backyard chickens

Chickening Out

Finally the books I put on hold through the King County Library System came in: Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens and The Joy of Keeping Chickens by Jennifer Lynn Megyesi. But there they sat on the hold shelf all week before a poor librarian had to reshelve them, probably muttering under his (or, more likely, her) breath. But what can I say? After talking chickens, researching chickens, visiting chickens, and whipping my children into a let's-get-chickens frenzy, my zeal has since evaporated. For two main reasons, really: (1) who is gonna build/buy the darned coop; and (2) chickens poop. I might have gotten over the former if everyone who had chickens or knew about chickens didn't feel compelled to warn me about the latter. My sister warned me. A friend's father who still suffers from chicken lung (!) warned me. A friend who currently has teenage chickens in her garage marveled at their output. Even Mr. Jay McPherson (see picture) of Tiny's Organic told me he moves his mobile chicken coops twice a day because "they make a real mess." And Tiny's has acres and acres to pasture those chickens out in East Wenatchee.

So no more chicken dreams for me. I'll continue getting my eggs at the Market, and I was always going to continue getting my chicken-for-consumption there, since, if I couldn't handle loads of chicken poop, I certainly wasn't going to try slaughtering and plucking some Buff Orpington my children had named.

Both the Thursday and Saturday markets will have frozen chicken available. Having visited Skagit River Ranch, I've personally seen their chickens and turkeys happily ranging and foraging, and I'm getting better at cutting up a whole chicken into parts. In addition to Skagit, Tiny's Organic is now offering their own free range organic chicken and turkeys, and their chicken is available whole or in packages of certain parts. While Skagit raises chickens in "classes," all one breed per class, so they can keep track of age, Tiny's offers your basic Cornish Cross. Jay reports that chicken sales have been so brisk that his brother is encouraging him to double the size of the operation, which sounds like a good idea to him, since Jay finds poultry more exciting than his father and sister's fruit-growing operation. As with Skagit, buyers can pre-order Thanksgiving turkeys when the season rolls around. Tiny's raises six heritage breeds which require six months to mature, rather than the typical three-month breed found in the supermarket. If you're interested in signing up for a Tiny's CSA, the deadline is approaching. The mid-season CSA in August will offer both produce and chicken. On the website you can also pre-order your chicken for pick-up at the Market. Easy peasy. No coop, no poop!

If any vegetarians are still reading this post, I do have some news tidbits that may be of greater interest:

  • Honeyoe strawberries are in at Hayton Farms. This early variety really does have a honey flavor. Leslie's personal favorites will be in in about three weeks.
  • Autumn Martin's Hot Cakes now offer some vegan options: a caramel sauce with coconut milk and a chocolate done with coconut and hemp milk! While I can't resist butter, I sampled the vegan options and found them very tasty.

That's it for this week! See you all again at the Thursday Market. As always, feel free to comment with news and tidbits.

Armchair Chicken Farming

It's been some time since the UrbanFarmJunkie reviewed a book, but I just finished Bob Sheasley's delightful HOME TO ROOST: CHASING CHICKENS THROUGH THE AGES and had to share. Sheasley works as a journalist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, but at home he raises chickens--lots of them. The book is hard to classify: part history of chicken domestication, part recap of funny historical beliefs about chickens, part personal anecdotes, and part philosophical exploration. The author's sense of humor keeps the book lively, even when he takes on such subjects as cockfighting or industrial chicken farming, and the bits about chicken sexuality are highly entertaining. (Of course, I may have a soft spot for chicken sexuality because my children's favorite birds-and-the-bees book features paper cut-outs of all kinds of animals going at it, and the chickens are my hands-down favorite. To think--someone had to cut out little humping chickens. Amazing.) If chickens bore you, don't despair: ducks and peacocks make the occasional cameo in Sheasley's book as well. Highly recommended.

If, on the other hand, the only thing that gets you up in the morning is vegetables, Marion Nestle recently blogged on how to retain the most nutrients in the vegetables we eat.  In short, eat both raw and cooked vegetables. Some fresh vegetables benefit nutritionally from cooking, but frozen vegetables suffer. (But yuck--who wants to eat an uncooked frozen vegetable?)

And finally, if you've been putting all your eggs in the omega-3-fatty-acids basket, Forbes notes that all omega-3 sources are not equal. Fish sources beat plant sources, in terms of how effectively our bodies process them. Have pity on the world's overfished critters, however, and get your recommended two-servings-a-week from the BFM's own sustainably-caught Loki Fish, available in the off-season at some Seattle markets and online.

All for now. Less than two months until Opening Day!