Northeastern Poultry Congress 2015 May 29, 2015 No Comments

If I could find one word to describe Poultry Congress this year, it would be something between crazy, and loud! Located on the fairgrounds known regiionally for the “Big E” fair, the Northeastern Poultry Congress is an event in mid January that poultry enthusiasts in the northeast look forward to all year. Between the rows and rows of show cages, the live poultry raffles, and all the chicken celebrities we’ve read about in Backyard Poultry Magazine, it’s like heaven on earth. This year was the first time I was able to go to the show, and I really wish I had been able to go sooner!

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A bunny who stopped by the My Pet Chicken table, checking out the My Pet Chicken handbook.

Read the rest of this entry »

How to chicken blog: 5 fabulous tips May 22, 2015 No Comments

When you get pet chickens, it changes your life… so much so that you may want to write your own chicken blog. You might be surprised how foreign the concept of chicken keeping is to some people, so you may want to share your own perspective! How often do they lay? Are they friendly? How do you put them in at night? You want to share your new joy and knowledge with everyone in your own chicken blog.

Silver Laced Wyandotte - chicken blog about your beautiful flock

When you have breeds as lovely as this Silver Laced Wyandotte, it’s difficult NOT to want to chicken blog.

Here are five fabulous tips to help you get started with your own chicken blog:

1. Write. It may seem self evident, but you need to “close the deal,” so to speak. It’s easy to think of subjects for your blog posts, and somewhat less easy to follow through and actually sit down to write them out. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of chicken blogs out there, but chicken blog after chicken blog have numerous posts during the first few months of existence and then peter out to nothing within a year. Don’t let this happen to you! Keep a Read the rest of this entry »

My dog saved me from a dragon May 15, 2015 No Comments

Today we’re going to talk about factory farm chickens. But first, a story. It will tie in; just bear with me.

Yesterday, my little dog Reggie saved me from a dragon. Well, not a dragon, of course, but it may as well have been as far as he was concerned! We were taking our usual hike through our woods, and he dashed forward and woofed at something. That normally means “I see you!” or “Did you smell that, Mom?”… followed a big doggie grin at me before moving on. He’s usually trying to draw my attention to something like a chipmunk, squirrel, wild turkey, or bunny, etc.

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I smell a squirrel who has been dining on hickory nuts and rose hips.

That day I continued along after his bark, as I usually do.  But instead of going on along with me, he put himself directly in my path and began barking at ME.

This. THIS is unusual.

Reggie the dog, Reggie the AWESOME dog - Cavalier Spaniel

I’m a lover, not a barker.

So I stopped and took a look around, only to notice the 5 foot long black snake he’d been barking at, half in the underbrush and half on the path. My loyal little dog was determined to save me from a serpent—a dragon!

“Good boy,” I told him, “what a good dog. Thanks, Reggie!” And he was instantly all wiggles and wags, although he woofed another bark at the dragon for good measure.

It wasn’t deadly danger. After all, black snakes are not normally aggressive… they’re actually pretty nice to have around, since they eat rodents. Still, it’s true I might have stepped on it by accident. I had been looking up and enjoying the locust blossoms; I hadn’t been looking at the path. The snake slithered off and we went on home. Reggie had an extra spring in his step and a waggy tail all day.

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You showed that dragon, Reg! Yes you did! Yes, you did!

Now, clearly this is not the most heroic dog story you’ve ever heard. He didn’t save me from a fire, or lead me to a drowning kitten. He didn’t throw himself between me and an attacking lion. But, you know, he would have. He’s a dog, and dogs do that stuff.

So, you may be wondering why I shared this dog story on a post I claimed was about factory farm chickens. Yes?

Well, let me ask you: why don’t we eat dogs? Shocking question, right? Don’t get me wrong—I’m not suggesting we begin. I’m just pointing out that it’s not because we’ve determined dogs taste bad, or that they’re bad for you. Our reason for not eating dogs has nothing to do with taste. It’s cultural. We like dogs. In fact, we love them. Our stories about dogs are positive. We know dogs are smart, and helpful, and affectionate. We love them, and they love us. We had dogs growing up, or our neighbors did. Or we saw Lassie on TV, or read Old Yeller and Where the Red Fern Grows.

Chickens, by contrast, are not depicted the same way in this country. And yet, they’re smart—smarter than toddlers are, and smarter than dogs and cats in some areas. They’re affectionate—at least as affectionate as dogs. And they’re helpful. While my backyard pet chickens are probably not going to warn me about dragons or fight off any lions, they’re helpful in other ways. For example, they not only control pests and provide fertilizer, but they make me breakfast.

beautiful eggs

The prettiest durn breakfast you’ve ever seen!

The main difference, as far as I can see, is that people in this country don’t have a lot of personal exposure to chickens. Few people had chickens as pets growing up, and few had neighbors with pet chickens. When people think of chickens, they picture dirty, stinky, miserable factory farm chickens… and neglect to realize that they’re dirty, stinky, miserable factory farm chickens BECAUSE of the factory farms…  they are not in factory farms because they are dirty, stinky and miserable. Chickens like to keep themselves clean and are naturally fastidious when given a clean environment.

free range chickens v factory farm chickens

Factory farm chickens do NOT live like this–even when the eggs are labeled “free range.”

Our media experience with chickens chiefly includes the insufferable Foghorn Leghorn (where “leghorn” is even mispronounced), and his dimwitted wannabe love interest, Prissington Buff Orpington Cochin China Pullet III— otherwise known as Miss Prissy. We don’t hear stories about real or even imaginary chickens and how they help us. In fact, most people don’t even realize that chickens are helpful (in any way other than providing eggs and meat). Instead, people often think of chickens as stupid and dirty.

This is why keeping backyard chickens can change the world. Or at least the country. As more people keep chickens, more people will be exposed to how smart and cool they are, and what good pets they make.

adaughtersilkie

So in addition to reducing the reliance on eggs produced inhumanely in factory farms, backyard chicken keepers are actively showing people that chickens are not just egg factories. Right now, more chickens are killed for food–more than 9 billion, billion with a B!–than any other animal in this country. By comparison, about 40 million, million with an M, of cattle are killed each year.  Despite that, chickens are not even protected by the Humane Slaughter Act like other “food animals” are. Why is that? I just can’t wrap my head around it.

Now, I’m not a vegan, or a vegetarian. I’m not making an argument that we should all be vegans, vegetarians, or even that we should stop eating chicken. My point is moderate. All I’m saying is that where meat and eggs are produced commercially, there should be minimum standards of humane treatment. There aren’t such standards because it’s cultural to regard chickens as food—and as stupid food, at that. But we need to acknowledge that chickens are smarter than dogs—and toddlers. The more people are exposed to affectionate, smart, funny PET chickens, the more likely it will be that conditions will change in factory farms. That means that keeping backyard chickens is changing things for the better. If you keep backyard chickens, feel good about that: YOU are helping not just your chickens, but you’re helping to brng attention to the plight of factory farm chickens.

How long do you think it will take before we see “broiler” chickens protected by the Humane Slaughter Act? How long until battery cages are illegal everywhere… 20 years? 5? 2? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Chunky Chicken Giveaway! April 24, 2015 304 Comments

No, we’re not giving away fat chickens. We’re giving away samples of our own My Pet Chicken branded treats, in a Chunky Chicken Giveaway!

Sampler-Pack

Look at those plump worms! Drive your chickens wild… or freak out your kids.

If you win the Chunky Chicken Giveaway, you’ll receive a sampler package that contains one each

Chicken Salad Seeds

This is a great mix to plant for your chickens.

 

Why should you be interested? First of all, the chickens love them–and it’s fun to give your girls treats, as you doubtless know.

Chunky Chicken Giveaway: trail mix for chickens

Kelp and Bug Crunchy Trail Mix

But the best reason is that you’ll just love how these products will give your flocks a boost.

Chunky Chicken Giveaway: crumbles

Chunky chicken crumbles! (Okay, this stuff really does just look appetizing to chickens.)

The boost is incredible. If you like to hatch your flock’s eggs, you’ll particularly want to try these out. When we offered them to some of our own rare breed flocks that had been struggling, we saw a 650% increase in fertility and 518% increase in laying! Read more details about that in Traci’s blog post.

If your birds don’t free range often, these “treats”–and really we would call them supplements, except that chickens like them so much–are sort of like concentrated free range. That’s right: we’ve packaged free range. They’re a phenomenal nutritional boost, no matter which of the four methods you use to manage your flock. And we use non-GMO ingredients! (For the detailed ingredient lists, click the links above.)

How to enter the Chunky Chicken GIVEAWAY

Comment on this post. We’d love to hear about your pet chickens in your comment… but if you’re in a hurry, you can just comment “enter me!” or something along those lines. (Inappropriate comments are ineligible, and will be removed–begone, foul trolls!)

Also, don’t be an employee of My Pet Chicken. (Durn–that means I’m out.) You must also be a resident of the 50 states–you have to live where we ship!

The winner will be chosen randomly on May 1, 2015, and will notified by email. (So the entry period ends April 30 at midnight, eastern.) Winner, you must respond within 7 days, or we’ll choose someone else!

 

Water repellent feathers: NOT due to the oil gland April 17, 2015 3 Comments

Chickens don’t necessarily go inside when it rains–and as we’ve discussed, it’s not because they’re not smart enough. They’re smart! They just know that they’re outfitted with pretty durn good rain gear: water repellent feathers. Especially in light rains, water just rolls right off. (Ducks have even more effectively water repellent feathers–you may have heard the phrase “like water off a duck’s back.”)

If you’ve ever wondered how that works, your first thought was probably that when they preen, the oil from their oil gland provides a protective coating, making for water repellent feathers. But you may be surprised to learn that the uropygial gland—the oil gland—is not the reason that water rolls right off at all! It’s actually the structure of the feathers themselves.

Water repellent feathers: Saddle feather from a Cuckoo Marans

If you think feathers are pretty already, you’ll think they’re amazing once you know how they work!

 

When we’re looking at feather structure, we start with the shaft, which is composed of the calamus (close to the body) and the rachis (further out). The shaft is Read the rest of this entry »

Vegetarian chickens? Ha! April 10, 2015 5 Comments

One of the weirdest things I see on the cartons  of commercial eggs in stores is this: “Vegetarian-fed.” Vegetarian chickens? Ha! What are they thinking?

Easter Egger chicken: no chickens are vegetarian chickens on purpose

Got meat? You got it. I’ll eat it.

Chickens are omnivores, so even setting aside the conditions most commercial hens endure, it seems strange that any company would purposefully claim their hens are vegetarian chickens. You don’t have to be an expert to remember that chickens eat bugs and all sorts of little critters: worms, grubs, arachnids and more.  And if you ARE a chicken keeper, even a beginner, you doubtless know that chickens not only eat insects and creepy crawlies, but also mice, frogs, snakes, voles and so on. Almost anything small enough to consume, they eat! They are effective predators in that way—the closest thing we have to dinosaurs.

So, what’s with the “vegetarian-fed” labeling? Part of it, I am convinced, is just marketing. Vegetarian chickens: it SOUNDS good—so long as you don’t think about it. “Our cage-free chickens are fed an all-natural vegetarian diet!” But “cage free” means they are crowded into a warehouse, not outside in a field as you might assume… and “vegetarian” means they are purposefully being deprived of their natural diet.

Sigh.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Controlling the diet of your pet chickens is Read the rest of this entry »

Chicken Marionette DIY Egg Carton Craft March 27, 2015 No Comments

When it gets to be the holidays, I get to feeling crafty. While my chickens have started laying again like crazy (thank goodness!), it seems like a bad time to waste egg cartons on crafts. But I don’t let that stop me! I decided to make a chicken marionette out of egg cartons.

Chicken Marionette made from egg cartons

Crafting a chicken marionette from egg cartons is easy!

I’ll need to make my chicken marionette a few  companions before I can put on a show, but I’m pleased with the way she turned out.

What I used to craft my chicken marionette

Read the rest of this entry »

A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Chickens March 20, 2015 29 Comments

Our friend  Melissa Caughey of Tilly’s Nest just released her first book about keeping chickens: A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Chickens. The most delightful thing about it is how it focuses on chicken keeping as a family activity, with “make and do” ideas for family projects you can complete together for your flock.

Reading A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Chickens actually made me rather nostalgic. Our family did a lot of chicken projects together when my daughter was of an age. Not only were there baby chicks to tame and name, but there were eggs to color for Easter (and recently even projects for Halloween and Day of the Dead), and incubation countdowns to hatch day with paper chains. And looking back even further to when I was young, even my grandmother and I had egg-related projects: we made caterpillars, flowers, mushrooms and ladybugs from egg cartons.

These complex egg carton roses and daffodils are among the types I used to make with my grandmother; the egg carton flowers in A Kid's Guide to Keeping Chickens charmingly use lollypops as a flower center.

These complex egg carton roses and daffodils are among the types I used to make with my grandmother; the egg carton flowers in A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Chickens charmingly use lollypops as a flower center.

So that’s really what I go back to in this book. I still love crafts and DIY. I’ve talked about this before, but I grew up with the bizarre idea that  Read the rest of this entry »

8 Employee Favorite Chicken Breeds March 13, 2015 5 Comments

As you probably know, what chicken breed works best for your family will depend on what you’re looking for, as well as where you’re located. For instance, if you live in Minnesota and want a hen that lays brown eggs, you’re not going to like cold intolerant, white egg laying Leghorns very well! On the other hand, if you live in the desert southwest and want heat tolerant birds with spotted plumage, you’re not going to care much for, say, Black Cochins. That in mind, we recently asked our employees to officially share their personal favorite–and least favorite–chicken breeds or varieties.

The list is fascinating–we both agree and disagree with each other! You may notice some employees have the same favorite chicken breeds for (seemingly) schizophrenic reasons. That is, when a variety is among the favorite chicken breeds because they’re not overly friendly AND because they’re lovey-dovey, how do you make sense of that? I reconcile it two ways:

  • First, individual birds have individual personalities.
  • Second, maybe they just give you the affection you’re open to! :)

Interestingly, there were also a few varieties that made both lists. We attribute this to the fact that our employees telecommute and live across the country, with flocks in vastly different conditions. Varieties that made both list are in BLUE. 

So… first, we’ll share our MPC favorite chicken breeds.

Favorite Chicken breeds of MPC Employees

(in alphabetical order)

1. Cochin

Jordana: “I know eggs are great, but I adore the huge, fluffy, gentle giants! They sit on my feet when they are small to ride around the yard!”

Favorite chicken breeds

Mottled cochin

2. Easter Egger

Sam: “They are such beautiful birds with Read the rest of this entry »

5 Ways To Teach Life Skills to Kids with a Flock March 12, 2015 2 Comments

Not long ago I saw a post on Facebook about a child who had just gotten a website up and running for his small, local business selling hatching eggs and chicks. I was fascinated! I have children of my own, and we have also been on the journey of starting small business endeavors within their capabilities. I spoke with the parents of this young entrepreneur, and they agreed to let him do an interview with me and find out how other kids with a flock are learning and benefiting from keeping chickens.

So, without further ado, let me introduce Pete, owner of Pete’s (adjective) Poultry.  (That name is not a typo; it’s actually named that so you can insert your own adjective, like “Pete’s Pretty Poultry” or “Pete’s Wicked-cool Poultry.”)

Kids with a flock: Pete and Sprinkles

Me: Pete, how old are you? And how old were you when you got your first chicken?

Pete: I am eight and a half years old. I’m guessing seven (when he got his first chicken). Pete’s Mom; He was 3 when we got our first chickens, but I don’t think he really considered those his own. He started doing the 4-H poultry curriculum and raising his own chickens last year.

Me: Pete, what is your favorite breed of chicken? Read the rest of this entry »