Talk About It

I was at an LDEI conference in Kansas City last week. LDEI is a philanthropic organization of “women of achievement in the food professions.” I’ve been a member for six years, and at each year’s annual conference I am amazed at what these women accomplish and how much they give back to their communities. Currently, LDEI’s focus is on sustainable, local foodways. On Sunday, about 25 of us toured a wonderful family-owned and operated poultry and egg farm, Campo Lindo.

In our group were well-known restaurateurs, food columnists and influential consultants. Many of them write about food issues and advocate for green spaces. And yet none of them knew the simplest things about what the small poultry farmer needs to survive! They didn’t know that chicks are sent through the mail, and if we lose that right, that small farms and hatcheries will go out of business. They didn’t understand that the threats of bioterrorism and avian flu are being used as excuses to regulate the small producer out of business. They knew little of the good that 4-H does and nothing about the role that the “poultry fancy” and our backyard breeders have in maintaining genetic diversity.

These women were interested, they were concerned; they are intelligent, and they are influential. What did I do? I talked about my girls. Made it personal. Kept it upbeat. I am convinced that the more people hear from people like myself and others who live with domesticated farm animals, the more that they understand how we live alongside these animals, the better off we all will be. What can you do? Invite neighbors over to see your coop. Have a farm tour day. Call a food reporter and invite her to collect eggs; send her home with a dozen and suggest some recipes. Invite a preschool to your farm. I don’t need to remind you to keep it positive  – if you have hens in your life, you’re bound to talk about them as glowingly as a grandparent showing off family pictures.

Revised Chicken Keeping Web Page

Check out my Chicken Keeping Web page. I’ve reorganized the resources and links section and added a few more useful sites to peruse and fun things to look at. I’m on the lookout for chicken artists (not hens that paint — though that’d be really interesting!) — but artists who are inspired by chickens. Also, I’ve added a list of blogs about hens. I’ll keep the list small and well-curated. You’ll know it’s current and worth reading if it’s on my site. (Don’t you just get so annoyed clicking out-of-date links?)

On to henhouse news: Tweedledum is finally up and about. No telling how long she’ll take a break from broodiness, but it is so nice to see her silly self strutting around the yard.

The days are getting shorter and we’re getting fewer eggs. We’re down to finding about five to six eggs a day. Snowball, the slacker, stopped laying ages ago. But now the big girls are laying less frequently, too. Still, I’m hoping for a winter like last year when we continued to get enough eggs to feed my family. It helps that the henhouse windows face east and the roost gets sunlight early.

And finally, here’s another quote from The Biggle Poultry Book, this edition published in 1917: “The hen that sits on the roost or fence in zero weather, or stands on one leg in the snow all day, is not a winter layer.” I’m going to watch for that this winter!

Chicken House Fashion Faux Pas

I wore my favorite pair of jeans into the hens’ yard the other day. Big Mistake! These jeans have decorative buttons sewn along the hem. The girls were sure that I had brought a new type of treat for them to try. So, I will have to stick with classic clothes — no fancy garb in the coop!