The Eugene Backyard Farmer

Backyard Farming. Urban Homesteading Sustainablity
The Eugene Backyard Farmer

Year End Reflections.

As we look back at 2013 we have to conclude that we live in a wonderful community. By embracing urban farming you  are supporting food security, promoting self reliance, and strengthening neighborhoods.

Thank you for sharing your ideas and experiences with others.  Thank you for showing others how easy urban farming can be.  Thank you for branching out and trying new things.  And thank you for all the encouragement you give to us.

The staff of The Eugene Backyard Farmer wishes you a wonderful holiday and a bountiful new year.

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3rd Annual Pullet Sale

Feel like getting a jump start on next year’s eggs?  Want to get into chickens but don’t want to raise them from chicks?  If so, we are happy to announce the 3rd annual pullet sale.

This year’s pullet sale will take place on Saturday, October 5th from 10-2 here at The Eugene Backyard Farmer.  Our friends from David’s Country Chickens will be bringing around 80 two to three month old chickens.

These are all standard backyard breeds and cost between $14-$18 each.  Our past experience shows that these are healthy and well raised.  This is a cash/check sale although you can always use a card in the store to buy feed and treats.

We look forward to seeing you soon.

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The cost of backyard eggs.

A July 7th NBC article discussed the down side to backyard chickens.  The quote that stood out to us was, “some hipster farmers discover that hens lay eggs for two years, but can live for a good decade longer, and that actually raising the birds can be noisy, messy, labor-intensive and expensive. “  You can hear our response here.

For over a year, we have been keeping detailed records to see how cost effective backyard chickens can be. We were pleasantly surprised by the results.

From July 2012 through June 213 we collected 119 dozen eggs. The flock at the store varied from six to 11 and during part of that time frame, not all chickens were to laying age.  The flock ate $315 in feed, $43 in scratch, $15 in calcium, and used $24 in bedding.

This means that a dozen high quality eggs cost $3.34.

We have not done the math to factor in coop, feeder and start up costs.  Yet it is clear that keeping backyard chickens can be affordable.  Of course if you keep backyard hens, you know there are non egg related benefits.  Our chickens provide us with plenty of high quality fertilizer and they are often worth keeping just for the entertainment value.

Need another reason to keep backyard hens?  For every dozen eggs they produce, you are not supporting an industry that is not always kind to chickens.

The store is down to six hens since April and we are planning on keeping that number.  Then next March, we will have another full year of data.  By then we will also have figured out amortization and can factor in the costs of feeders and the coop.

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2nd Annual Eugene Bawk Celebration.

The 2nd annual Eugene Bawk Celebration is set for Saturday, June 29th from 2-6.

This fun event is a way to celebrate the backyard chicken and all they do to enhance our urban farms.  This is a free and family friendly event that surely will make you smile.

We will have live music and food booths and a bunch of activities.

One of the activities is the “name that egg” game where you have to guess where the egg came from based upon its appearance (factory farm, store bought organic or backyard).
On the main stage we will have a crowing contest as well as a chicken poetry reading (you read a poem about a chicken, not the chickens reading poetry).

The main event will be the incredibly popular chicken beauty pageant.  Chickens will be introduced, then will be walked down the runway by their people.  Some chickens are even dressed up.  And once again, we have assembled an all-star cast of judges.  This year’s judges will be Dawn Baby of Dawn Baby Salon, Joseph Calbreath formally KMTR’s Joseph in the Garden, and the Reigning Slug Queen.

After the beauty pageant we will have a DJ playing chicken themed music and plenty of space to dance.

Prizes will be awarded to all crowing and poetry reading participants.  And some special prizes have been donated for the chicken beauty pageant contestants.  We are still looking for pageant contestants so please e-mail us if you are interested.

There will be major road construction in the area and our parking lot will fill up pretty fast.  You can park in the alley behind the store as well as across the Washington/Jefferson Park on Jefferson.  There is also parking one block south of the store next to Subway.  Hope to see you soon.

 

 

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Visit Coop Town, USA

Visit Coop Town, USA.

Eugene is known as Track Town, USA for obvious reasons.  But urban farming in Eugene is just as popular as running, and for good reason.  Raising chickens in your back yard is just another way of contributing to  a healthy lifestyle.

This year’s backyard coop tour is set for Saturday, May 18th from 10-4.  This popular annual event is shaping up to be another great opportunity to peek into some of Eugene’s backyard farms.

Sixteen coops located in Eugene and Springfield will give aspiring urban farmers plenty of inspiration and design ideas.  Some are simple designs using reclaimed materials.  Some are professionally constructed and feature works of art.  All house some very happy and healthy backyard chickens.

The guide book will be available at The Eugene Backyard Farmer the week of the event.  All coop hosts are volunteer neighbors so we remind attendants the coop tour is only May 18th and only between 10-4.  Guide books cost just $8.00.

And just like last year part of the proceeds from the sale of the guide books will go to Habitat for Hens. This fun program allows us to put a chicken coop and some hens into a back yard of a family that could benefit from a coop but can not yet afford it.

So if you already have a coop, come see what your neighbors are doing and get some new ideas.  If you are just starting the process of building a coop, go out and get inspired.

 

 

 

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The Nesting Place: A Luxury Chicken Hotel Now Open.

Urban farmers differ from traditional and rural farmers in a number of respects.  Traditional farmers often do so to make a living where urban farmers usually do so to put healthy food on their table. Traditional farmers wait until after harvest before taking a vacation where urban farmers often take vacation in the summer.
And while tending for a backyard flock takes little effort, it still does require daily attention.
So what do you do with your flock if you want to go on vacation? The best option is to get a neighbor to feed, water and collect eggs.  This way they get to see how easy it is and will perhaps want to start their own backyard flock.  In larger cities you can even hire a chicken sitter to come twice a day and do the chores.  We tried this for a while but found it to be a large drain of time and since we commute by bike, it became impractical.

So if you can’t get a neighbor to watch your hens, why not check them into a hotel?  The Nesting Place is a luxury chicken hotel located right here at the store.
The Blue Andalusian Suite and the Golden Campine Suite both include a safe place to sleep, eat and lay eggs as well as an extended yard in which to scratch around.

Basic service is $2 per hen per day and includes fresh feed, water, some scratch and a daily coop cleaning.  Deluxe service is $3 per hen per day and includes the above as well as chopped organic veggies and turn down service.  With the deluxe service we will even text you photos of your hens.

Future suites will be added if this becomes as popular as we think it will. But until then space is limited so if you have a vacation coming up and nobody to watch your flock, feel free to give us a call.

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Help, my hen is loosing it’s feathers.

We start getting the calls this time of year.  “I went out to the henhouse this morning and there were feathers everywhere. What is wrong with my hens?”  Another popular observation is “My hens look terrible. They are missing feathers and I think they might be dying.”   Most likely your chickens are just going through a moult.

Just like other birds, chickens know when winter is coming.  Usually in the fall of their second year they shed feathers and grow a new coat for winter. Most moulting occurs in the fall but we have seen hens go through a full-blown moult in the dead of winter.  Sometimes the moult is so mild and consists of just a hand full of feathers.  Other times it looks like there was a pillow fight in the hen house and your chickens look like they have hen pattern baldness.  Regardless, moulting is natural and generally nothing to worry about.  There are still things you can do to help.

If they are loosing their feathers already, this might be a great time to inspect their bodies.  Since it is now easy to see the skin you can use moulting time to look for signs of mites or other body parasites.  This also might be a great time to do a semi-annual coop cleaning. You can remove all bedding, spray a 10% diluted bleach in the corners, sprinkle some Diatomaceous Earth in the corners, and add fresh bedding.  This will make the coop nice and comfortable for the winter.

Hens will not lay eggs while moulting.  Since they need to grow new feathers before cold weather arrives, they put all their energy into that task.  Chickens need extra protein to help them grow new feathers.  The faster they feather out, the faster they will get back to looking good and hopefully laying a few more eggs.  There are a number of poultry supplements that can be added to their feed. Most of these have 30% of more protein which will help them re-feather.  When the hens at our store go through their moult we add dried cat food, meal worms, tofu or beef liver.

A moult can be over within a week or it can last several months.  The longer the moult, the harder it is to keep your refrigerator stocked with eggs.  There is no need to add artificial heat to their coop. We tend to recommend avoiding this so as to not create a fire hazard.  Don’t worry about your chicken’s comfort level. They know more about how to be a chicken then you do.  Just increase their protein intake and they should be back to beautiful backyard chickens before too long.

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The Eugene Bawk Celebration

Eugene area backyard chickens will take center stage on Saturday, June 30th between 4-7.

The first annual Eugene Bawk Celebration is a festival celebrating our backyard hen’s contribution to urban farming.  This lighthearted event will feature lots of games, activities, live music, food booths, and prizes.

Think you can tell the difference between a store bought egg and a homegrown egg?  Then come on down and play a round of Name That Egg.

Fancy yourself an Emily Cluckinson, Charles Bawkowski, or E.E. Cluckings?  Then you should enter a poem for the chicken poetry contest.

Do you know a thing or two about Chicken Couture?  Then you simply must enter the chicken beauty contest.  We even have a runway, an all-star panel of judges and the paparazzi.

Other activities include egg and spoon races, chicken bingo, and a crowing contest.

There may even be a Flash Flock in the days leading up to the Celebration.  Much of the parking lot will be filled with activities but there is still plenty of parking behind the store and on the street.

Call or e-mail the store so we can get our list of chicken beauty pageant contestants together.  Bawk On!

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Broody Hens

We get the phone call all the time.  “What is wrong with my hen?  She has been staying in the nest box and she won’t move.  I go to pick her up and she fluffs up, makes dinosaur noises, and even tries to peck me.”  You most likely have a broody hen.

Broodiness is a condition where a hen’s maternal clock goes off and she sets to hatch eggs.  Most hens never go broody but some go broody often.  As an urban farmer, you probably collect the eggs daily.  And the fact that you likely do not have a rooster and thus do not have fertilized eggs is of little concern to the broody hen.  Even when you remove any inspiration eggs from the nest, a broody hen will still create a clutch of eggs in her head and try to hatch nothing.  It is both frustrating as well as beautiful and poetic.

Here are a couple thoughts on how to deal with broody hens.  First, you may want to add an additional nest box so the other hens still have a place to lay.  A broody hen will not lay eggs but she will occupy the box.  The other hens are usually cool with it but you might as well try to smooth things out.

If you want to just let nature run it’s course you can just let the hen set.  It takes about 21 days for eggs to hatch so ideally after 21 days she will give up.  It wouldn’t hurt to pick her up once in while and put her in front of her food.  Broody hens usually do not starve themselves, but you are welcome to force her to eat once in a while.

You can also try to break her of her broodiness. To do this, build a cage with a wire bottom and place her in the cage.  The cage can be elevated on some bricks so that there is plenty of air flowing under her.  Give her only food and water and no bedding material.  The cold air will drop her body temperature and she will usually snap out of it in 72 hours.  We have had success placing a broody hen on a concrete pad with a cage over her and only food and water.  It may sound harsh but it usually works.

Another option is to slip some newly hatched chicks (or fertilized eggs) under her.  For the urban farmer it is pretty easy to get newly hatched chicks from your local feed store.  Once you have established that the hen is indeed broody (she has not moved for at least a week), you can take your newly hatched chicks and slip them under her wing.  If you do this early in the morning and when it is still dark, the hen very likely will think that she was successful and will do all the hard work of raising the chicks.  Breed of chick does not seem to be an issue.  The photo above is of a Salmon Faverolle hen with her two different colored Ameraucanas.  She couldn’t be more proud of the work she has done so far and is doing a great job of protecting the chicks from the elements as well as the coop mates.  Keep some chick starter and water near the nest box and before long you will have your next generation of hens.
Tricking a broody hen to take hatch-lings does not always work.  Just because a hen wants to be a mommy doesn’t mean that she will make a good mommy.  Be sure to have a back-up plan.

Urban farming is still farming and dealing with a broody hen is just part of the adventure.  Embrace this time to learn more about your backyard flock and enjoy the satisfaction of urban homesteading.

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How to introduce new chicks to the flock.

It’s Spring and baby chicks are here. Many urban farmers have a peaceful flock in various degrees of laying.  Some add new chickens every year so that there is not a lag in egg production.  Others add more chicks each year because it is so fun.  And while having multiple generations in a backyard flock can be tricky, if you follow a few steps you can keep the pecking order at a manageable level.

Ideally you have a broody hen that will take to some new chicks.  Just slide them under her and let her do the work.  However you can’t force broodiness and even if she is broody, she may not make a good mommy.  In which case expect to raise your new chicks indoors for awhile.

By the time they are three or four weeks old they are nearly feathered out.  Slowly introduce them to the flock by having a separate run for them.  This run can be as simple as some wire or a large cage in the corner of the overall run.  They can stay outside during the day, then bring them in at night.  Be sure they have access to food and water in their separate run.  Also be sure their run can be accessed by the older hens.  They will scratch and cluck around the pullets but will not be able to peck them.

In a week or two, they should be used to each other.  By now they are five or six weeks old and you are ready to take the plunge.  Pick an evening when the nighttime temperatures will not be too cold and wait for the hens to go to bed.  Once it is completely dark, take the pullets to the coop and place them on the roost next to the older girls.  do it quickly and make sure they are all on the perch.  Then close the door and walk away.

Chickens don’t see well in the dark so the chickens will spend the night smelling each other, clucking to each other, and getting used to each other.  Come sunrise, the chickens will ideally act as if they have always been a big happy family.  But just like any family, fights are bound to break out.   Remember that establishing a pecking order needs to happen and it is generally a dynamic process.  A couple of pecks and squawks are perfectly fine but even this should subside after a few days.

Over the next few nights go out to the coop at night to be sure the pullets are sleeping on the roost.   You might have to help them up for a few nights until they learn the routine from the older gals.  Keep the young girls out of the nesting boxes to avoid soiled eggs.  Now give them plenty of fresh water and high quality feed.  Before long you will have plenty of eggs for friends and neighbors.

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