Saturday, March 10, 2012

Urban Chicken Q & A and a giveaway!

If you've been sitting on the fence about urban chicken keeping,
than this post is for you!

We are pleased to part of a fifteen-day Blog Book Tour celebrating the release of
Gail Damerow’s “The Chicken Encyclopedia" from Storey Publishing.

Gail has been my go to girl for years...Her book "Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens"
has been my constant companion since becoming a backyard chicken keeper. 
I have multiple printings of this oh so helpful book!

So when I was asked to do a Q & A with Gail for my blog,
I jumped at the chance. 
She is my chicken mentor that I don't even know!

Because my love of urban chicken keeping, I asked her some questions that
we are frequently asked here on the BOHO Farm.

So with no further delay...

Urban Chicken Q & A with Gail Damerow
Do chickens have a shorter life span in an urban environment?  and what is the average lifespan of a chicken?
If they do it would be for the same reasons some chickens have a short life span no matter where they live: they either got out and got eaten, or something got into their housing and went after them. One of the biggest culprits anywhere is pet dogs; not just the neighbor's dogs, but also sometimes the chicken owner's dog. Even the most chicken friendly dog may one day get excited and chase after them.

(We had this happen with our Scottish terrier Blanca, she bite Henny Penny's tail feather's off and a chunk of her back end and we spent an expensive Friday night at the avian specialist as they performed chicken was our daughter's
A chicken may live 10 to 15 years. Few chickens live out their full, natural lives. Chickens raised for meat have a short life of only 8 to 12 weeks. Chickens raised for eggs or as breeders are usually kept for 2 or 3 years, until their productivity and fertility decline. A chicken kept in a protective environment may survive as long as 25 years, although geriatric hens lay few eggs.
What are some breeds that are good for an urban environment? How about family friendly breeds?
Oh, boy. So many choices are available it's hard to know where to start, or stop. To name just a few of the more docile breeds (which are good for both urban and family purposes): Ameraucana and Araucana, related breeds that both lay eggs with blue shells; Brahma and Cochin, rather large breeds with feathered legs; Houdan and Polish, two docile breeds with an awesome topknot of puffy feathers; Delaware and Plymouth Rock, both of which originated in the USA and lay eggs with brown shells; and, of course, among bantams the ever popular Silkie, with its super friendly demeanor and feathers that look more like fur.
I get asked this all the time...but I never have had to clip my girls you clip wings and why or why not?
Not usually, because we don't need to. But occasionally we get a chicken, especially a young one, that won't stay where it's supposed to, so we clip its wing to keep it from flying over the fence. When you clip only one wing, the bird can't get enough balance to fly well. Generally, after our chickens mature they get too heavy to fly, so wing clipping is just a temporary measure.
How much space do chickens really need?
As much as they can get! How much space they can get by with depends on their age, breed, and numbers; whether they are confined or have access to an outdoor run; and the climate. Young chickens need more space as they grow. Active breeds need more space than placid breeds. A few chickens need more space per bird than lots of chickens living together. As a minimum I would provide heavy breeds with 3 to 4 square feet per bird; light breed with 2 to 3 square feet per bird; and bantams with 1 to 2 square feet per bird.
Does chicken poop cause diseases?
If you eat it. Some people let chickens run around in their gardens, in which case poop can get on the veggies. But in a normal situation where the chickens are confined to their own area, as long as you wash your hands after handling or tending your chickens, you should be okay. Little kids may need to be reminded to keep their hands out of their mouths while visiting the family flock.
What would be your top three reasons for keeping chickens in the city?
Fun, fun, and fun. If that's not enough reasons: To get eggs that are fresher and safer than those produced by industrial agriculture, and that haven't been passed through dozens of hands and shipped hundreds (or thousands) of miles. And so kids can grow up having some idea where their food comes from. Contrary to what some kids believe, eggs are not manufactured in plastic cartons.
Smell and flies? Any tips?
Keep bedding clean and dry. Odor generally comes from moist bedding, which may be a result of too many chickens for the size of their housing. If flies get to be a problem, use fly traps or good-quality flypaper, or introduce natural fly predators.

What would be a good size flock for a beginning urban chicken keeper?
That would depend a great deal on how much space is available and how many eggs are desired. I wouldn't want to have fewer than three hens, because chickens are social animals. If you have three hens that average 150 eggs per year each, that'd be around 450 eggs, which might be plenty for a family of two or three but not enough for a family of six. Most hatcheries include in their breed descriptions information on egg production, which varies with breed and strain.
And last but not least, the most frequently asked chicken question...
Do you need a rooster? Of course, I ask this kind of tongue and cheek. :)
Oh, yeah! Everyone needs a rooster. They're half the fun of keeping chickens. But contrary to common belief, hens will lay just as many eggs with or without a rooster. The only difference egg-wise is that the eggs won't be fertile and therefore can't hatch. So in areas where chicken keeping is legal, but roosters are not, the hens will get along just fine without one.
Thank you Gail for the great Q&A what a treat to do this with you!

Book Giveaway 

To celebrate the release of The Chicken Encyclopedia,
Storey Publishing is giving a free book to one BOHO Farm and Home reader. 

Just post a comment below on this post or on our BOHO Facebook page
and you'll be entered to win!
US residents only. 

Join along on The Chicken Encyclopedia Blog Tour

3/2 For the Love of Chickens
3/3 Vintage Garden Gal
3/4 The Garden Roof Coop
3/5 Common Weeder
3/6 Chickens in the Road
3/7 Garden Rant
3/8 Fresh Eggs Daily
3/9 My Pet Chicken Blog
3/10 Coop Thoughts
3/11 BOHO Farm and Home
3/12 Happy Chickens Lay Healthy Eggs
3/13 A Charlotte Garden
3/14 Farm Fresh Fun
3/15 The HenCam
3/16 Life on a Southern Farm
3/17 ADozenGirlz, The Chicken Chick™
3/18 North Coast Gardening


  1. This is a great blog post for me. Just today Ben and I were outside planning where to put the shed we're about to build. He asked why we don't just disassemble the large dog kennel we have, which is where we're going to put the shed. My answer... "because I might use it as part of a chicken run." Him... "Well, we won't be getting chickens in the next 6 months or so." Me... "Oh, I didn't know that."... little does he know. :-)

  2. Yay,Chickens! Great giveaway. Please enter me.

  3. Please enter me for the give away. We've had our chicks for a week and a half now, and I'm loving them!

  4. I love your blog and your beautiful gardens! We are getting chickens soon-please enter me

  5. Beautiful blog! My family and I are celebrating our first year with a flock of five this march! And we look forward to many more yrs of fun with our feathered friends.

  6. We don't live in town but there were still some helpful points... I would agree that the Polish Crested are a good choice for a "family" chicken :) we have one and she lets my girls pick her up and will take food out of our hands. She will even eat off your plate if you don't watch it, lol! So we have to watch her when we eat outside. She's also afraid of our rooster and has flown up onto my shoulder or arm multiple times as she knows I will keep her safe. Thanks for the giveaway offer!

  7. I hope I win - I have a lot to learn about chickens before we get ours next spring!!
    steeplechaser29 at yahoo dot com

  8. I could SO use this book! I'm getting my first chickens on April 20th. I'm getting 12, 3 of each of Buff Orpington, Golden Comet, Silver Laced Wyandotte and Black Australorp. Can't wait!

  9. Yay chickens and yay giveaway! I love checking out all these different blogs!

  10. We would love to win the chicken encyclopedia!

  11. Gail's encyclopedia would be delightful to win, and I love her comment in your Blog about how half the fun of keeping chickens is having a rooster in the flock! Please publish articles on how to keep a rooster happy and healthy.

  12. What a lovely blog - so happy this contest is going on. Now there are so many more resources to enjoy! thanks!

  13. Wonderful interview. And I love the blog too. I'm adding it to my Reader.

    Thank you!

  14. I have seven urban girls and they love it here in the city. Although I have not told them that your chickens have a chandelier - they would want one too! Thanks for being such a fun inspiration!

  15. I like your Blog, and I'd like to win the Encyclopedia. What a beautiful, upscale Blog you have, with gorgeous photos.

  16. I love having chickens! I've raised them solely on Google searches but would love to win the book.

    Although only a family of 3, we have 8 girls that keep us in plenty of quiche, egg salad, and breakfast. Wish I could have a rooster but my Brahmas are loud enough for my neighborhood. I love having an assortment of breeds. It's so nice to look out back and see all of their beautiful colors.

  17. It has been a pleasure meeting all these new people who are passionate about chickens. Going on one year and loving every minute of it. Our girls have taught us so much about life! love your blog with its beautiful photos. Thanks for entering us in your contest. Not sure how to select a profile since we don't have a blog so here is our or gmail.

  18. hello caroline and "the girls" ! we adore you and your blog...can hardly wait to create a beautiful coop like yours! you inspire us! hugs,ann-marie and bella

  19. Hi Caroline--

    great give away. Would love to have a copy of this book. As always, your chicken experience is one of my personal 'go-tos'. Great Q and A.

    have a great week- Pat

  20. Oh my gosh what timing. I have been wanting to get chickens for years and my hubby I think was convinced today about how great it will be. Would love a chance to win the book. Thanks.

  21. Please enter me in your contest. I think it would be so much fun to have chickens!

  22. OOh Me OH me!!! :) I was soo sad to lose my chickens last year and miss them terribly. I'm getting a new flock this spring and could use the tips. Sometimes strange things come up and I could use that book as the blogs don't cover everything.
    I'm will definately order a copy of this book if I don't win, though. Thanks!

  23. I will certainly need this -- we started on our coop last weekend :) I just made one last run through the neighborhood before big trash pickup, because we are trying to salvage everything. You should have seen me, car loaded down, with wood sticking out of the sunroof, the windows and the trunk. I'm down to only needing chicken wire, cement and a gate latch. We're so excited! I too will order this book first thing!
    xo, Andrea

  24. i love, love, love gail's books :) i can't get enough. i most recently read her dairy goats book. she's the BEST!

  25. I would love to win this book! Thanks for the chance.

  26. I would love to start having chickens in the back yard! LOVE fresh eggs! Please enter me :) (

  27. What a great book, I can not wait to have chickens in my own backyard.

  28. I would love to get my hands on this book... I live in the same neighborhood and am so inspired!

  29. This looks like it woudl be a great book to read and learn from. I have been raising chickens now for 2 years and I am always learning something about them. I do alot of internet searches to find the answers that I need about the different breeds of chickens. Be nice to have this great book to curl up on the bed with me at the end of the day to read, learn or just look at the pictures.

  30. Please put my name in for the drawing, I would love to win a copy of her book for my chicken library. I started raising chickens in the suburbs of Calif. Best you do not have a rooster. The neighbors did not like mine.

  31. Thank you -- there is so much I have to learn about chickens -- I have been so thrilled with all the great info coming out of the blog tour! Good luck with the flea market this weekend -- wish I was closer and could go!


Thank you so much for your sweet comments!

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