may not all want to go back to the land, but we do care where our food comes from, how animals are treated and what goes into our food.

If you’re interested in what’s happening in the big cities, you can read all about New York here and Chicago here. But if you’re interested in what’s happening right here in Dane County, you might want to attend the urban farming seminar we’re having at CLUCK the Chicken Store from 9 to 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, August 23.

Cindy Cameron-Fix and Dale Fix will explain how they have turned their quarter-acre lot on Madison’s north side into a farm that provides nearly all of their food needs. Chickens, bees and fruit trees combine with an extensive garden to make an urban/rural paradise of their city lot.

Cindy and Dale will share their learning about what went right for them and what can go wrong.
The seminar is free, but registration is required so we can be sure we have room for everyone. Email susan@cluckthechickenstore to sign up.

Stevie 3.jpg >It's not easy being a blind duck.

We acquired Stevie Wonduck a few weeks ago because she wasn't thriving with the rest of her flock. She's a Blue Fawn Call Duck, a rare color usually destined for poultry shows. But, alas, a blind duck isn't a good candidate for the show ring. Stevie loves to hear voices and often spends her day at CLUCK the Chicken Store out in the coop garden in a dog crate with a little horse feed bucket full of water to splash around in.

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At night we take her home in a cat carrier (Call Ducks are quite small) and let her hang out on the back porch with us in the evening. Lately we have introduced her to our little dooryard pond. Even though it's quite small, it was kind of scary to Stevie because she had no idea how big it was and kept bumping her bill into rocks as she paddled backward and forward. Fortunately, she has now found a few shallow coves where she can dabble for weeds and splash around while feeling the security of edges around her.

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As she grows more accustomed to her environment, we're sure she will do more free-swimming. She does love to dart across the open water and rise up to flap her wings. We hope she doesn't try to fly, though. The thought of a blind pilot is pretty scary.

one in a basket.jpgOne of the great pleasures of chicken-keeping is watching a hen hatch out a clutch of fuzzy little chicks. As you can see, we had that pleasure this week. It was the end result of many long weeks of waiting and wondering.

It generally takes about three weeks for chicks to hatch once you have a broody hen and make the decision to let her sit on some eggs (rather than having them for breakfast). But this process took far longer and used way more eggs, because Indigo, a Blue American Orpington, couldn't make up her mind to actually sit. She would gather a pile of eggs in a nest box and plump down on them for a week or so and then, with no apparent reason, she would wander off and leave the eggs to get cold and worthless for anything except dog food. That meant no omelets for several weeks.

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In truth, it was our fault for not paying closer attention and moving her to secluded quarters as soon as she had a sufficient number of eggs. Certainly, we should have figured it out after the first time she abandoned her nest. But we were too slow to pull the trigger not once, but twice, so we lost two clutches of eggs and several weeks in the process.

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We finally wised up and followed the procedure recommended by Gail Damerow in her book, Hatching & Brooding Your Own Chicks. As soon as Indigo gathered her third clutch, we quickly moved her to a separate coop and blocked off all the other nest boxes, so there was no one to bother her and she had no choice but to sit on her stolen eggs.

We still didn't know if any of the eggs would hatch because we couldn't be sure she had been reliable enough about keeping them warm in the days before we isolated her. Fortunately, at least some of them survived her capricious mothering instinct. Three of the 11 eggs hatched over a period of three days before Indigo decided either she was done or the remaining eggs were no longer viable.

In any case, three was all we got. But three is pretty good. Now we have to wait to see what their colors turn out to be. The dad is Oscar, our Lavender Orpington. The moms are Blue American Orpingtons and Buff Orpingtons. So they won't be pure lavenders or blues, but they should be interesting.

Now the question is the future of Oscar. He’s a beautiful bird, although not show quality, with dove-gray feathers and a bright scarlet wattle and comb. But he’s also been getting too aggressive to have around when our 18-month-old grand-daughter comes to visit. So, having done his part for the future of the breed, Oscar may have to move on to his next assignment, whatever that may mean. Stay tuned.

CLUCK the Chicken Store will welcome a host of friends on Saturday night, July 19, as we celebrate music night in Paoli AND the opening of a three-artist show at CLUCK called Inspired by Chickens.

Music will be provided by our favorite local band, Caravan Gypsy Swing, which channels the music of Django Reinhardt and the hot jazz era of Paris in the 1920s and 1930s.
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Caravan Gypsy Swing will be playing in the garden (weather permitting) from 6:30 to 8:30. There will be live music all up and down the street in Paoli starting at 4 p.m. and lasting into the night. For a romantic summer night by the river, you won't want to miss music night in Paoli.

We are also excited to show new works by three local artists who work in very different media.

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Diana Bolan Greenberg will be showing a new collection of her fabulous textile bowls with patterns and colors inspired by different breeds of chickens. Diana is a regular at CLUCK the Chicken Store.

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Fran Knapp will have a collection of intaglio and block prints that explore the themes of black & white and chicken & egg.

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Jane Varda will show a selection of new paintings and pastels that capture the richness of rural life.

Music night is always a lot of fun in Paoli. We hope to see you all there Saturday night.

Rob Schultz wrote a very nice story about Paoli for the Sunday (July 6) Wisconsin State Journal. If you missed it in the newspaper, you can click over to our In the News page for a taste of the story plus a link the whole thing. Or you can read more right here:

Paoli is a funny little place. We love it. It's only two blocks long with no sidewalks or anything, but it really has the feel of a lively, artistic community and Rob captured that very well in his story. There are excellent restaurants plus really good pub food at the Paoli Pub, three or four art galleries and some of the quirkiest little shops anywhere. Yes, including CLUCK, the Chicken Store.

We are looking forward to welcoming lots of visitors to Paoli for music night on July 19. You can swing along to Caravan Gypsy Swing at CLUCK from 6:30 to 8:30 or enjoy five other bands that will be performing up and down the street. Look for the Paoli ad in the Wisconsin State Journal for more information about the festivities.

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Caravan Gypsy Swing


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