Sunday, March 1, 2009

On Chickens

Good morning to all who visit! It is a rainy Sunday here on Mad Beach, but I am grateful for the free water and I know my seedlings are enjoying it also. We started carrots and bush beans this weekend. The Ol' Salt was happy drilling holes in the containers and cutting up some leftover 2 x 4's to set the containers up off the ground. I think the idea of me retiring next year is starting to sink in. He made the comment yesterday that he doesn't see how we are going to make ends
meet once that happens. Well, I do have a plan ya know. It is kind of scary wondering about all the "what ifs", but I know we will be okay. We just need to make some preparations now, so that the transition won't be too terribly daunting. Hence, the containers and seeds, etc. That is part of our "survival" plan. And to that plan I would like to add chickens. Not a whole flock (even though I'm not sure how many a "whole" flock would be), but just two, or maybe three. Only laying hens of course - no roosters allowed (for obvious reasons!)

Anyone who knows me well knows of my affinity for the chicken. When I was younger (in another life really, with "the x") I lived in a little town outside Ocala, Florida, called Chandler. The "town" consisted of a crossroads, railroad track, a general store, a few houses, and orange groves. I lived in a duplex of sorts - it was once separate apartments, most likely built for the migrant orange pickers to stay in. Both sides were exactly alike and each had a front door, but the wall separating them was taken out, making it one cottage. One side had a kitchen, bath, and bedroom, and the other side had living room, closet, and bedroom.

My landlord was an older gentleman who had been born and raised in North Dakota - back when there were still Indians roaming around. He was quite frugal and lived very much from the land. He raised rabbits and had a kitchen garden, and he called me the "greenhorn". He also had a chicken coop, which was not in use, as the neighborhood dogs had killed most of his chickens and so he stopped raising them. To make what could turn into a long story shorter, we began acquiring chickens. Two at first. Real beauties called Comets, which were a cross between a White Leghorn (you remember Whitehorn Leghorn from the cartoons) and a Rhode Island Red. The two hens had beautiful white and pale red feathers, and laid very pretty brown eggs. Then came Charlie, a huge white rooster whose wings Mr. Kaufman (my landlord) clipped just a little too short and I had to lift him onto the dowel at night so he could roost until his wings grew out a little. Then came a dozen chicks from which we got one rooster. He was very handsome and tall, I called him Long John Silver. The hens hated him though, and so he would have to sneak up to them pretending he was just passing by until a hen would start to peck, and then he would make his move, hop on, do his business and hop off, leaving the poor hen somewhat shaken and unruffled. I really loved going out to the coop and tossing feed to my brood. I had a portable transistor radio that I took with me and I played all the "hippie" tunes of the day for them. Mr. Kaufman really got a kick out of us. Especially when the first pair we brought home disappeared! I looked and looked for those darn hens, and then I looked up. Don't you know they were perched on a branch of an orange tree just whispering between themselves and doing what I was sure was laughing at me!!! How silly I felt. I had no idea that chickens could fly!! So with that background, I bring you to the point of this post.

The following article appeared in the St. Petersburg paper not long ago:

Henpecked Gulfport council reverses course
By Sheila Mullane Estrada, Times Correspondent Published Thursday, February 5, 2009

GULFPORT — The great chicken debate is over, and the chickens won.
Residents of this funky Pinellas County city should be allowed to raise chickens without breaking the law, the City Council decided this week.
Until Tuesday's vote it was illegal to keep even one chicken in Gulfport. Now you can have up to 10.
Backyard chickens are a "huge movement going throughout the country,'' said council member Michele King, perhaps the most vocal advocate for backyard chicken coops. At one point during Tuesday's City Council meeting, she held up an Atlanta newspaper article about a Georgia "chicken whisperer."
"If we don't do this,'' King added, "we are not moving forward."
Council members Judy Ryerson and Bob Worthington voted against the measure.
The vote ends months of debate that prompted a flood of pro-chicken phone calls, letters and e-mails, and visions of tearful children.
"This has been before us many, many times before and generated a tremendous amount of discussion. I want this to be the final decision and vote," Mayor Michael Yakes told the council.
The great chicken debate began last summer when a member of a backyard chicken flock loudly announced she had laid an egg.
A nearby police officer heard the noise, investigated and cited the homeowner, Briggs Monteith, with violating city code.
Over the next six months, Monteith, his wife, Jennifer Conroy, and their two daughters — Peregrine, 7, and Suwanee, 4 — became regular visitors to City Hall as the council debated, voted for and then against allowing chickens in the city.
"I am here hopefully for the last time," Conroy said Tuesday, as her two daughters ran up to the podium to stand beside her.
Conroy held up a carton of eggs she said her chickens laid that morning, and asked the council members to "let our chickens rest easy and become legal citizens of Gulfport."
© 2009

Gulfport is a small town just outside St. Petersburg. So, I have mentioned this article several times to the Ol' Salt, and he just dismisses me as being "crazy" to think I could keep chickens in our backyard. But I have studied on the idea and have read many articles from the Mother Earth newsletter that I subscribe to, and to other web articles on the subject. No big flock, just two or three as I said earlier. They are quiet (for the most part), clean, eat bad bugs and such, and they present us with delicious eggs, which is most convenient. I am becoming more aware about the origins of what we eat and buy from the local grocery store. And maybe even a little paranoid about things such as "fresh" produce and frozen fish. We are lucky that the Ol' Salt is a commercial fisherman and knows several who bring us grouper and margate fresh off the boat. (Commercial fishing is another blog entry coming soon). But even if I was not planning to retire soon, I can find only advantages in growing my own, chickens included.

See, told you I had a plan.

Please feel free to comment and take care. K (aka Mad Beach Maven)


Kate and Crew said...

WOW! I didn't realize you have kept chickens before!! Very cool. So... how noisy are they? We live in an unincorporated area of town where chickens are legal, but our HOA says no chickens. As you read on my blog I'm hoping to do it covertly. No one can see in my yard, but my neighborhood is very quiet, will the chickens squawk loud enough for people to hear them? That's my biggest fear...

Great blog entry!


Kathryn said...

Hi, Kate. Thanks for taking a look. Chickens (to me anyway) don't make any more noise than any of the birds you have around or barking dogs. They cluck and talk to each other, but if you're only going to have two or three I don't see a problem with it. The lady in the news article got found out because one of her laying hens was having a particularly difficult time shooting out an egg and made a loud squawk just as a cop was passing by her yard. He went to investigate the odd sound . . . and the rest is history, as the story goes. She went to court and, after several votes, won her case! As it turned out, there are several households in Gulfport that are raising backyard chickens. Don't know of anyone doing it here on Madeira, so I may be the groundbreaker on that one! The care and feeding is fairly simple . . . check out the Mother Earth News website, there is lots and lots of info there. Take care and visit me often . . . love your blog by the way! K (aka Mad Beach Maven)