COOP News Vol 4. No. 1, March 2009
The new chicks are here, the hens are laying better and better with the turn of the daylight from winter to spring and COOP is a year old.
Last February, six families got together to try this "chicken thing" and now we have over 40 members. As the contact person for our website, www.chickenowners.com, I have received emails from California, Delaware, Lancaster County and more. I have been contacted by local and city reporters looking for a story, and I've recently been asked to give a talk in April at a store downtown. I've met so many people who love chickens and even met the collections manager at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts last fall who came over and sketched our hens.
It has me wondering what this "chicken thing" is all about, really.
For me personally, they fill a void left by my beloved dog, Autumn, who passed away four or five years ago now. I have always loved animals and loved to observe them and communicate with them and am finding the chickens to be great subjects. Contrary to popular belief, chickens are not dumb, or even all that "chicken". In the past several months I've had one survive a hawk attack and another one suffer from a bacterial infection. We treated her with medication but she almost wasted away because she missed being part of the flock. As soon as she was well enough to stumble her way back into the coop she's been recovering at a remarkable speed. This is not a simple creature. Our dominant chicken, Nixi, feels she has to fly up on each of her caretaker's shoulders in order to try to dominate them.
In addition, the biologist in me has me enjoying tracking their every egg and I've been able to keep a log of who laid what and when and have recently been weighing each one and recording that information as well. That will end this summer when the new chicks start laying since there will be too many to keep track of individually, but I still look forward to counting and recording at least the different colors of eggs.
And, there's nothing funnier than to walk out the door when the "girls" are out in the yard and have every one of them coming running up to me and then follow me out to the garage where they know the chicken scratch is stored. 28 little toenails tapping after me on the driveway is really just too much.
Oh, and there are the eggs, those yummy, gorgeous eggs. Craig Hammond said it better than anyone I've heard or read. He said, "this simple give and take between chicken and owner is a very special relationship that gets so easily taken for granted." I know Susan was having some hard times with her egg layers last summer/fall and was so disappointed that she had to buy eggs for the first time in years and years. It really is a gift that we take very simple care of these birds, provide them food, water and shelter and in return they do what nature has been telling them to do for 30 million years — lay an egg and leave it for us to eat.
As I said, on February 9th I picked up 45 peepers from the Fort Washington post office. They were all beautiful. Unfortunately, 5 of them, all bantams or Polish chicks, did not make it and died within two days (most the first day). Makes me realize how lucky we were last year to not lose a single chick that way. Anyway, the rest were either picked up by their owners that day or were left here for me and Doug to raise. Currently we have 21 chicks in our back kitchen (we had 22 but I loaned one to Amy Wallwork to raise). We actually gave up the whole room to them, blockading the door with window screens and just put some plastic sheeting covered with aspen chips down on the floor and hung the heat lamps over top and let them loose. They seem to be having a ball. Other new chick owners include Craig and Jenny Hammond and their boys, Lauren and Maddy Steltzer, Nicollete van der Lee in Princeton and her young next-door neighbor, Pam Davidson, Pam's son, wife and grandkids, a friend of my dad's in Baltimore, Kristina and Andrew, Lisa and Laurie, Amy and Josh, and Francie and Margot. I hope everyone is enjoying their chicks and know we would all love to hear how they are doing.
I was recently contact by a reporter at the CityPaper looking to do an article on chicken owning and looking for city dwellers who own chickens willing to be interviewed. I'll be writing back to her tonight but if you know of anyone who fits the bill, please let me know.
Someone anonomously dropped a photocopy of a very nice essay in the gourmet magazine Saveur off at my door. I've attached it in pdf format for you all. It is written by a woman who raised some hens the summer after her mom had passed away and how they helped her with her grief. Very lovely.
COOP Assistance Needed
Sherry Moman in Erdenheim off Patton Road is going to be tackling the job of fencing in her coop yard sometime between March 14th and 29th while on her spring break from the Miquon School. She's doing this on her own so if anyone can give her a hand please drop her at email at email@example.com. Since her family thinks she's nuts to be raising chickens we COOP folk need to give her all the support we can!
Amy Wallwork has graciously volunteered to organize a COOP coop tour for the spring, so if you are interested in having your coop visited, please let her know. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm sure she'll be contacting us all sometime soon as well.
Last Meeting (Er, Party)
Just another shout out to Sherry and Steve Klein for organizing and hosting our wonderful Chicken Party on January 31st. What fun and thanks again to the Barren Hill Firehouse for hosting.
The next meeting is up for grabs. Heidi and Elizabeth, those chicken-owner wannabes in evil Fort Washington, have offered their house, which has just been renovated and that they are moving back into next week. No date set as of yet but I'm thinking late March/early April? What does everyone think? Please let me know by return email your available dates in March/April.
I have been thinking about a new format for the meeting. Instead of introducing everyone in a circle at the meeting, let's all make sure we introduce ourselves to any new folks during the mingling portion and then use the meeting portion for sort of a free-flowing question and answer time, followed or preceded by someone getting up and talking about a particular chicken subject. I know that Laurie has some topic in mind she would like to talk about, although I'm not sure what. If anyone else is interested in speaking please let me know.
HAPPY SPRING AND LOOK FORWARD TO HEARING FROM YOU ALL AND SEEING YOU AT THE NEXT MEETING.