Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Greetings

Merry Christmas!
May you find Peace and Joy this Holiday Season and all throughout the coming year.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Got Green Tomatoes? This Recipe Takes the Cake

I'm still plucking pinkish-orange tomatoes out from under their plastic cocoon, but I also know the abundance of greenies hanging out there are just not going to make it.  I found this unusual recipe for Green Tomato Cake on the Food Network website.  It's from Paula Deen, so it's loaded with butter, y'all! 

You can see the diced green tomatoes in the batter
I did a little recipe adjustments; substituting a 1/2 cup of canola oil for one stick of butter, and I did not make the brown butter icing, but opted for turbinado sugar sprinkled on top. The cake has a wonderful, moist pound cake texture and you'd never know green tomatoes are present from taste (although you can see pieces of green). 

Yum!  We could hardly wait to give it a try - it was delish!
 I'm always happy when I bake a success, it doesn't always work out this way (just ask my friends about the cheesecake and the chainsaw).  However, this is one that I would make again and actually serve. A sweet way to use up those those last few emerald gems of summer.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Watch Out for Jack Frost

It's amazing, it's October 15th and our garden is still going strong.  We've been laying plastic sheeting over the tomatoes for the last two nights, but so far we haven't had any frost.

I think that is about to change this weekend.  If you still have an abundance of green tomatoes like we do, you might want to cover those tonight.  Just about anything lightweight will work - sheets, plastic garbage bags, 5 gallon buckets (great over pots).  

If they make it through the frost, the next step is to pull those tomatoes and hang them in the garage (or basement) so the remaining green toms ripen.  Or you can pick the greenies, wrap them in newspaper and pack in a cardboard box.  They will ripen anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.  I've done it both ways and have had luck with each method.

I'm not giving up on the garden yet, but it is probably time to say goodbye to the tomatoes and cucumbers.  The arugula, spinach and lettuces, chard and carrots are just loving the cool temps and I'm loving the fact that I am still harvesting in mid-October.  

But do keep an eye out for old Jack Frost, I hear he is in the neighborhood!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Preventing Chicken Cooties

If you have outdoor pets, horses or livestock,  you know that these animals need to be wormed on occasion.

Well City Chickers, your back yard flock is no different.  In fact urban coops could have a higher incidence of internal parasites due to space constraints.  Good sanitation practices go a long way in keeping your flock healthy, but you can't always guard against the bugs your hens ingest.  Yep, your happy hens can get worms from eating worms...and slugs and bugs and all those other juicy creepy-crawlers they find so delicious. 

Even if you run a tidy coop your flock can benefit from regular worming, since birds confined in a small space will inevitably come into contact with droppings (they often show questionable taste in what they peck at). 

Roundworms are the most common internal parasite and are easy to treat. I called a few local farm stores looking for chicken wormer but no one had anything nor had they even heard of such a thing (I won't be getting advice from these places anytime soon).  I called my vet who, thankfully, did know about internal parasites in fowl and he prescribed Panacure (Fenbendazole).  A few cc's by mouth, with a follow up in 10 days is all that is needed; about once a year.  Pretty simple.

And, it actually was.  It took two of us - one holding the hen firmly and one prying the beak open and administering the chalky liquid down the gullet.  We don't plan on eating any of the eggs produced in the next month - but this little preventive measure is well worth it for healthy hen in the long run.

Has anyone else wormed their flocks?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

An Easy Recipe for Your Roma Tomato Harvest

Mama Mia, we have tomatoes! Somehow in spite of our disastrous attempt at starting tomato plants from seeds and the less than favorable weather conditions of the 2010 garden season, we managed to have success with our tomatoes this year.

The initial ripening was a good two weeks later than last year and we still have a large number of greenies on the vine, but we have been enjoying mouth watering cherry-toms and early girls for several weeks now.

Here's a peek at our 2010 Tomato Stars: 
Sun Gold Cherry: A consistent star in our book. These are the sweetest, most prolific golden gems you'll ever pop in your mouth!
Black Cherry: Dark purplish-red to reddish brown-green fruit with a sweet, meaty flavor. Extremely prolific vine.
Juliet: A Roma type cherry with loads and loads of fruit.  This one ripened first and is still pumping out the goods.

These three mixed together with a little olive oil...summer heaven on a salad plate!

We also have several varieties of Roma tomatoes coming on. The Saucy's are loaded and ready to pick, the Roma's (those that I managed to save from the failed seed starts) are almost ready as are the San Marzano's.  We grow mostly Roma types because Hal loves to cook with "homegrown" tomatoes all winter and these are the best for cooking.

Here is a super simple recipe for enjoying the bounty. 

Grilled Roma Tomatoes

Wash and slice Roma's in half from stem end.  In a large bowl toss tomato halves with olive oil to coat; 1/2 cup (or more) chopped basil, generous sprinkling of kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.  I've also substituted fresh rosemary and cilantro for the basil - yum!

Place tomatos cut side down on a hot grill and grill for about 2 minutes.  Using tongs, turn over and grill another minute or so.  You want the tomatoes to maintain their shape (not be cooked till mushy).  Remove from grill, back into the bowl you used to toss them in.  The cooking time is pretty short so don't wander back to the garden (experience speaking here!!).

Let cool in bowl 10 - 15 minutes, then spoon into good quality freezer bags, about 1/2 to 3/4 full. Squeeze out air, lay flat in freezer.

That's it!  Depending on your family or serving size you can use the entire frozen block or break off what you need.  We don't skin the tomatoes before grilling, so there are some skins, but these aren't a problem for us.  The tomatoes are great added to soups, stews and pasta.  Really easy, really delicious!

How do you preserve your summer bounty of tomatoes? 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sadness in the Coop

Harriet as a pullet
We lost another girl over the weekend.  Harriet the Australorpe died in her sleep sometime Sunday night. 

We noticed a change in her earlier in the summer but thought it was due to molting.  Unlike Buttercup, who died suddenly and appeared to be in good health, Harriet had been showing signs of failing.  Her comb and waddle were very pale (always a bad sign) and she would often "retire" early to the roost. 

Once again I did a thorough inspection of each bird looking for mites or lice, checking body weight and overall appearance and thriftiness.  The coop and pen has been cleaned out.  I've been searching online trying to figure out what could have caused her down turn.  

"Sometimes chickens just die, and it's best to have a funeral and move on," was a quote I read in one forum.  We thought "Harriet the Aussie" was a pretty spectacular girl.  She was by far the biggest in our flock with her striking black-green feathers.  Rest in peace girl.
Harriet  Photo Credit Shawn Gust CdA Press

Friday, September 3, 2010

Loose as a Goose

Gooseneck Loosestrife
Last summer while visiting friends in Portland I was introduced to "lysimachia clethroides," better know as Gooseneck Loosestrife.  The introduction came via a huge bucketful of white flowers that truly resembled a gaggle of geese.  I was smitten.  Who wouldn't want to see this dazzling display swaying in the summer breeze in their backyard? 

Luckily my friend had a few plants to spare and I happily trucked them back to Coeur d'Alene.  I wasn't very timely in getting the transplants in the ground - in fact I'm pretty sure it was late September before I managed to dig them in.  Knowing my penchant for digging things up (not always by accident), I placed a large marker in the spot and anticipated my own flock of geese in the spring! 

Whenever I find a new plant I eventually get around to a little research.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered Gooseneck Loosestrife was listed as an invasive species! But, oh what a beautiful species.  Nothing like the miserable Lemon Balm that I am constantly pulling out!  If you are going to have something march across the garden you may as well like it and it better be beautiful.

Even with the plant marker I managed to rip out a shoot during one of the marathon weeding sessions this spring.  But I guess invasive species are hard to knock down, and I am delighted to say that my GNLS is a healthy flock of two with some goslings shooting up alongside.  Hal swears we'll wake up one morning surrounded by white goosenecks. 

Burgundy Gooseneck Loosestrife
Last weekend at the Manito Garden's fall plant sale I purchased two more Loosestrife plants, Lysimachia atropurpurea 'Beaujolais,' or Loosestrife-Burgundy Gooseneck.  It's a bird of a different feather with mounding silver foliage, deep purple stalks and is not invasive -- or so they say.  It is also a beauty and at this point, very welcome in the garden.  

We'll see what next spring brings; but in the meantime, don't turn me in to the EPA!    

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Time for a Change

The Coeur d'Alene Coop has a new look!  A few months ago I discovered Bloggers new Design Template and have been playing with new themes, colors and layouts since. 

It was a bold move, but I finally hit the "apply to Blog" button.  Viola! A new look for The CdA Coop.  I like it and hope you do too!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Shoulder Season

I love fall.  There, I've said it.  It's not that I don't like the other seasons, after all, I am a gardener and each season brings its own joy.  In northern Idaho we do have four seasons: cold, colder, wet and hot, but they don't fall into neat little time frames.  And this year, the "hot" season seemed to pass us by completely. 

No matter, my favorite time of year is upon us.  I love the summer/fall "shoulder season," when you can still manage a sunburn without getting heatstroke from working in the garden.  The cooler days have perked up everything, including me.  The deep purple lobelia and red geraniums which had faded and languished in the front yard have rebounded and against the background of golden yellow black eyed Susan's, are just stunning.

It's also the perfect weather for planting. Warm sunny days and cooler nights are great for cool weather crops and the last hurrah for fresh fall produce.  A few weeks ago I replanted a couple rows of sugar snap peas and they're already four to five inches tall.  I optimistic that we'll be eating fresh peas before the first frost (Oct. 15+/-).  This past weekend I replanted spinach, arugula, radishes and ruby red and tom thumb lettuce.  

The spring planting of spinach and arugula was dismal - it was too cold then too hot, too fast, and everything bolted. But, the lettuce crop has been a total success -- we're still munching on it. It's just now starting to taste a little bitter - but no worries, my girls in the coop will love it just the same!  Yes, the "other" compost pile I feed produces eggs.

Fall also means a time to evaluate what needs to be dug, divided and/or ditched. Like the mass of irises under the walnut tree; not a good location and they have suffered. So out they went.  Clearing those has given me a new spot for spring bulbs and a permanent place to plant a couple of hostas that have been living in pots. 

And there's the other bonus to fall gardening...the promise (anticipation and optimism) that comes with planting bulbs.  Along with the usual array of daffodils and tulips, I'm venturing to alliums of the edible kind.  Garlic!  This will be a first and I hope that I can find a good source locally.  Does anyone have a local source or a good online source for garlic?  Let me know - our planting window is coming up!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Serenity Now

It's been nearly two weeks since we introduced Midge and Madge, a pair of Buff Orpingtons, to our Second Street Chicken Ranch flock and relative peace has finally settled in.  This newly acquired, "peaceful, easy feeling," hasn't come without a price.  We've had bloodshed, a lot of feathers flying and in the end, a flock reduction.

Yes, we have sent Henny and Penny packing.  Our Barred Rock Bullies have gone to "the farm."

Fortunately for them this farm is not "THE farm" (you know, the one with the ax) and I am happy to say that they now live with about 20 other hens and one beautiful Rhode Island Red rooster.  Flock integration is a bit different when there are many hens and lots of room to roam, but my girls still lived up to their reputation. 

Penny, who had become quite the aggressor, immediately picked a fight with a Banty hen (yeah, she's a true bully, picking on someone smaller!).  But that feisty little hen quickly gave it right back to her.  When the Banty straddled Penny, Mr. Roo had to step in and end the battle. 

Next up, Henny the Horrible.  She decided to start right at the top of the pecking order and took after said Roo.  With claws and beak she went for Roo, who I believe found it somewhat amusing.  He quickly tired of her squawking and flapping and had her pinned down in about five seconds flat. What a shock this was to her -- and even a bigger one when he then proceeded to have his way with her!  If a hen can look astonished - she clearly was.  Finally, someone put her in her place. 

Meanwhile back at the Ranch, Midge and Madge are now venturing out of the coop and sitting on the outside roosts.  They are slowly mixing in with Helen, Flame and Harriet.  We occasionally hear a dust up, but at night everyone is roosting inside, snuggled up in a nice neat row.  Ahhh, serenity...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Upstairs Downstairs

The Second Street Chicken Ranch now has two flocks; not the desired outcome of flock integration.  Albeit a temporary situation, the new girls, Midge and Madge, have retreated to the serenity of the Penthouse coop while the "Street Level Girls," are literally camping out in the pen below.  

This separation pretty much happened on its own (and out of necessity to stay alive).  The new girls refuse to leave the safety of the coop and my girls had little interest in going in.  The first few days this worked, but that too was only a temporary situation. 

Come evening, "Henny the Horrible" and a few of her thugs would strut up the ladder and take back the coop. I was holding out hope that things would resolve peacefully when I discovered Henny and Flame on the roost right next to Midge and Madge (and no blood shed).  Well now, things are looking up!

Little did I know that the real perpetrator was lurking below and just happened to be the lowest in our flock's pecking order.  Let me introduce "Penny the Punisher."  She's got an ax to grind and wants to see heads roll.  It's all about someone else being on the bottom rung now! 

Whereas the Henny and Helen would "attack" if the new girls were in their sight, Penny went looking for them...right up the ladder and into the coop.  Relentless,with an iron-beaked grip on Madge's waddle, time and time again. Bloody hell. 

I tried to stay out of it. I really did.  But I just couldn't let the new girls suffer the punishment Penny was doling out.  The summer "screen door" was put on the coop - creating a peaceful environment for the new girls and two flocks were formed.

Now Henny is ticked because she has to sleep outside and Penny is still attempting to attack through the wire mesh door. 

But I did say this was a temporary situation.  After some soul searching I have decided that Henny and Penny are ready to find a new home.  That might be in someone else's flock (a large, free ranging flock would probably be best) or it might be in a crock pot.  If you want a pair of good laying Barred Rocks, let me know - they are yours for the taking -- just make sure your current flock knows a few kickboxing moves.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Coup de Coop

Let me just say up front, flock integration is not for the light hearted.  Anyone watch the Bad Girls Club on the Oxygen channel?  Yeah, completely trashy, bad-girl drama (makes treadmill time at the gym fly by!).   Yup, that's what we have going on at the Second Street Chicken Ranch -- just substitute "chixs" for girls.

The two Blondie's arrived yesterday afternoon and my plan was to slip them into the coop after dark, once my girls had retired for the evening.  Well, it had been a long day and I was tired, so after a little meet and greet between cage wires, I decided to do a more formal introduction.

I carefully placed the larger Buff Orpington on the roost outside...she stayed put and looked around curiously. So far so good.  The second Blondie, the smaller of the two, was a bit more excited and she flapped her way down into the pen.  Talk about being blindsided; in a flash Henny the Dominatrix, pulled a beak full of feathers from the little Orpie. Ouch! Next she did her best wrestling move off the ropes to flattened the new girl and pin her down.  Yikes!  Big Blondie stood stock still on the roost - can you blame her?

Helen decided to tag team with Henny, and in a dust up, Big Blondie got tossed off the roost. She too lost a clump of feathers immediately.  The rest of the flock was in a complete panic trying to stay clear of the mayhem. Oy! 

I tossed in some lettuce and thankfully things settled down for a few moments. It didn't last and at one point the new girls were cornered; Helen on one side and Henny on the other.  It was brutal.  I did my best not to intervene but I finally grabbed the new girls an pitched them into the coop.  Much to my dismay,  they jumped back down and into the "ring."  I really don't see how anyone could witness a cockfight; hen pecking is brutal enough.

Well after a few more rounds of getting the s%#@ kicked out of her, the little Orpington got smart and retreated to the coop.  "What the hell," is what I could imagine big O saying...move over sister, I'm right behind you!  They stood in the doorway together, blocking the entrance.  As I went in the house, I turned to see Henny midway up the ladder.  This should be good...but the Blondes held their ground and Henny backed off. 

This morning I half expected to find two pecked to death Orpingtons in the coop.  What I did find were two blondes still in the doorway.  My girls had been shut out and shut down. Shut up!

Tonight the Blondes (who will have names soon) were still holding the fort - a coup of the coop, if you will.  Hey, they got it made - the food is in the coop along with water and cozy nest boxes. Maybe blondes aren't so dumb!  And, even under such unwelcoming circumstances, they left me a beautiful cream colored egg.

My girls, on the other hand, are grumpy and probably hungry (I set out another waterer).  They need to get it together.

It's dark now and my plan was to go out and put one or two of my "good" girls on the roost in the coop. But to my surprise,  Henny was already on the roost inside the coop, along with Flame.  I put Harriett on the roost inside and left Helen and Penny on the outside roost.  The Orpingtons were still roosted in the doorway.  This might work out after all...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Okay, the title of this post is not what you are thinking...although if things don't turn out as expected, it could be very soon.

The Second Street Chicken Ranch is taking full advantage of the City of Coeur d'Alene's recently amended chicken laws by adopting two new girls to our flock.  Tonight we will be adding a pair of blond bombshells (aka Buff Orpingtons), and bring our flock to seven.

My colleague and fellow city chicker, Ben Fairfield, has decided to disperse his flock of Orpingtons for a new and younger flock of Rhode Island Reds.  Since his girls are just over a year old and have plenty of laying potential left (and to otherwise stay their pending execution), we are making room in the coop. 

So, tonight, under the cloak of darkness (really!), we are slipping the new girls into the coop.  Tomorrow morning when everyone wakes up - Hello - new roomies!   I've done a bit of researching and I keep reading that adding new hens in the dark is one of the best ways to integrate a flock -- that, and copious treats to keep them busy.

Should be an interesting evening - I just hope they don't keep us up all night with their cackling and feathered pillow fights...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Slow Season

This has been quite the slow growing summer. Thanks to a very mild winter that lasted until the end of June, the garden has been just sluggish (in more ways than one) this year.

The tomatoes look good with lots of green fruit; but this time last year we had been picking tomatoes for at least two weeks. The squash and cucumbers are just now starting to blossom. If we are fortunate enough to have a somewhat "normal" September, the Second Street Chicken Ranch should have an abundance of tomatoes.

We have had excellent success with our lettuce and sugar snap peas.  The Tom Thumb variety of butter head lettuce is my favorite this year.  These "single serving" heads are about the size of your fist with a delicate, creamy flavor.  I wasn't sure if the snap peas were going to make it through the very cold and very wet spring; and was certain that the seeds had rotted in the ground. But, they pulled through and even though it took a while for them to get going, they have been fantastic! Large, meaty peas that are sugar sweet!  These are even sweeter when a bag of 15 or so, sell for $4 a pound in the grocery store. 

Here's a pano-view of our raised beds -- it's the first full year of using this form of bed.  Hal says I'd have more room if I took them out and used this entire area for garden, much like I did in previous years.  But, I think I'll give the raised beds another year.  I am limited in my space due to the giant maple (Max) and walnut (Wally) trees in the backyard.  This corner is the only sunny spot I have.

Speaking of Max, a few years ago I placed a single Hen-n-Chick plant in one of his crooks.  Look what I have now...a hen, pullets and chicks! These things will grow anywhere.  My super creative friend, Julene, recently posted a bit on hens and chicks on her blog, Present By Design . You can also find a link to her website in my Groovy Links section.

Below are a few recent images from the flower garden.  I'm glad to see the bees back in action.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Vote for CdA Community Roots

I need your help.  The CdA Community Roots Local Food Share program has the potential to win a $10,000 community grant through Capella University's Public Service Challenge.  My friend, Laura Sankovich is a volunteer with Community Roots and is a faculty member with Capella University.  She has submitted the Community Roots video as her Public Service Challenge entry.

Community Roots is a Coeur d'Alene volunteer-based program that collects excess produce from local farmers, markets and community gardens to distribute to local food banks and other assistance facilities. A $10,000 grant would go a long way in helping this program.

So, all I need you do to is vote for Laura's video here!  The top 3 videos will all receive a $10,000 grant.  Take a minute and vote for the video and help this great community service! 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Chicken Unlimited

The Coeur d'Alene City Council voted Monday night to amend its chicken laws from three hens to an unlimited number of hens (no roosters and no other types of fowl).  This of course makes the Second Street Chicken Ranch very happy since we were breaking the law under the former ordinance! 
I would like to again thank Mike Kennedy and the City Council members for taking the time to review the issue and for revising the ordinance.  I would also like to thank the community of CdA Urban Chicken Ranchers for speaking out and educating our City Council on this issue.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Outdoor Idaho Features Eating Local

Don't miss this Idaho Public TV program on Eating Local!  Click here to see the video promo on Facebook:

"Do you know where your food comes from? "Eating Local," our new OUTDOOR IDAHO show, explains why it matters. Airs Thursday, followed immediately by our DIALOGUE show, on the same topic, where you can call in with questions and comments."

This airs Thursday and Sunday - check local listings for times!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Chick Limits May Rise!

It appears that CdA City Chickers may end up with a full hen house if yesterday's meeting of the City of Coeur d'Alene's General Services Committee is any indication.  According to a story in today's CdA Press ( ), the Committee is going to recommend to the City Council to reinstate the unlimited rule regarding the number of chickens one can own within city limits. Eggscellent.

The City Council will decide next Tuesday, July 20th, 6 pm in the Community Room of the CdA Library.  Let's do our best to fill the room in support of this.  Who knows - maybe spontaneous chicken dancing will break out!

This really is good news for those of us who are currently over the "three chick limit."  I know my girls will rest easier now that two of them may be getting a stay of execution.  I am a little disappointed that Mike Kennedy didn't visit our coop - I really wanted to ask him which Council Member was going to come over and do the "dirty work" if the limit remained in place. 

As long as we chicken owners are responsible, keep our birds healthy and sanitary, there should be no issues.  And we appear to be doing just that as Ron Edinger stated that there were no complaints on file about chickens within the city limits.

I am planning to be at the City Council meeting next week - hope to see you there as well - since birds of a feather... well, you get the idea.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Stew Pot

Motivation.  Everyone needs a little every now and then - even chickens.  We've recently experienced a significant drop in egg production; like to zero eggs per day.  When you are feeding 5 hens and you are getting, maybe two eggs per week, you begin to think "chicken dinner" vs fresh eggs. 

I tried my usual form of motivation -- a daily rant outside the coop with threats of "Coq Au Vin and chicken pot-pie" if someone didn't get busy. The pleading and cajoling didn't help either.  And, worse yet, I had to buy a dozen eggs from the grocery store - something I hadn't done in over a year!

I was at a loss as to why this was happening and what our girls needed to get back to work. No one was ill.  Had they run their egg-laying course already? We started the difficult discussions of "what's next" (which are good to have regardless).  Would we keep non-producing hens through the winter or would we send them to the big chicken coop in the sky?

I turned to Backyard Chicken's Forum and asked if anyone else had experienced this phenomenon. I got well-wishers and a few with similar problems, but no solid leads. Thankfully a general web search return better results, and we narrowed it down to two possible causes - old age and/or molting.

Then it hit me like a feathered pillow...our girls are molting.  I did see a small amount of feathers in the coop, but attributed those to pecking order dust-ups.  They were in "day-long" molt.   

Thinking it over, I realized we made a mistake last year by not letting our girls molt in their second fall season; and that, combined with turning the artificial daylight off in March, sent the girls into a spring molt.  You can't stop mother nature.

Last week we got 4 eggs total (Penny the hen-pecked Barred Rock was the only girl still laying). On Sunday I found 4 eggs in the nest - yes, 4 in one day!  Yesterday there were 3 beautiful eggs awaiting.  Seven eggs in two days!  Needless to say we are grateful for their good work -- and hope they keep it up.  

On a serious note, if your hens will be two next spring, it's probably best to let them molt this fall.  As for the age factor, hens reach peak productivity at about 35 weeks (greater than 90% productivity) when they are pumping out 9 eggs in 10 days. This peak lasts for about 10 weeks and slowly declines over time.  However, most hens will remain productive layers through age 3 - good news for our girls. 

Looks like we can put the stew pot back in the cupboard -- at least for the time being.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ruffled Feathers Followup

It appears that Urban Chicken Farmers in Coeur d'Alene may have a feathered friend in City Councilman, Mike Kennedy. 

While I was unable to attend the City Council's General Services committee meeting on Monday, I was contacted by Mr. Kennedy to share my thoughts on the three chicken limit.  I believe 6 to 8 hens is a fair limit; but I have read that others in our community have been raising up to 25 birds, for many years, with no complaints from anyone.  I suspect that the City Council will amend this ruling and we will see a limit somewhere between 6 and 12 allowed. 

They will be revisiting this at the July 12th General Services meeting.

Kennedy made some valid points in an email he sent to those who attended the meeting on Monday with a reminder to be careful what you crow about (my words, not his).  Below is his email along with his contact information - should you want to join in the dust up.

One final note, The Second Street Chicken Ranch did invite Mr. Kennedy to visit our coop and we are waiting to hear what works for his schedule.    

"Hello, all!

This afternoon the General Services committee asked staff (Deputy City Attorney Warren Wilson, in particular) to review the issue of the limits on the numbers of chickens in the city limits and bring the matter back to us at our July 12th General Services Committee meeting.

The information presented by residents today was very helpful, particularly the FAQ “Myths and Facts” that Chris White handed out. Thanks to those of you who were there to help educate us.

Bottom line is that no one intended (certainly I didn’t) to alarm or upset any existing practices that have been working well. In the absence of any comments from any residents at all during the long redrafting process – including two televised hearings and a few newspaper stories about the animal ordinance – I assumed that things were pretty accepted. In fact I made the motion to change the staff recommendation from zero permissible domestic chickens to three, because I had known and read about sustainable urban farming but I knew nothing about the limits or average number in a city setting.

So please forgive me (us) for perhaps not getting this quite right to your interests on the front end. I’m looking forward to getting a better resolution the second time around and if you all can help me with good facts and local information that will go a long way.

I’m also interested in touring a site in the city limits if someone is willing to have me there to see things on site – the more unique the better.

One last note – in the category of “be careful what we wish for” – there is a likelihood that raising the profile of this issue will bring out detractors and also people who will want to challenge whether these are commercial operations in residentially zoned areas within the city and thus should be disallowed all together. While I may not necessarily agree with that argument, please know that it’s likely that additional questions will be raised relative to those and other issues (i.e. what to do about roosters, other fowl that someone may want to domesticate, etc). The more clear, calm, and fact-based any and all discussions on this matter both with the council and in the media the better. I’ve already gotten a few calls and emails from opponents of any chickens today.

In closing, rest assured that I am a supporter of sustainable urban farming and want to find the best outcome to this situation. I’ll work with you as best I can and look forward to doing so.

Thanks for your feedback, call me or email me if you have any questions or thoughts.


Mike Kennedy
PS – please feel free to forward this to anyone you may feel is interested in the information. You can reach me at:,, or I’m on Facebook at: and you can reach me and educate me (and other citizens who pay attention to city matters) there, too."

Monday, June 21, 2010

Chicken Limits

The city of Coeur d'Alene recently overhauled its animal ordinances and included a pretty big change to its chicken laws.  Previously one could keep an unlimited number of fowl within city limits - as long as there was no rooster in residence; however the new law limits that number to three.  The Second Street Chicken Ranch is currently two over limit. 

If you have chickens or are thinking of raising chickens, I would ask that you attend the open meeting on this topic today, Monday, June 21, noon, at the CdA Library.  City Councilman, Mike Kennedy will listen to concerned citizens about this new law.  It sounds like they may consider raising the number - since it was an arbitrary number they selected.  Some are rallying that the number be raised to a dozen, but I would be very happy with 6 to 8.  But, unless we speak out, we will be limited to just three. 

Here is an article from this morning's CdA Press .  

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Last weekend, just as I was waking up I heard a very strange sound coming from the backyard.  It sounded like a rooster crowing.  But wait - we don't have a rooster!  I thought, no - must be the ravens cawing and I'm just not awake yet.  But then there it was again - a sort of cackling, crowing, cockadoodling.  What the heck? 

Hal was up and clearly heard it as well.  "Who is that," is asked, already having my suspicions. "It's one of the barred rocks," he said.

Aha!  I knew it!  Henny has been a very bossy dominatrix lately and her antics have included mounting the other hens. I wasn't exactly certain of what was going on and just thought this was "pecking-order" behavior.  Well it is and it isn't. 

This very unusual behavior has now been confirmed by My Pet Chicken -- check out this link that describes this unusual, but not really uncommon behavior:

So, next time you hear a rooster crowing in your house of hens - you'll know what's going on.  We certainly know who wears the pants in our hen house! 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hatch Day Happenings

What a happy Hatch Day we celebrated last week!  As you can see in the photo - the girls really enjoyed their polenta cake with cottage cheese "frosting."   Like any group of two-year-olds, they were soon covered in it and standing in it to boot! 

And as any good mother hen would do, I made sure that they didn't eat it all at once -- good to save some for later.

Our guests had a equally good time, if 12 bottles of wine amongst 10 people is any indication. You'll notice I'm not posting any of those photos!  

I did receive a fabulous Hatch Day gift from my good friends Sandy and Jack - check out our newest addition to the flock.  She's a heavy metal chick and sure looks great in the garden!

Speaking of the garden, we had our first salad of the season this week - baby arugula, mesclun, radishes and chives.  I tossed a packet of arugula and mesclun in a raised bed just before we left for vacation in April -- I'm so glad I did!  The rest of the cool crops are coming along - the kale, beets, chard, spinach and pak choi are still tiny sprouts; and the potatoes in barrels are popping up too!  My tomato starts are so tiny that I am going to buy plants from the farmer's market.  I'll be starting those tomatoes in February next year!   

Here are a few photos of my raised beds and a couple of "before and after" images from the garage project last summer.  Let me know how your garden is doing!

The old shed and the new garage!  Hot tub gone - chicken coop in its place!
Former and current garden space.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hatch Day Cometh!

Preparations are well underway for the annual Hatch Day celebration at the Second Street Chicken Ranch! 

Tomorrow we're celebrating "Happy 2nd Hatch Day" for our girls - Henny, Penny, Harriett, Flame and Helen, who will officially turn two on Saturday. 

It's a garden party, so I've been on my knees all week weeding the perennial garden - or shall I say reclaiming the perennial garden. It's amazing how fast clover and grass can invade a garden; and the only (non-chemical) way to eliminate it is to dig, pull, dig, pull dig, pull. Ugh. I'm 3/4 through (and wishing I had a smaller flower garden!) but it's looking super with a fresh layer of bark mulch.  The cone flowers have been reseeding like weeds so the butterflies should have a delightful venue later this summer. 

The celebration highlight will be the gourmet polenta cake topped with an "icing" of cottage cheese and cracked corn sprinkles!  Yes, that is for the girls -- guest will be enjoying chicken wings and champagne! 

We will have a moment of silence for our dearly departed Buttercup - A #1 Top Producer - who keeled over just two weeks after her 1st hatchday.  I'm fairly certain our little Buttercup laid herself to death; but her memory lives on of the beautiful, huge brown eggs she produced for us everyday of her very good, but short life.  

No doubt we will have some fun and interesting photos to share.  If it is anything like last year, it will be a clucking good time!  Stay tuned...

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Season Begins...

Last Saturday was opening day for the Kootenai County Farmer's Market ( - a day of much joy for me and many around the county.  The weather was fair; that is to say, we made it around and back to the truck before the rain started!  

I picked up a few tomato plants - a Sungold Cherry, a Black Pearl Cherry and a Juliet - which have been great producers in years past; and a new variety (at least to me) an orange fruited Golden Jubilee.  As I was paying for my plants the vendor stated "ahh, someone else who is going to torture plants!"  I assured him they would be spending their evenings in the gararge for at least another week!  

Since I'm also starting tomatoes from seeds, I need to temper myself when it comes to purchasing plants this year.  But, as I look at my tiny little starts, I'm wondering if they will ever be ready to transplant!  This is the first year I've attempted to start tomatoes from seeds.  So far, so good, but I think next year I better start in early March!  

I did find a fabulous source of heirloom seeds this year -- Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (  They have a wonderful seed catalog with tons of non-GMO seed choices.  If you like looking at seed catalogs, this is one for you.  I ordered several types of seed and their shipping is just $3 - no matter how many seed packets you order!  That's the best deal I've found on shipping for seeds (unlike the nearly $10 Burpee wants to charge!). 

The tomato and peppers are looking good and I just put in spinach and lettuce.  I'll keep you posted on how grows! 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Chicks of a Different Feather

Last month we spent two wonderfully warm and sunny weeks in Mexico along the Pacific coast about 60 miles north of Puerto Vallarta.  We love exploring Mexico off the beaten path - you really see and learn so much more.  One of the best places to experience "real" Mexico is at town market.  These are usually held once a week around the town square.  No matter how small the town, they ALL have town squares or zocolos!   We were delighted to learn that a small community nearby had a weekly market.  So off we went!  

Their markets are very much like our farmer's markets - a place to buy and sell produce, meats and livestock, eat yummy food and talk with neighbors.  The market at La Penita had a fair amount of crafts and "tourist" trinkets given it was in a beach town -- but there were still plenty of locals stocking up on everything from tube socks to tools.  

As we made our way down the long row of tarp covered stalls we came upon this sight -- something I haven't seen in probably 40 years!   Dyed Chicks!   

I was stunned!  Of course I wanted one - if for no other reason than to rescue the poor thing from the heat!  Some may remember that at one time, chicks of a different color were available in the US.  Woolworth's and Kresges Five and Dimes (okay, I've dated myself!), used to sell colored chicks around Easter. 

In addition to these, the vendor had crates of "natural chicks," bunnies, duckling and puppies! 
Later while walking back through the market I saw a woman holding a clear plastic bag with a blue chick in it - it's tiny head sticking out of the top.  I'm pretty sure that blue biddy didn't make it back to the casa!

Around the corner we found this restaurant - roughly translated to "Chicken Little's."  I wondered if the colored pollito's were on the menu!! 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Chix Tax in Vancouver?

The city of Vancouver has an interesting proposal for that city's urban chicken farmers as outlined in this article from the Vancouver Sun

Operation Chicken brings up some very valid points to consider when one is thinking of raising chickens (or currently has chickens).

Like any other living thing, they need daily attention and it is our responsibility to see that they are fed, kept clean and don't become a nuisance to the neighborhood. Our animal shelters are filled with best intentions. I'm certain chickens will start showing up at our local shelter as the "fun factor" wears off.

What do you think about Operation Chicken? Would you be willing to pay a tax to have chickens? Have you thought about what you will do with your hens when they stop laying? Are you committed for the length of their natural lives (8+ years)?

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Story Behind the Story

Being in the communications field I know that what you say to a reporter and what comes out in print can very different. However, our recent front page article was a fine exception, due in part, to providing the reporter with more information than was asked AND sending it via email. Yes, I did some of the reporter's work here, but really who know my flock better?

Below are the two questions I was asked, followed by my own questions and answers. Not everything I sent went to print, so below you'll find a few chicken raising tips and a pretty good summary of our first two years of raising chickens.

Coming later this week -- a full garden report of spring crops, seed starts and potatoes; a fabulous source for heirloom seeds and updated "ranch" photos!

eMail Interview for the CdA Press/ Maureen Dolan:

MD: It seems like more and more people are raising their own chickens. Do you see that happening?

CG: Yes, I think it’s all part of the sustainable living movement. For some this is a trend and for others it is a way of life. We’re somewhere in the middle I guess! I love to garden and have had a veggie garden in place since we moved here in 2003. I loved the idea of fresh eggs and having chickens in yard so in 2008 we decided to start a small backyard flock. I can’t claim any real “savings” on eggs, but there really is nothing like fresh eggs! Here’s my take on the chicken popularity: I recall going to the Kootenai Co. Fair the year we started our flock and noticing there were not many egg entries – like 5 or 6. Last year the entries easily doubled from the previous year, and I suspect this year you will see even more egg entries. By the way our girls won a blue ribbon in the Large category and a red ribbon in the extra-large class last year! More and more people are eating local; look at the popularity of our Farmer’s Market, and want to know what goes in to their food and where it comes from.

MD: Can you tell me a little bit about when you started, why and how it's been?

CG: After doing a bit of research on breeds, winter hardiness and egg production (all easily found on the web); we purchased six one-day old chicks from D & B Farm Store. We kept them in a plastic tub with a heat lamp in the family room for about 3 weeks and then moved them into the coop. They grow fast – really fast – but they don’t start laying eggs until they are about 20 weeks old. Our first eggs came in early October and they laid consistently through the winter. That was the first of our two back-to-back killer winters, but our hens did great. With a heat lamp and their custom made down jackets (feathers) keeping them warm, they came through both winters with no problems. Our hens will be two in May and they are still strong layers. We saw a little tapering off this winter (they need 16 hours of daylight to lay, which we supplement with disco lights), but now that we are seeing more daylight hours, the production is back up. We now have 5 hens and get anywhere from 2 to 3 eggs per day. It takes about 24 hours for an egg to form.

These were my questions (and answers) to help round out the story:

Are they pets? Yeah, they are – they are the only pet that can make you breakfast! They have names, Helen is the Rhode Island Red; Henrietta (Henny)and Penelope (Penny) are Barred Rocks; Flame is the Black Sex-Link and Harriett is an Australorpe (Australian breed). They will keep laying into old age, but the number of eggs produced will drop. And, they can live for 8 – 9 years. Usually by age 3 it is costing you more in feed then you are getting in eggs; so many are, well, sent to the farm…if you know what I mean. It is part of the life cycle and they are chickens after all.

Do I feel bad eating chicken? Not at all. I have a BS in Agriculture from the University of Idaho – urban farm-girl. Would I eat my chickens? No, they would be very tough and scrawny; they are bred for egg production, not meat.

What are they like? A joy. They are clowns. Really. I’ve handled them since chicks so they come running when I come out, all eager to see what goodies I might have for them. They were raised on polenta and still love it, that, and cottage cheese. They do have individual personalities. Helen is the “mother hen” – she keeps a watch on the coop and “supervises” when someone else is laying. Poor Penny is at the bottom of the “pecking order” and has a few bare spots on her rump to prove it. All the clich├ęs you hear are true – “madder than a wet hen” – they hate water; dumb cluck and bird brain, yeah, they’re not too smart; and my favorite “like a bunch of old biddies” referring to a gathering of women who are talking non-stop. I let them out to graze in the yard only in the fall and early spring – when the garden is dormant. They can clear a patch of lettuce in no time flat – I learned this the hard way. They are easy keepers – fresh water, feed and a secure coop is all they really need.

What question do you get asked a lot? People always seem to ask me if we have to have a rooster to get eggs. No, you don’t need a rooster to get eggs, but you do need a rooster to get chicks! By the way, roosters are not allowed in city limits.

Do my neighbors care? No, it hasn’t been a problem at all. They are quiet; I keep them clean and share eggs. I am planning to add a few more chicks to keep the egg production going and I’d love to get a goat for milk…but I think the city of CdA would have other thoughts about that – not to mention my husband.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Egg-stra, Egg-stra, Chicken Ranch Makes Front Page News!

The Chicken Ranch made the front page of our local newspaper a few weeks ago! I was contacted by a local reporter via FaceBook who wanted to know what it was like to raise chickens in an urban setting and if I had noticed more people doing the same.

I know of at least three other backyard flocks within a 10 block radius of our urban "ranch" and I suspect that there are many more.

It's been a while since I've blogged, but all is well here on the ranch! Our building projects of last spring and summer are long completed and I am knee deep in gardening again. More updates on the ranch and the garden to come soon. For now, enjoy this fine article from the Coeur d'Alene Press!
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