Singing the egg song April 11, 2014 No Comments

Lissa received this question about the egg song from a fellow Chickenista:

“My australorp started singing her egg song again after some time not laying, and she even disappears for a certain amount of time in the backyard.  I’ve looked everywhere for her egg, and especially hard near where she emerges right before she sings, but I’ve found no nest and no eggs.  What gives?” –Debra

First, thanks for mentioning the “egg song.” For those readers who don’t know exactly what this refers to, it’s one of the colloquial names for the specific cackle or squawk made by a hen when she lays an egg. “Egg song” is actually my favorite term for it, because—in my opinion—this is the name that most closely matches a hen’s intent: to SING!

To be fair, I've seen humans sing an egg song when I share a dozen beauties with them.

To be fair, I’ve seen humans sing an egg song when I share a dozen beauties with them.

As our letter writer Debra knows, a hen typically makes this sound just after she’s laid. It’s a cackle, a squawk, an announcement, a celebration… or a song! It doesn’t normally last very long, and is usually the loudest sound a hen makes, which is to say about the same volume as a conversation between two people. In fiction, a hen transformed into a human would surely be an opera singer! Or maybe she’d just have a deep and abiding love for Gilbert and Sullivan musicals.

Not every hen sings when she lays. Read the rest of this entry »

3 final tips for legalizing chickens April 4, 2014 3 Comments

Throughout March, we’ve been discussing ways to work toward getting chickens legalized in your communities. Last week, we took a brief break to share some amazing news with you, but this week we’re wrapping up our legalize chickens DIY series by discussing petitions. This is often the first thing people who contact us ask about with regard to legalizing chickens, but it probably shouldn’t be.

legalizing chickens for beautiful eggs

I half think you should first find out if you can send them some eggs so gorgeous it will blow their minds!

The problem is that for the most part, petitions are of limited use. They CAN be a powerful tool, of course… Read the rest of this entry »

Best Chicken Blog News EVAH March 28, 2014 3 Comments

Today I’m blogging about Martha Stewart blogging about My Pet Chicken. How very meta. Plus, I may have discovered a way, using just chickens and geekiness, to travel back in time. How, you ask? I’ll tell you, But first a short trip down memory lane!

I’ve been subscribed to Living magazine for more than a decade. I keep my back issues, and in fact, come the various holiday seasons, I’ll get out the blocks of them to look for seasonal recipes and decorating ideas to try.

Martha Stewart Living back issues

This is JUST April!

Martha Stewart has blogged about My Pet Chicken before. (I’ve also mentioned Martha Stewart in my blog posts several times: gingerbread coop, anyone? Or do you want to make her amazing chocolate rum balls?) You may also know My Pet Chicken has been on her show (more than once!).

Traci at the Martha Stewart show, 2012

Here, Traci gets ready for the My Pet Chicken appearance on the Martha Stewart Show in 2012

We’ve been hand delivering live baby chicks to Martha Stewart every year. My Pet Chicken chickens are Martha Stewart chickens. Martha loves the especially rare breed, trendy birds she can get from us! This year, Traci delivered Black Copper Marans, Blue Laced Red Wyandottes, Blue Ameraucanas, Lavender Orpingtons, and Olive Eggers.

martha stewart shipping label

Photo courtesy of Martha Stewart

These are seriously cool chickens to add to a flock, and will lay some gorgeous eggs, too! Martha will have chocolate brown, light brown, pale blue and olive green eggs from these beauties.

Eggs colored by hens!

I have these same colors in my own flock.

This new post on Martha’s blog is especially exciting to me personally, because she mentions our new book, the My Pet Chicken Handbook. Who would ever have thought Martha Stewart would be blogging about me (Lissa says, not without some serious exaggeration!). But I’m really excited about this! Traci looks happy showing off the book, too.

My Pet Chicken Handbook

Show it off, Traci! (Photo courtesy Martha Stewart.)

But how does this relate to time travel using chickens and geekiness?  Let me tell you. Read the rest of this entry »

Legalize Chickens DIY – Part 3 March 21, 2014 No Comments

The first part of this blog series on how to work toward legalizing backyard pet chickens in your area can be found here. The second “legalize chickens” post can be found here.

By now, you’ve done some research so you know what the laws are, who can change them, and you have a proposal to do so. At this point, there are two different ways to go.

1. You could present your legalize chickens proposal directly to the council or board members who can change the laws.

Flora the Speckled Sussex shows off her plumage while foraging

Flora the Speckled Sussex shows off her plumage while foraging

Pros: This allows you to proceed quickly. But the satisfaction of quick action isn’t always reflected in its effectiveness.

Cons: Read the rest of this entry »

Legalize Chickens DIY – Part 2 March 14, 2014 No Comments

Last week I posted Part 1 of the “Legalize Chickens DIY” series. This is the second post in the series.

If you read last week’s post, by now you’ve done some research. You know what the laws are in your area, you know who can change those laws, and you know whether or not they already have any position on the matter. What should you do next?

backyard - real free range - legalize chickens

If you want to legalize chickens, THIS is what you’re hoping to see in your backyard, right?

Before approaching anyone with a request to legalize chickens, you should have a detailed proposal that encompasses what you envision the new regulations to allow. Again, this seems basic, but it’soften more instinctual for someone to simply call up their council member, for example, and demand the legalization of chickens in the town or area, without thinking everything through. But remember, “Make backyard chickens legal!” is not a law in an of itself, and it’s fairly unlikely that a town council or board member will simply eliminate existing prohibitions without any restriction at all. The idea is to make the regulations you propose bear some resemblance to common sense. If you want to legalize chickens, you’ll want to prepare a proposal outlining in detail what you envision the new code to be.

What to address in your DIY Legalize Chickens proposal: Read the rest of this entry »

Legalize Chickens DIY – Part 1 March 7, 2014 7 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.

Legalize chickens so you can chicken watch!

Even chickens like chicken watching!

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 Read the rest of this entry »

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.

espresso biscotti and coffee

These espresso biscotti are made with real coffee… so they WILL give you a jolt, with or without accompanying coffee!

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.  Read the rest of this entry »

Training Your Dog to Accept Your Chickens February 21, 2014 9 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.

As of yesterday, I’ve joined the ranks of dog owners. I adopted a little dog from a rescue organization. (I later learned yesterday was “National Love Your Pet Day”–how appropriate!)

Training your dog to accept your chickens - Ruby King Charles Cavalier Spaniel

Meet Reggie. <3 How can you not love this pretty face?

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 wonder if I’ll ever have my little dog off leash with my chickens? He’s not a Livestock Guardian breed; the King Charles Cavalier Spaniel is a companion breed. The real worry 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.

DSC_2087

He’s ready for his walk, he’s telling me!

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.

DSC_2020

I think one of these cookies is smiling at me

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.

Handbook cover

Celebrate with us!

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.

Handbook expert plans

Our new book shares not only what to do–but also what NOT to do!

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 »