Legalize Chickens DIY – Part 1 March 7, 2014 5 Comments
We’ve received a lot of questions over the years about how people interested in keeping chickens can legalize chickens in their area. The typical arguments against keeping small flocks of backyard hens are silly, to say the least. They’re so silly, I wrote a blog post about the 6 silliest arguments against keeping backyard chickens, and it’s among our most popular posts.
But even though disallowing pet backyard flocks is silly, you don’t want to violate the law and put your pet hens at risk of being taken away—or worse, euthanized. So, first things first: make sure chickens are legal in your area *before* you get your hens. If chickens are not already legal in your area, you’ll have some work to do. But how do you go about it? The problem is that legalizing chickens is a complex issue, because codes and regulations governing keeping chickens can vary so much depending on where you live, and many people haven’t the faintest idea how to even begin.
For instance, one My Pet Chicken customer wrote with the bright idea that if she violated her local laws, she would get a free lawyer appointed to defend her if she got caught. Well… no. That’s not how it works. Except for some narrow exceptions having nothing to do with chicken keeping, unless you are violating criminal law, you have no right to appointed counsel. Don’t violate the civil or municipal codes thinking you can deal with the fallout later. This is a seriously bad idea on many levels.
But even when we get more reasonable questions such as “how do I write a good petition?” there’s no easy way to answer, because it depends so much on where you live and how the specific laws or codes read in your area. That said, we can start breaking it down so you can determine how to approach the problem and legalize chickens in your area.
Legalize Chickens – Step 1: Gather Information
A.) Find out exactly which codes are prohibiting chickens in your area and what they say.
This may be self-evident to some of you, but it bears discussion. Sometimes chickens are prohibited by zoning laws; sometimes by health codes. Sometimes, they’re prohibited by a combination. Sometimes the issue is an HOA. Sometimes someone at your local town hall will just presume chickens are illegal to keep in your backyard… but as it turns out, there is no such prohibition on the books. Sometimes it happens that the prohibition only applies to “livestock,” which may or may not include chickens. Depending on the way your local laws are written, small flocks of chickens may, quite rightfully, be regarded as pets rather than as income-producing livestock. Be sure to read the definitions of “pets,” “livestock” and so forth as regarded by your local laws. It may be possible to remove the prohibition simply by changing the way the law defines pets or livestock. Do your basic research and figure out whether or not you’re allowed to have chickens. If you’re not, find out which laws prohibit them.
B.) Find out who can change the existing laws or codes.
Once you know what the exact laws are in your area, you’ll need to find out who can change them. Municipal codes are often controlled by your town’s mayor and/or city council. They may be handled by a zoning board. Health codes may be written or rewritten by the local Board of Health, or by committees appointed by city officials and/or local government bodies. In many cases, people want to jump right in with a petition! But starting with the idea that you just need a good petition is wrong, or at the least incomplete. A vague petition asking your local town council to allow chickens may not be especially helpful if the town council has no power to directly change the laws you oppose.
You’ll need to approach the right body, and learn what the process is to getting those particular codes changed. After all, if it’s the Board of Health that needs to make the changes, scheduling meetings with the mayor will be of limited use. Instead, find out who you need to contact, and learn how the individual/s who can change the law got appointed or elected.
C.) Find out if the people who can change the laws/codes already have a position on the matter
Has the “legalize chickens” issue come up in your area before? It can be helpful to know what position each board or council -member held the last time this was addressed—or if there are new people who will be looking at the issue this time. Can you check voting records? Is there information that can be found in the archives of your local paper? Even if you find out some councilors are already opposed, that doesn’t mean they can’t be persuaded this time. We haven’t seen any logical reasons to oppose your right to keep a small flocks of hens in your yard, and in many cases, you may find that the last time this came up, the people fighting for their rights were less informed than you will be.
Find out what the opposition said the last time this issue was raised. You’re likely to find that previously the argument against keeping chickens was a matter of ignoratio elenchi—in other words, arguments from ignorance. For instance, it’s common for opponents to argue that chickens create too much waste, ignoring the fact that a small flock of chickens actually produces less waste than dogs or cats (and the waste can be composted)! Unfortunately, some people will maintain a willful ignorance and will continue to argue the point as if it’s valid, despite the facts. Reasonable people, however, when presented with this fact, will then dismiss the argument that chickens create too much waste. You already have the facts on your side, so you’re already in a better position than the opposition!
Now that you know what sort of research to start with, you’ll want to know your next step. Next week, I’ll move on to Part 2, Crafting Your “Legalize Chickens” Proposal.
Espresso Biscotti February 28, 2014 No Comments
After the exciting discovery of the secret to the best chocolate chip cookies in the world, I thought I would see if the improvements would carry over into other types of cookies… specifically one of my favorites: biscotti.
I tend to like the Italian-style biscotti: made without oils, they’re hard and crisp confections that stand up well to dipping in coffee. The American style, made with butter or oil, tends to be lighter and crumblier, and less able to withstand dipping. There’s nothing more disappointing on a mundane morning than having your cookie break off and drop into your coffee. However… butter. Butter tastes better. I assume I’m getting no argument on this, because our readers are not crazy people, right?
Butter = good.
After luxuriating in the discovery that Daisy all-purpose flour not only improved the texture of chocolate chip cookies, but also made the butter flavor stand out more, I got the bright idea to see if it would improve my Espresso Biscotti recipe. My Americanized recipe calls for butter, so consequently they have been crumbly. However, espresso biscotti made without the butter just didn’t taste as good.
Here’s my Espresso Biscotti hypotheses:
1. Using a high proportion of bread flour should reduce crumbliness and give them the exture of an Italian biscotti, which I prefer.
2. Using the Daisy flour might even increase the tastiness, since it brought out the buttery flavor in the chocolate chip cookies.
After making my experiment, here are my Espresso Biscotti findings:
1. Hot damn, these are still delicious.
2. The texture is better… but still not up to Italian biscotti standards. Maybe all bread flour next time? Maybe half butter and another egg? I had tried that before and the taste suffered… but I hadn’t tried it with this superior flour.
3. These weren’t butterier… but they were espresso-ier. YUM! Perhaps Daisy just brings out whatever flavor is key?
Anyone care to tweak this and tell me how to get that hard crunch in a recipe like this? If you do like American crumbly biscotti, you’ll probably enjoy this version very much. Here’s my attempt:
Lissa’s Espresso Biscotti
- 2 TBSP espresso powder or finely ground coffee (regular grounds will be too coarse; use something that’s practically powder)
- 2 TBSP coffee liqueur
- 1/2 c unsalted butter
- 3/4 c sugar
- 2 fresh backyard eggs
- 1-1/4 cup Daisy all purpose flour
- 1 cup Daisy bread flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted for 10 minutes in the oven
Mix together finely ground coffee or coffee powder and coffee liqueur in small bowl and set aside. Cream together butter and sugar, then beat in fresh eggs, one at a time. Add mixture of dry ingredients, then fold in almonds. Divide dough in two and make two logs, about 12 inches x 2.5 inches each.
Bake in preheated 300 degree oven for 25 minutes. Cool 4 minutes, then slice on the bias into cookies.
Lay cookies on cookie sheet and bake for 12 – 15 more minutes to dry out. Remove from oven and cool completely on a rack. Keep in an airtight container.
Training Your Dog to Accept Your Chickens February 21, 2014 7 Comments
Training your dog to accept your chickens can seem like a Herculean task! Dogs and chickens don’t always make a good combo, unfortunately. Some dogs want to eat your chickens, other dogs just want to give chase. Both can be bad; chickens who are trying desperately to get away from a chasing dog—even a dog who is just playing and would never actually bite them—can break their own necks or trample each other like a mob at a rock concert. But training your dog to accept your chickens is something many people do successfully.
When we wrote our book, the My Pet Chicken Handbook—have you entered our “Chicken Dream Prize” contest, yet, BTW?—we solicited a contribution from expert livestock guardian dog breeder and trainer Jackie Church of Windance Farms about how to train your dog to accept your chickens. Now I get to personally follow her advice!
Actually, I doubt I will ever have my little dog off leash in the unfenced area with my chickens. He’s not a Livestock Guardian breed; the King Charles Cavalier Spaniel is a companion breed. But that’s not really the issue. The real issue is that even once I get him to accept my flock, there would be too many other things for him to chase off down the mountain: chipmunks, squirrels, song birds… even butterflies and blowing leaves. We have no traffic, but getting lost in the woods is dangerous, too. Our exercise will be from daily hikes rather than outside off-leash play.
Still, even though he won’t be off-leash, I don’t want to have to wrestle him back every time he sees a chicken, so we’re proceeding with the advice of Ms. Church. The good news is that we got off to a good start, yesterday. It helps that he actually seems to show no interest in chasing anything larger than the size of a softball. He completely ignores our cats (who nonetheless seem befuddled from the new addition). The chickens, as well, he ignores… or at least he does so from a distance of 30 feet or so. However, his attitude may change as he gets more comfortable his new home, so we’re taking things very slowly.
So, I have the information about how to successfully train my dog to accept my chickens—and so far so good! But from those other dog owners out there, what book/s would you recommend for the (non-chicken-related) dog training? Do you have a favorite book to recommend, appropriate for a first time dog owner?
Secret ingredient: Best Chocolate Chip Cookies in the World February 14, 2014 7 Comments
I never really “got” chocolate chip cookies until I tasted the cookies my husband made.
Don’t get me wrong: I ate a chocolate chip cookie now and then, but there were probably a dozen or more other cookies I would prefer over chocolate chip if given a choice. Molasses cookies, gingerbread, snickerdoodles, almond lace, shortbread, peanut butter, and especially Martha Stewart’s coconut biscuits–YUM!
But chocolate chip? Eh. I often turned them down. No thanks. Not my thing. I didn’t understand why people went so gaga over chocolate chip cookies. There were so many other delicious cookies out there that I wondered if chocolate chip cookie lovers just hadn’t experienced many homemade cookies growing up. Homemade chocolate chip cookies are certainly an improvement over Chips Ahoy!
Then my husband, no doubt longing for the chocolate chip cookies that I seldom made, lighted on a recipe he wanted to try. It didn’t really look that different from the ones I used (at first the Tollhouse recipe, then the Cook’s Illustrated Perfect Cookie recipe). The recipe he found used real butter. So did the recipes I used. It goes without saying that we always use good, fresh eggs from our own hens. His recipe used quality dark chocolate, which is what I used. (Even in the Nestle Tollhouse recipe, I had never used Nestle morsels). His new recipe also called for making the dough ahead and letting it chill at least 36 hours. I did the same thing, since I knew a full hydration made a huge difference in the quality of the finished cookie.
But two things that made the recipe he found unusual. Read the rest of this entry »
Chicken Dream Prize February 7, 2014 164 Comments
If you read the My Pet Chicken blog, you’re doubtless familiar with the My Pet Chicken website. Now there’s a My Pet Chicken Handbook, too–and we’d like to celebrate! Read about what we’re giving away and how to enter below.
We wrote our book because we realized that the vast majority of the frequently asked questions we hear about backyard chicken keeping were actually coming from people who had already read chicken how-to books–sometimes several books!–but who still found that many of their basic questions had been left unaddressed. Our new book is a complete resource for beginners in the pet chicken world. For those who have some experience or who have done some research, the My Pet Chicken Handbook fills in the gaps left by other how-to books.
My Pet Chicken Handbook and Chicken Dream Prize Giveaway
In conjunction with the release of our book, we’re offering a giveaway. To enter, Read the rest of this entry »
Rare chicken breeds – Top 4 Available Now! January 18, 2014 12 Comments
Rare chicken breeds: you probably already know My Pet Chicken is the place to get the rare breeds, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. If you’ve tried to reserve them in the past, you may have found it difficult to do so. they’re snapped up quickly! So what I’m telling you today is that we have them RIGHT NOW.
Yes. Now. Go look before someone else buys them.
The big problem with offering these rare chicken breeds Read the rest of this entry »
Roosters v Coyotes January 10, 2014 10 Comments
This morning I could hear the yipping and howling of coyotes down in our holler. Even so, I’m not too worried; I have roosters to help keep a look out. But how can roosters hope to deal with coyotes? Let me explain!
Coyotes are in my area year-round, but we tend to be aware of them more during the winter. At this time of year, coyotes have to look harder and range further for the small animals they prey upon . In addition, we have 45 acres set in the middle of many different parcels of hunting land. Deer season—usually late in the year—is practically the only time we ever see vehicles on the road, in fact. The hunting cabins light up, bonfires burn, and there’s generally a friendly and celebratory atmosphere. Who wouldn’t be celebratory when you get to see things like this every morning?
However, it also seems to herald the coyotes. Read the rest of this entry »
20 ways my hens shamed me January 3, 2014 17 Comments
Recently, we had to buy eggs—oh, the shame of having chickens and buying eggs! We bought humanely raised eggs from a local farm, of course, but it still felt weird buying eggs! For us, there are not only ethical reasons to avoid buying factory farm eggs, but also… just ick. Factory farm eggs are unappetizing, ghastly pale and have a lot less actual taste than eggs from a backyard flock, where hens have access to pasture.
We don’t usually have to buy eggs, even in winter. We have cold—but not extreme—winters in West Virginia. There is a lot of skiiing–Snowshoe, Canaan and Winterplace are popular resorts. If you don’t ski, you usually go sledding. Chickens? Not so much into sledding. Or snow, although if it’s not too deep, they’ll usually venture out in it, anyway.
We have enough hens that we normally don’t have to go without eggs, but all the girls seemed to molt at the same time this year. That seldom happens in my flock since I have so many different breeds and mixes; it’s usually more staggered. But this year right around the holidays—just when we were planning for holiday meals, cookies and egg nog—we were down to three eggs, and no one had laid for 10 days.
So, we bought two dozen local eggs, just to tide us over. The shame, the shame! The dearth of eggs shouldn’t last more than another week or two, I thought, so we could get by if we were frugal.
Two days after we purchased: four eggs.
Two days after that: seven.
Yesterday, I gathered eight.
That’s 19 eggs in less than a week, 19 ways they showed me I should have had faith in them. Add the shame of buying eggs, and that equals 20 ways my hens recently shamed me. Good work, girls. I should have been patient. (But I’m not too disappointed, of course, because I think this means we can indulge in a winter quiche!)
What do you do for eggs when your hens are molting, or when they’re laying few due to the season? Let us know in the comments, or take our poll.
And the winner is… December 20, 2013 11 Comments
Time to vote on your favorite!
Except… we only have one entry. What happened to the folks who emailed and commented last year about their plans to make a gingerbread coop?!! We would have loved to see the coops you made.
So, by default we have a winner, Rosella, who created this wonderful gingerbread chicken coop:
Our winner Rosella also has a blog, including a post with more photos of her adorable coop. I recommend you visit her blog, because she’s evidently a fabulous crocheter, too, and has numerous cute photos of a crocheted flock helping her bake gingerbread! Plus, in the other photos you can see cool little details of her creation, including the fact that this is a raised coop, on candy cane stilts.
Rosella wins a signed copy of our upcoming My Pet Chicken Handbook (once it is released in February). And because she’s such a crocheter, I’ll also send her a free Mama Hen and Chicks customizable crochet pattern as a holiday gift. Congratulations, Rosella! You should have already received my email.
Even though we can’t exactly discuss which coop should win the contest, please share your thoughts–maybe regrets for not entering?– in the comments. We will still give away a Raise Chickens! bumper magnet to a randomly selected commenter on this week’s blog post (you may comment more than once, but you will only be entered once). Comments must be submitted by midnight, December 26, 2013. The winner will be contacted via email, and you must respond within two weeks, or I’ll give your prize to someone else!
Gingerbread Chicken Coop Contest December 13, 2013 No Comments
Last year I baked a gingerbread chicken coop. This year I want to see YOUR gingerbread chicken coop.
And I’ll make it interesting for the contestants: the best gingerbread chicken coop will win a signed copy of the My Pet Chicken Handbook (although note the book won’t be released until February, so there will be something of a wait before your prize is ready!). Read on for the particulars of the contest; you don’t have to bake a coop to win a prize.
To enter the gingerbread chicken coop contest, Read the rest of this entry »