Urban Homestead - Chickens

missinformationJune 25, 2007

Hello - I just found this board. We're wannabe urban homesteaders. We're on a tiny city lot a few minutes from downtown Dallas, TX. We've been in our house 8 years and are getting to the point where we can eat some of what we grow. We've got 7 gardens (soon we'll have 8), a really fun new vertical garden (the cube of food) and our youngest kiddo has 5 pet chickens - 3 of them laying. Dallas doesn't have a hen ordinance, but 2 of our neighbors are going bonkers over them. We're about to have to figure out a way to move them to the backyard. We have 2 dogs back there, so it's going to require some fencing to build some sort of run through the landscaping and part of the lawn.

We'd planned on adding rain barrels next, but it has to go on hold while we find a way to house the chickens out back.

Just wanted to introduce myself and find out if there are any other city dwellers doing what they can.

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stoneunhenged

Would love to see a photo of the cube of food.

That sucks about the complaining neighbors, but if you're operating within the law, I take this constructive approach: screw 'em. You're doing a great thing by producing your own eggs, and I bet you don't complain when they run their leaf blowers. Hens are no louder than any other bird, and it's a sad commentary when we start banning birds from the urban landscape. Now roosters on the other hand....

    Bookmark   June 26, 2007 at 10:01AM
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missinformation

I'm all about your contructive approach, except that if the hens wander into one of their yards and they hurt them, the kids will be devastated. I don't mind moving them to the back, but it's a loss to all the other kids and families who enjoy seeing them bump around the front yard and gardens. Ah well.... these 2 each have 1 foot in the grave, so if I outlive them, I still win, right?

Gotta get some batteries for the camera, then I'll post a picture of the cube of food. Eyes were rolling when I built this contraption, but it's super cool now that it's filled out. I might build a similar one for the garden I started at my kids' school.

While I'm thinking about it, Texas A&M has a Junior Master Gardener curriculum that is really neat. I'm home schooling my oldest son, and he loves working on the activities in that book. They get a cute little certificate from the university after the parent or teacher has signed off that they've completed enough activities. Here's the website: http://jmgkids.us/

    Bookmark   June 26, 2007 at 12:36PM
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stoneunhenged

Thanks for the A&M site. I have four young kids, so that has a lot of relevance.

Another random thought: If you've ever been to Key West, you've seen the population of feral chickens that have taken over the downtown area. Interestingly, over time through natural selection they've regressed to look exactly like their wild forebearers --they look a lot like red junglefowl. You can buy hatching eggs for Key West chickens on eBay. Buy some of those, hatch them out, let them go in your neighborhood, and in a technical sense "you" will not be raising chickens. They'll be raising themselves...and probably by the droves.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2007 at 2:11PM
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missinformation

Ha ha ha, I love it. We have some friends who just got back from Key West who brought us all sorts of stuff about the chickens. Funny you should bring it up, because we just learned about it last weekend when we got together with them.

I have this fantasy of releasing peacocks into the older neighborhoods of Dallas and letting them breed and take over the area. To add another layer of quirkiness and character to these areas that young families are working to fix up while wealthy people from whoknowswhere are eyeballing them as tear downs to build more cookie cutter mansions. While I'm at it, I may as well dream of releasing turkeys into the cookie cutter mansion areas that are Dallas' version of urban renewal.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2007 at 2:20PM
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stoneunhenged

Peacocks would probably work fine for your plan. There are tons running wild in Winter Park, Florida, and they create quite a spectacle. And, they're so beautiful, people are reluctant to kill them.

Not sure about turkeys. I have had turkeys for years --wild and domestic-- and they are not great survivors if they've been captive raised.

I once crossed a grey junglefowl with an araucana and got these crazy hybrid chickens that would fly to the tops of trees and roost 100' up. They easily survived in the woods for years.

Now, I have Law grey gamefowl that look strikingly like that junglefowl/chicken cross. They all seem to be great flyers and very smart and alert. I suspect they would quickly go feral if given the opportunity.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2007 at 10:34PM
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missinformation

Oh I'll never really do it, I'm just entertaining myself with wicked plans.

I remember the peacocks in Winter Park! We lived in Maitland when I was a child, and we used to go see the peacocks near a place called Dinky Dock by Rollins College. I wonder if any of that is still there.

Here's a fun chicken story for you. I lived and worked in Madrid, Spain for several years, and I didn't speak a word of Spanish when I moved there. My apartment balcony looked out over the street and a little gypsy camp. This was a really nice area of town, and everyone just sort of peacefully co-existed with the gypsies and their stuff. The gypsies had lots of chickens and dogs, a donkey wandered around sometimes and they had 3 little boys with mullets who were always snooping around. I would get so exhausted just trying to conduct my daily business in a new language, that I liked to relax in my free time on the balcony and watch the gypsies and all their critters. (Did I mention this is a long story?) One day the gypsies must have told the kids to round up the chickens, so there were kids and chickens running everywhere for a few weeks. There was a big tall dead tree in the lot where the gypsies lived, and those chickens figured out how to fly high! I have pictures somewhere of this crazy tree covered in scared chickens way up in the branches. Eventually the boys caught all the chickens but this one rooster who I named Fast Chicken. He had started jogging everywhere he went, and he'd crow as he went. You could always tell it was him crowing even without seeing him, because his crow sort of vibrated since he never stopped running. And he looked behind him all the time when he ran, because he knew those boys were trying to get him. I saw him all over my neighborhood, running past and crowing, for months, and I just loved him. Sometimes I'd see him coming down my street when I was on the balcony, so I'd throw snacks down to him, and he'd block traffic and sort of jog in place while he ate. I guess they eventually caught him, although he must have been all muscle by then. I had to come back to the states for a few weeks for something, and I was so happy to see him run past me one afternoon after I got back to Madrid. I think that was the last time I saw him.

My kids love hearing about that crazy jogging bird running past me when I was walking to the subway or going to the bus station.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 12:25AM
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stoneunhenged

That is a funny story, well told.

The chain of events leading up to the creation of the grey junglefowl/chicken hyrbid also harbors some drama.

I had a pair of young grey junglefowl and intended to breed them. But, one night a raccoon broke into their pen and killed both birds. When I lifted the lifeless body of the hen, underneath her were two eggs. It was the first time she had laid. Doubting that they were fertile, I took them and put them under a broody chicken. From those eggs I got a male and female junglefowl. Not wanting to breed brother and sister, and having no other junglefowl, I put the cock bird in with some chickens, and he seemed perfectly content.

I was sure that the grey junglefowl could not produce young with the chickens --they're different species spaced far apart on the genetic tree. And so when the chicken hens laid eggs, I more or less ignored them when they got broody and sat on the eggs.

Then, the eggs started hatching. And what emerged was this weird pheasant-like chicken that could fly like a gamebird and vocalized with a bastardized croaking sound instead of the traditional roosters' crowing.

A whole flock of them went feral and, abandoning the plush digs of the chicken coop, took to the woods to live in freedom.

I sold the farm at about that time, and through a series of strange events, ended up buying it back about five years later.

When I returned to the farm I walked over to the now-abandoned chicken coops. And then, to my amazement, a flock of hybrid chickens descended from the trees in the woods and started pecking around as if no time had elapsed. They had survived --even thrived-- in the woods without human intervention for five years.

From that point on, my family called the flock "the Superchickens."

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 8:54AM
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missinformation

awesome, and i love the name super chickens. where is the super chicken farm?

there was a restaurant chain that delivered in madrid called pollo rapido (fast chicken), and i was so excited when i began to learn spanish and saw that name on the side of a scooter.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 9:47AM
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stoneunhenged

I'm in North Florida. Go to the Farming forum and you can probably find a post I did entitled "Farm Tour." You can see some pics of my farm.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 10:49AM
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stoneunhenged

Check out my new post in the Farm Life forum. Bad craziness.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 7:49PM
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missinformation

Could you give me a link? I haven't figured out how to navigate through this site very well yet.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 9:40PM
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