Category Archives: chickens

Iowa Community Cooperation in Building a Chicken House 1919


“Apparently, construction of the new chicken house was a neighborhood affair. I’d guess the women cooked meals for the men working on the project. Dad took this somewhere in Iowa, probably around 1919 to go with an article for Country Gentleman. I count at least 28 people and a dog.” —Don O’Brien. (Photo credit: dok1 on Flickr)

(Note that Thursday is Luddite Photo Day at B.P.A.)

3 Picks: France Farmer Suicides, Henlights, Indoor Cropping

Below, are today’s three chosen agricultural-related news picks.

1) Male farmers in France are 20 percent more likely to take their own lives than the rest of the population: A new report says that financial pressures and social isolation are the leading causes. According to figures from France’s National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies, revenue from farming fell by 23.6 percent between 2007 and 2008 and a further 35.3 percent between 2008 and 2009. Livestock farmers have been hit the worst.

2) Increasing Egg Production On Small Farms: A Solution To The International Food Crisis? By Abigail Wick.In Berlin on September 20-22, the 2013 Thought for Food Global Summit (TFF) convened thought leaders from 25 countries, including venture capitalists, politicians, scientists, entrepreneurs, artists, and university students to address the international food crisis from a wide array of disciplines, with the aim of generating collaborative, actionable strategies to feed the planet. … The winning team, from the University of California at Davis, introduced Henlights. A small, solar-powered LED light designed to be hung in chicken coops, Henlight can be used to stimulate increased egg production during darker winter months, when egg production naturally declines. A technique already use in large-scale egg production, Henlight makes this practice affordable for small-scale and family farms.

3) Optimism About the Future of Indoor Food Production: By Tess Riley. Hydroponics and LED lights used in indoor greenhouses, though the systems are expensive to build, have the potential to greatly increase vegetable yields, and protect plants from unpredictable weather. The increasing use of renewables as heat and energy sources in these systems is the way forward.

BONUS: Photos from Boston Globe’s “Big Picture” on the 2013 harvest from around the world.

This news post was written and compiled by K. McDonald.

Chicken Tractors in UK 1943


Modern Farming; Agriculture in Britain, 1943. Edward Raines, poultryman on a Hampshire farm, moves a poultry fold into line with the others in the field. Each of these chicken ‘sheds’ contains 25 birds. They are moved their length every day, providing fresh ground for the hens to feed on and also making sure that the chicken manure is spread across the whole field. According to the original caption: “the folds are portable and, with the aid of simple, wheeled moving-gear, are easily moved”. Photo: Ministry of Information Second World War Official Collection.

(Note that Thursday is Luddite Photo Day at B.P.A.)

3 Picks: Guerrilla Gardeners, Heritage Chickens, Jet Stream


Volailles de Bresse (note blue legs). Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Below, are today’s three chosen agricultural-related news picks.

1) Some Serious Guerrilla Gardeners in the UK: Holly Williams presents a delightful tale that could come from no other place than Britain. “The really notable thing about the Incredible Edible founders is that they don’t just worry: they act. Their “just do it” spirit is remarkable – if only Nike did wellies instead of trainers… They’re also deliciously naughty: as Brown is fond of telling us, repeatedly, they don’t ask permission before they plant, because that slows it up, miring a small, simple action in forms and bureaucracy. And, when it comes down to it, nobody really objects to a few cabbages. As long as it doesn’t cost them anything, and still looks nice, the council is “good at not looking”, she claims. The police chief even begged them not to ask him for permission to plant at the station, because then he’d have to go through his superiors and it might never get the green-light – another indictment of the hands-tied culture of permission so prevalent in many organisations today. Brown has a handy catchphrase for all this: “Ask for forgiveness, not permission.”

2) ILRI Discusses Chickens: “Before he got into chickens, Bradshaw had raised pork and cattle on Greenfire Farms, his plot of land 12 miles west of Tallahassee, FL. Now Bradshaw has stopped farming cattle and pork entirely, fully dedicating his operations to the heritage breed chicken business. . . . ‘The 19 breeds he raises, which range from the American Bresse to the Tolbent Polish, are sold throughout the U.S. and Canada and often come with waiting lists.” (includes two videos) AND, for a chicken BONUS, see this photo of luxury henhouses in Guizhou, China.

3) Weather Extremes Tied to Jet Stream: Seth Borenstein tells us that the jet stream has been unusually erratic the past few years, causing unusual events like floods and heat. … “I’ve been doing meteorology for 30 years and the jet stream the last three years has done stuff I’ve never seen,” said Jeff Masters.

This news post was written and compiled by K. McDonald.

Garden Interview with Barbara, Part 4.

In this series, Barbara, a gardening friend who has a wealth of knowledge to share with us and has graciously done an extensive interview for this site, today tells us about raising chickens, having a U-Pick garden for customers, the choice to raise goats, and her recommendations of perennial flowers and berries. (Note that I took all of the included photos on Barbara’s property when she lived here in Boulder.) Enjoy!

If you missed the other interviews, they are listed below:

Q: One of the charming things about your property were your free-range chickens and we loved getting eggs from you. Can you give people here some tips on raising chickens? Which chicken varieties do you recommend for egg-laying? Do you agree with Joel Salatin that chickens really help the soil and enhance the farms ecosystem?

A: Oh my gosh, do they ever help the farm. They were the reason my earwig menace disappeared. I loved allowing the chickens into the vegetable patch after the growing season was over and hated fencing them out again in spring – but of course they are quite destructive with most edibles.

Free ranging fowl are beautiful, as pleasant as flowers around your yard. I loved having them – but would not want hens if I had to confine them (unless it was a huge, huge pen) for the free movement was what made them interesting. Raising chickens on a small lot, that natural freedom would be difficult to attain. I have no plans to do so here in Washington in my new yard. My son’s family has 5 chickens but they are in a small area and I really feel sorry for them.

As to varieties, there are so many great ones. I tried lots of breeds but certainly don’t know even the majority. My faves for egg production were Black Star and Red Star. They are hybrids, smallish, don’t eat a lot and are excellent large brown egg producers. But for beauty, I’d chose the Americauna, the Buff Orpington and Australorps which are all good egg producers as well as lovely to look at. For kids, Buff Orpington are calm and good pets.

Q: You had a simple sign on your back fence that welcomed people to pick ‘n pay. Can you comment on that system and would you recommend it to other gardeners?

A: I am a lazy gardener and certainly don’t want the sort of commitment even a small CSA would entail. And the thought of spending time at a farmers’ market booth is dreadful. I’d rather be doing something fun like gardening! So since I had an abundance, I started giving it away to my kids’ families and neighbors. Then I enlarged the garden and planted more and found that others wanted some but felt they should pay in return – it just sort of happened. I really didn’t want to assign prices for pick-your-own veggies and it wasn’t that important that I get a certain amount of money. I was happy with anything and it seemed that others were happy to come at their convenient hours to pick the produce which couldn’t be fresher. It just seemed a natural evolution for someone who obsesses with growing stuff.

Q: You raised goats on the back part of your acre. Why did you decide to include goats on your little farm?

A: I got my goats because Sierra Club’s magazine introduced me to the concept of goat packing as environmentally sound. It was about 1995 or so and I had tried llama packing but found it to be problematic – llamas are truly wild animals and have absolutely no loyalty. When we moved to Colorado, I finally had a good spot for a goat pasture. That back section was weedy and full of bindweed and thistle and had a rundown loafing shed. My husband helped me fix that up and I went to Haystack Mountain Dairy to talk to them. There, I found two newborn males destined to be sent off to a feedlot barn and raised for slaughter. They were Nubians with beautiful long ears and I fell in love.

By this time I had read several books on goat packing and had learned that Nubians are not a recommended breed for that purpose. Undaunted, I brought them home that day, two neutered males, a few days old, and bottle fed them. What a joy they were. They ate the bindweed and thistle! Went back and got two more. Husband was getting scared but he came to love them too. My ninety year old mom was with us and how she loved bottle feeding them and holding the babies on her lap. There is nothing as sweet and clever as a kid. Sometimes she would just sit in the yard and watch them play for hours. If you remember our gigantic willow tree in back, you’ll recall that it had a huge sloping trunk. The kids would climb that tree and run up thirty feet or so to forage on the willow leaves there.

Anyway, I can see I’m getting carried away with my goat memories. The four boys grew into massive goats, each over 200 pounds and they were the BEST packers ever. We never had to lead them, they would jump in the trailer voluntarily, stand for loading their packs and cavort down any trail with great pleasure. They were amazingly fond of a campfire and once one even singed his long ears while he hung over the flames. They did long trips to The Holy Cross Wilderness, the Wind River Wilderness, other areas in Wyoming, and several trips around Breckenridge.

They also went on lots and lots of day hikes in the Boulder area. They attended a National Goat Packing Convention in Wyoming where goat packers from all over the west convened to camp and socialize. We did a work project jointly for the Forest Service and of all the goats there, mine were the biggest and most willing to carry large heavy weather station equipment. They willingly crossed streams and didn’t beg at mealtimes – all to the amazement of those goat packers who “knew” Nubians were lazy and unfit. And their photo was featured on the cover of “The Journal of the Working Goat” magazine! Such great goats. Finally, they grew too old to pack and retired to be pasture potatoes – which is when you knew them, I think.

So you see, I didn’t really pick them for their breed but I’d recommend them to anyone. The Nubian does are great milkers too.

Q: Tell what perennials, fruit trees, berries, and the like are worth growing and do you have any favorite varieties which you recommend?

Well, for easy care, xeric perennials are great. I always grow Rudbeckia triloba which is a lovely black-eyed susan with miniature flowers. Thomas Jefferson grew these. Another he loved was Alcea nigra, the black (really dark, dark red/purple) hollyhock and I find these so striking. I always grow lavender, any hardy variety. Gaura is so elegant and needs no care – it is one of my best perennials and kids really enjoy seeing the butterfly flowers bobbing around. And one of my standbys is Centranthus ruber (Jupiter’s Beard), another is the hardy geranium, Rozanne. All these plants can handle zone 5 or lower and need very little care.

Fruit trees are not my forte, but the sour cherry Montmorency is nice to have for pies and jam and I do love figs, which overwinter in my new garden. I’m an advocate of Mara des Bois strawberries, a day neutral variety. Elderberry is a lovely shrub that produces berries very useful for making medicinal syrup – I’m growing the variety Sutherland Gold and it’s as pretty as a Japanese Maple with its airy deeply cut leaves.

Note that this concludes part 4. of Barbara’s interview and next Friday we’ll be back with Part 5. Thank-you Barbara!