Friday, February 15, 2013

CLUCKing in the Media

Since my last post, we've had a bit of media attention. Adrienne was contacted by the Red Deer Advocate to see if a couple of us could meet with a reporter to answer some questions and get some photos. I was available, so on Saturday Adrienne popped over and shortly after, Murray Crawford came over. We sat in my living room, chatted a bit, then went out for some photos. 

I admit, I was expecting some tougher questions. It appeared that Murray hadn't read up on all of the past media CLUCK Red Deer had received -particularly the concerns after Kristina's initial open-coop and the decision by Council to initiate the pilot project. That said, he did ask us the questions that mattered -how many ways are we finding it a positive experience to be chicken-keepers.

You can read the on-line article here.

I'm not sure why the comments on the on-line version keep disappearing, but I want to be sure some assumptions are cleared up: I have only had my hens since October. My information has not been submitted to the City as a formal participant of the pilot program (for a few reasons, if it comes to a need for registration and/or licensing, my name will be way at the top of that list). Clearly, my involvement at this point indicates that I am not trying to be sneaky, hehe.

But most of all: I DO NOT HAVE A FARM. I know that the term 'Urban Farming' is a hot one right now, but a farm is a business. This is not a business for me. I am keeping hens (just as I am gardening) for my own family's use ONLY.

Anyhoo, Tuesday morning I received a call from CBC Radio in Calgary and was asked some great questions, then offered the opportunity to be interviewed live, on-air about the Urban Hens shenanigans!

You can hear the podcast here.

Council is scheduled to address the issue on Tuesday, session begins at 2pm. Inspections & Licensing is recommending that the pilot project be extended with greater enforcement of registration. Does the city need to do that? Do they need to spend the money on something that we can all see is already working? Can they not agree to accept it and go right to drafting up the bylaw with limits and rules so we can get our birds licensed and keep on CLUCKing along?

**Just for the sake of ensuring that readers know what it is that we recommend as parameters for maintaining safe, healthy, quiet, non-smelly flocks in an urban environment, it bears listing here:

1. NO ROOSTERS -not only are roosters noisy but they are smellier than hens
2. Quiet hens
-while hens are typically quiet, crooning or clucking in excitement when they see the snack-pail coming, some are just louder than others. Buying your hens from a reliable, small-scale heritage breeder ensures that the personality of each bird can be gauged and determined whether she's fit for urban life (or not).
3. Ensure that hens are older than 4 months old at time of purchase -prior to this age, it is often difficult to determine whether a chicken is a pullet (female, young hen) or a cockerel (male, young rooster). Chicks are super cute, but they have high mortality rates, it'd be terrible for your children to get attached to a fuzzball only to have it die.
4. No more than 6 hens per yard. Keeping things low-key requires some moderation.
5. Well-constructed coops -our winters can be HARSH. Hens are very good at keeping themselves warm under all those feathers but they can only do so if they are given a well-insulated, well-ventilated home (and have other hens to cozy up to). Coop size is also important -hens require 4 square feet of coop space EACH plus 10 square feet of run space. Any less than that can lead to overcrowding, which, in turn, leads to unwanted behaviour (excessive pecking, preening, fighting, &c).
6. Well-enclosed runs -while chickens are not the best flyers, they can fly well enough to save their own lives and will do so, if they see fit (or are bored). A well-secured and enclosed run will not only keep your hens contained, it will keep potential predators out. If you intend to let your hens range in your back yard, their wings MUST be clipped, your fence must be adequate to keep them enclosed and they must be supervised. 

7. Well-monitored flocks -regular (monthly, at least) check-ups by you to watch for parasites (see my previous post on parasites here), to gauge body weight (weight loss is a sign of illness), and ensure overall hen health.  
8. Regular coop-cleaning -even in our sometimes harsh winters, we get a warm spell every few weeks that enables us to get out and give the coop a cleaning. Removing soiled bedding ensures not only that your girls will be cleaner, it also reduces moisture build-up inside the coop. Moist air combined with cold temperatures can easily lead to respiratory infections in chickens. It also causes the much-feared Chicken Stink -which nobody wants. Bales of wood chips can be found at local stores (including Peavey Mart) for a very good price.
9. Speak to your neighbours -communication is the key to keeping everyone (including you and your birds) happy.

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