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November 19, 2009

DIGGING FOR BUGS

Posted by Anais Dervaes

The menagerie of animals that live here on the urban homestead provides us with countless hours of entertainment and free "therapy" - bringing smiles to our sometimes stressed brows.

Here's Lucie (aka Lucie Goosey) digging her way to China (well, grubs or bugs more likely)

Diggity dig!

Estella, seeing Lucie's hole is bigger,  stops her digging and comes over to it out

One of the ducks wants in on the action

Did you find anything?

Sheesh, just look at that soil - it's next year's garden (two times a year we scoop up the black gold and  it goes to our 50 plus raised beds and umpteen self watering containers)

Our chickens, ducks and goats play a vital role here at the urban homestead.  They are soil builders!

We got our chickens back in 2002 and they've been an integral part of the urban homestead ever since.  The following years we added rabbits, ducks and goats to the menagerie (oh, and not to mention a few thousand feral bees and worms to the mix).

Speaking of chickens, here's an article that sheds a somewhat interesting light on the recent chicken craze.  Although we don't particularly agree with all that she says, we have the same concerns over this latest fad.  When it comes to the countenance of an animal, we believe animals are a product of their environment; however,  when those on the "trendmill" wind up with more than they bargained for,  we agree.

Here at LTITC we've been saying something similar for some time. Having a barnyard in your backyard ties to you to the land - meaning less vacations, less spur of the moment "let's leave for the weekend" or staying out too late and forgetting to lock the girls in.  Countless times, we've heard tales of of mass slaughter because of this neglect.

Besides dealing with the waste issue (which is a blessing for us urban farmers-- we've stepped in enough chicken crap; believe me, it's part of the life), here, in the city, it's a matter of dealing and caring for your animals when they get sick.

We, too, like the article states, don't want chickens, ducks, rabbits and,now, goats to go the way of the dalmatian or pot belly pig when hundreds. if not thousands, were dumped onto local shelters.

What we like to tell folks- before they run out and get a few cute chicks or kids - is do your research first.  No, seriously, you wouldn't believe how many times we've heard from people who ran out to buy chicks and then call us asking "what do we do now!"  Asking them questions, we find out they have no brooder, no waterer, no mash - nothing- just the chicks.  "Oh dear," we think to ourselves and hope that these chickens have a chance and not end up dead or disowned.

You are not just going to be a chicken or goat haver but a keeper; and a keeper's job comes with a slew of advantages and disadvantages.  Too often articles just focus on the lighter side of these urban homesteading trends but really don't get down the nitty gritty of what it's actually like.

Unlike dogs or cats, when chickens get sick, you may not be able to rush them to the vet so you will have to have the know how and  have the courage to treat sick, injured  animals.   Read up on what could go wrong even if there's nothing wrong with your animals.  Because, sometimes, there's a brief window to help your animal when it gets sick and you don't want to be running to the internet or bookshelf at such a critical time.

Get to know your animals and if you sense something is off with one of them - then look into it asap.  Don't wait or brush it off.   A good time to "get to know your animals" is at feeding times.  Note routine or behavioral changes.  Look for animals that are standing off to themselves, not eating or drinking.  This is a good sign to tell you that the animal is not well.   Make this a habit and you won't believe how your senses will be trained and honed.  Senses that are in this modern world dulled into numbness.

So, if you don't mind the good and bad that comes with raising chickens (or any animals/insect for that matter) in the city, and know what you are getting into, then get a few chickens because they are worth it.  Not only do they provide you with amazing eggs, hours of entertainment and great fertilizer but  they also teach us to be responsible stewards of not only the earth but the creatures that inhabit this great green planet of ours.


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7 Comments: "DIGGING FOR BUGS" »

  1. I have to agree. Our local Craigslist has tons of chickens and expensive henhouses for sale. Its really sad. If I had the space for extra chickens, I'd take them in a second, but being winter, we're at maximum capacity.

  2. It does frustrate me when I hear or read stories from people who got a bunch of chicks, and then they died or got killed because the people didn't know how to care for them.

    They really aren't that hard to keep- so long as you do your research, and know how to protect them from predators, keep their food and water clean, know that they will poop, etc.

    Here I haven't seen any chickens in shelters, just ads on craigslist selling them for, in my opinion, high prices. When I sell chicks, I sell them to people who I know already have their brooder set up, food, etc, and have a plan for them. They also know they can email me at anytime to ask questions.

  3. We love our urban chickens...they are great. But you make some really good points. Luckily, I researched for nearly a year before actually making the move to get chickens for our backyard. And in all of that research, the ONE thing I never came across was the challenge of leaving for the weekend or a vacation. It definitely poses a challenge. Because neighbors aren't as willing to feed chickens as they are a dog or a cat! Something about that pointy beak, maybe?

  4. My Mother-inlaw used to work in one place, and raise chickens in another town. Aprox. 50 miles away. She had a big enough chicken house that she could leave them locked up while gone, and then let them run their little hearts out on the weekends. ... There are ways you can do this, and come home to healthy animals. You can hang a big beef bone on a rope, just out of their reach, and they will jump up to get it, giving them exercise. You could also raise them on a deep litter, in which you throw a bit of hay on top, and maybe a little grain. That way they get busy turning the litter, and eating new healthy hay, while waiting for their freedom.The hay is their greens. Also that means you must have enough food and water and grit for them in their feeders to last for the time you are gone. I really never liked seeing them do this, but it worked for them, and they got through this realatively well. They adjust, there is no one way to raise them. So to me, after seeing this take place, I can see someone leaving the chickens for a weekend, providing they have the chickens locked up (for their safety) plenty of food and water, enough air ventalation, without predator penatration. This could work. You could have neighbors come over, look in and see if they are all right. Then another homesteader on the list to call if there is a problem. I might get some flack about this, but it wasn't me who did this. But I was an observer. It did work for them, and they were so happy to have their chickens. C

  5. My chicken coop is small and has an attatched, covered run. The entire pen is covered with 1/2 " hardware cloth incuding the floor. I burried it 6" underground to prevent anyone from diggin in. So if I am gone for a couple of days they do not get out into the yard or their bigger pen but can go into the smaller, secure pen on deep litter. I have a 5 gallon water and feeder which I use for a weekend away. I will usually put out their smaller waterers also just to be sure. I put out greens and weeds in several places. They get fresh air and protection from varmits. Their light goes on in the pen in the am and pm until 10pm and then it goes out. A smaller light goes on in the coop at 9:45pm. They naturally move toward the light when the pen light goes off and the coop light goes out about 10:10pm. It is on timers so I don't need to be there for them to be in the coop. Of course the coop door is not locked but unless something can get into the wire mesh covered pen, in can't get to their coop. You can also get timers and arms to close the coop door if you want.

  6. Oh the timers that I use cost $3.00 each and I use outdoor grounded extension cords or grounded plugins. The light system is cheap, functional and easy.

  7. that makes me miss my hens. i loved when they would dig and throw the dirt everywhere.

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