Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Egg-rich! Chicken update
We are egg-rich! Currently we are getting 5-6 eggs/day from our lovely layers and are handing them to any friends who drop by for a visit. We are so proud of our hens, who have all learned to lay in the nest boxes over the past month (Aug 22 was our first egg). We have also been able to employ several friends as chicken-sitters, when we go away for a night or weekend trip. This is a must for any urban chicken keepers, as the birds do need to be fed and watered, as well as let out for a stretch several times a day.
The girls love to eat greens - as much as they can get, so we feed them bunches of it cut into small strips with their feed every day, as well as hanging bunches from strings along the fence of their enclosure so they can nibble all day. They especially love comfrey (which encourages laying), broccoli greens, kale, swiss chard, dandelion greens, and the latest, sorrel. We also give them grains such as buckwheat (especially kasha, which is roasted buckwheat and this is a real treat for them), sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds (which deter mites), oats, millet, quinoa, etc. Shredded carrot, and any kind of berries or fruit (grapes, raspberries, melon) - fresh or dry - is their absolute favourite, and they will go crazy for these snacks.
We are starting to prepare their winter house. We have not been able to find much information in books or on the internet regarding winter/northern chicken keeping. The main detail we've learned is that chickens can survive fairly cold weather, down to several degrees below zero, as long as they are out of the wind (so they don't get frostbite). It seems we could keep them in their coop over the winter, if we added a heat lamp or small heater, but this poses a slight fire hazard and also means running electricity for days on end. Our plan is to house them in our greenhouse, where we have planted fresh greens for them to eat, and they would have more space to roam. On sunny days we will let them stroll in the yard, or under the outdoor coldframes just to get some more exercise and fresh air.
We have been meeting various other people here in the city who also keep chickens. There seems to be a small underground urban chicken keeping movement, and so we are considering starting a urban chicken keepers alliance, so we can help create more of a network where we can support each other, as well as further the idea of chickens within urban agriculture/food security plans. If there are any other local urban chicken keepers out there reading this, please contact us if you have ideas or (in other cities) if have formed such networks and could give us advice from your experiences.