22 October 2009

Urban Chickens Have Issues

Living in an urban or suburban area, and thinking about raising some stealth chickens? Today's NYT has a nice rundown of "issues" that others have encountered. And you know what? Many of these "issues" are difficulties you'll encounter in raising chickens, and other livestock, no matter where your house is located.

An excerpt:

They get diseases with odd names, like pasty butt and the fowl plague. Rats and raccoons appear out of nowhere. Hens suddenly stop laying eggs or never produce them at all. Crowing roosters disturb neighbors.

The problems get worse. Unwanted urban chickens are showing up at local animal shelters. Even in the best of circumstances, chickens die at alarming rates.

“At first I named them but now I’ve stopped because it’s just too hard,” said Sharon Lane, who started with eight chickens in a coop fashioned from plywood and chicken wire in the front yard of her north Berkeley home. She’s down to three.

Ms. Lane, who is close friends with the restaurateur Alice Waters, wanted exceptional eggs, plain and simple. But her little flock has been plagued with mysterious diseases.

She has not taken them to the vet because of the high cost, but she goes to workshops and searches out cures on the Internet. She has even put garlic down their throats in hopes that the antibacterial qualities of the cloves might help.

“I’m discouraged but I’m determined to figure this out,” Ms. Lane said. “I still get more than I give.”

The last line I quoted might be the most important one in the story: Raising chickens, or any other kind of livestock, is often discouraging. But there is a wonderful reward that comes from the very struggle to figure out what the problems are and in trying different solutions. And along the way, you learn that --- despite pouring your heart out and doing everything you can imagine doing --- animals die. But you keep going. You learn. You do things differently the next time.

And you know what? Whether your next batch of chickens dies or thrives...you get more than you give. Because you've learned, and you've grown, and no one can take those experiences away from you.

And, yes, you will eventually get some really really good eggs. Just keep at it and never give up.

2 comments:

Mike said...

Excellent exhortation sir. I live in the suburbans but yearn to begin farming. This year we raised 100 broiler chickens. Plans, as you know, do not always come to fruition and I ended up with ALL of them in my basement for 3 weeks. Needless to say it was a harrowing experience and we did indeed lose about 10% of our birds. They've all been butchered (and some consumed...wonderful) and yet my 10 year old said "Dad, I sure wish we had the chickens back." I know what he means. It was rewarding and will be again Lord willing. Thanks for the constant encouragment.

Rachel said...

TYF, let me tell you, it is as you said (as you well know). We had a nice flock of over 30 birds this summer. We traded 12 (incl some younger birds, not just layers) for a Great Pyr pup, and had 16 left. We are now down to 6. Rainy weather impeded the mowing of the yard, and the coyotes took advantage. We were losing 1-2 birds a day, in broad daylight. DH finally mowed the yard when I couldn't take the losses anymore and told him there would be no eggs for breakfast if he didn't go out on the mower--wet ground or not. I can deal with ruts in the yard I cannot deal with a bunch of dead chickens. I am not feeding them for the doggone coyotes to eat. >:-(

But we're trying to make up for lost times. My one broody hen is sitting on..well, one egg. LOL. But one is better than none, and I'll take what I can get, esp at this time of year.