We are excited to be able to teach two courses this fall, one through the University of Alberta Botanic Garden and one through Edmonton Public Schools Metro Continuing Education. The Metro course will include a coop tour. We hope to see you there!
Registration for the U of A course on September 14, 2017 is available through their website at this link.
Registration for the Metro course on October 17, 2017 (coop tour October 21, 2017) is available through their website at this link.
Once the snow finally melts, it is time to think about spring cleaning. It sounds like a chore, but a thorough cleaning a couple of times a year will save you time in the long run, and help keep your birds happy and healthy.
We've put together some ideas to get you started, but there are lots of other articles online. Do your research before you start, and consider your circumstances. For example, you may be using the deep litter method, or may be cleaning the coop in response to illness in your flock, in which case you may need to modify your cleaning procedures accordingly. With that in mind, here are some basics to think about.
Pick a nice warm day where your hens can free range or move to an alternate enclosure for several hours or even longer. You don't want them around while you are cleaning, and you don't want to reintroduce them to the coop until it is safe to do so.
Gather your cleaning supplies: garden fork or shovel; bucket and scrubbing brush; assorted rags for dusting; disinfectant of choice; wheelbarrow or garbage bags. You are going to get very dirty, so wear suitable clothing. Consider a dusk mask, as well, to protect your lungs.
Remove the bedding from the coop. If you plan to compost, move the bedding to your compost site, adding any compost amendments necessary to establish a hot compost. You can read more about how to make this wonderful stuff here. Edmonton also has free composting information, including a composting help line. If composting is not an option, double bag the bedding and discard as per your garbage disposal regulations. Make sure you get all the bedding out of the corners. A good outdoor vacuum can come in handy.
Remove any droppings that may have gotten stuck, for example on the roosts, walls or floor. Dust all surfaces and and ensure the coop is completely empty.
Disconnect your electricity. Thoroughly wash the coop, including the walls, floor, roosts, ceiling, nest boxes and windows. Go behind any crevices that could harbour mites or other critters. Clean under any flooring you may have installed. Rinse the coop, and mop up any puddles.
Consider whether any improvements are needed for your coop. For example, seal any drafts you may have noticed over the winter. Chickens need plenty of ventilation, but in the winter the coop must ventilate upwards, without any air blowing across the chickens. Consider whether any ventilation changes are in order to help keep your hens cool in summer and dry in winter. If you saw evidence of humidity in your coop over the winter you likely need more ventilation. Make any changes you think are necessary to your roost, nest boxes, predator-proofing and insulation (make sure your chickens can't eat your sealer or your insulation!)
Once the coop is clean and ready, disinfect everything. You should be disinfecting water and food dishes on a regular basis, but this is your chance to get all the spots germs like to hide. Apply your disinfectant of choice according to the manufacturer's instructions. Follow all safety recommendations both for your sake and for the sake of your chickens.
Make sure the coop is absolutely dry and that any fumes from your disinfection have dissipated. Keep in mind that the timing of this will depend on the disinfectant you use - don't reintroduce your chickens until it is safe to do so. Once the recommended time has passed, add back your bedding, and, finally, the hens.
Welcome to a further edition of our tour of some of the coops participating in Edmonton's Urban Hens Pilot Project. This is a smaller coop, built entirely of repurposed material, and yet sound and comfortable for the hens. The owner built it next to his garage for added protection in the winter, and under a tree for shade in the summer.
The owner elected to start with older laying hens for the pilot project. At the time of the photo tour, each hen was approximately three years old, yet between them they produced several eggs each week. In addition, they provide great outdoor entertainment for the owner's daughter, and supply droppings that can be composted and used in the garden.
In winter, the owner monitored the temperature and, during the coldest weather, used a single bulb for added heat.
Features of the coop include a bird feeder and nipple-style waterer, both of which make minimal mess, and a naturalistic roost. The owner used wood shavings in the coop and gravel in the run, both of which were dry and clean.
The girls come outside from time to time to do a little backyard inspection and some freestyle gardening.
Participating in the Pilot Project has been a great experience for the owner and, he believes, for his neighbours as well. He hopes that at the end of the Pilot Project Edmonton will decide to allow hens on a more permanent basis.
The next coop in our photo tour is located in the south-east of Edmonton. The owners are new to owing chickens, and took time to research their new pets before building the coop. Because the pilot project was late getting started, the owners did not have time to paint their coop, but all the necessaries are in place.
About their reasons for participating in the pilot project, the owners say their motivation is multi-faceted. They have two young children and thought it would be a great experience for them. "It gives them a bit of responsibility to help us take care of them. Our daughter especially likes helping put out scraps and feeding them. Getting eggs out of the deal is a great side benefit."
The owners selected cold-hardy breeds. They have a Barrred Rock, a Cuckoo Maran, a Speckled Sussex and a Buff Orpington / Speckled Sussex cross. The Speckled Sussex shown here is not fully grown. She was part of a pair, one of which turned out to be male. The owners were allowed to return him to the farm and replace him with a female.
Ventilation is vitally important in a coop, and the owners have been careful to make sure the ventilation is adequate for all temperatures. The ventilation extends along the top of both sides of the coop and is covered with solid hardware cloth. During warm temperatures the vents are opened up, but during cold temperatures they can be partially closed, as shown here in response to a recent cold snap. The owners monitor temperature and humidity with a remote sensor.
The coop sports external nest boxes, generously lined with straw and solidly insulated. Despite the cold weather and short days in Edmonton at this time of year, the hens have been providing eggs on a daily basis.
The owners are particularly pleased with their implementation of a droppings tray beneath the roost. The tray is lined with sand and is easily cleaned with a cat litter scoop and a drywall scraper. The owners estimate that about 90% of the droppings end up in this tray. The division between the sand and the litter helps keep the rest of the coop clean.
The owners are trying out a heated poultry water fountain. Some people report that this type of watering device cracks, but the owners have experienced no problems so far.
About their participation in the Edmonton Urban Hens Pilot Project, the owners say:
The experience has exceeded our expectations. The birds are incredibly gentle (and harmless during the hilarity of catching them). We were initially concerned it was getting too cold/dark for the birds to start laying eggs this winter but we started getting eggs about 2 weeks ago. Checking every day has been exciting. The Barred Rock started laying eggs about 12 days ago and she has laid an egg every single day since! The last couple days one of the other hens started laying these small brown speckled eggs! So cool. ...The two eggs on the left are store-bought large eggs for scale.
The coop is fully insulated, with a south-facing window to increase heat in winter. There is ventilation at the rafters, and the window can be opened in hot weather.
The run is fully covered, with clear roofing for light in winter, and nearby trees for shade in summer.
Below you see the wooden nest boxes and the roost, with a rounded top for comfort.
In anticipation of the Urban Hens Pilot Project, River City Chickens presents "Chickens 101", a workshop for anyone interested in keeping chickens in Edmonton! Sun Oct 5 at 2:00pm at the Edmonton Strathcona Library, 8331 104 St NW Edmonton, Alberta.
Topics will include:
Feeding and care
...and many other tips and resources for keeping hens in Edmonton.
There will be plenty of time included for questions, discussion, and meeting other chicken enthusiasts!
Tickets through Eventbrite, Cost: $5
The City has made the application form available here. The City says there are a limited number of spots available, and that if you would like to participate you should send your application form right away.
Edmonton has a Food Council, folks! You can read about their members and mandate on Edmonton's Food Council web page. The first meeting took place on Monday, September 23, 2013. A local blogger provides a recap of the meeting here.
The members of the Food Council were provided with an open letter from a local family, in support of backyard hens. A member of River City Chickens Collective met up with this family, who wants to share their story with you.
"Two years ago, our young family returned to Edmonton, after having lived on the west coast for some years. We had sold our dear old house in McCauley to friends when we left the city, and, amazingly, were able to buy it back from them upon our return. The transition was eased greatly by the adoption of four heritage hens into the family. They came to us, together with a swanky espresso machine, as part of the private repurchase of the house.
We knew that there was a bylaw prohibiting chickens in the city, but felt that if we were responsible to both the hens and our neighbors, their benefits would far outweigh their liabilities. For the last two years, we have been learning to love and care for The Girls, and have become passionate advocates of urban chicken-keeping. Sadly, someone recently complained about them. An Animal Control officer came to our door and told us we need to find them a new home, or pay $500 per day per chicken to keep them past the deadline. Now that they are no longer a secret, we have a chance to speak up for our urban hens.
Here is what they have given us, in return for a draft-free and well-bedded home, a roofed run, a bit of grain, and all the excess of house and garden.
Eggs, of course. Orange-yolked, large, and healthier by far than factory-farmed eggs (1/3 less cholesterol, twice the omega-3 fatty acids, 7 times the beta carotene). At the height of summer, each chicken lays an egg every day, identifiable by color and shape. Our children love to choose their favorite eggs. And, conveniently, The Girls lay these eggs without need of a noisy rooster.
Organic fertilizer. We bed our chickens with straw and dried leaves, and the combination of the high nitrogen chicken manure and high carbon leaves creates wonderful compost. We have three compost bins at the back of the yard, at different stages of completion, and are thus able to quickly process all the chicken bedding back into rich soil with a minimum of smell and mess.
Enjoyment. These Girls have personality. Each one is unique, and they often make us laugh with their antics. We have named them, of course. Blackie, Whitey, Greytie and Goldie. For a while they were instead Paul, John, George and Ringo. They draw the children into the back yard. Visitors, young and old, love them too. They have been picked up and hauled around since chick-hood, and are our pets just as much as a cat or dog.
We strongly believe that urban dwellers should have the right to responsibly keep chickens in their backyards. Not for agriculture, as such, but for sustainable, affordable, organic food. It is simple Home Economics. Backyard eggs and composted manure are worth their weight in gold. Chickens donʼt bark, bite, jump over fences and poop in other peoples yards. If the city can accommodate dogs and cats and create bylaws for their responsible management, surely it can also accommodate chickens. The refusal to do so is simply anti-rural, and such an illogical division of rural and urban is outdated and unhelpful.
City of Edmonton, when you speak of greening the city, put your money where your mouth is and change this archaic bylaw. People of Edmonton, if you support the right to responsibly keep chickens, please phone or write your Councillor, the Mayor, and the incoming members of City Council. Let your voice be heard! Let the Birds be heard!"
We can see the ground here in Edmonton (in places), and that has some people thinking of eggs hatching and of chickens clucking. The City has not changed its position with respect to backyard hens, but if you want to learn more about whether backyard hens are for you, should Edmonton decide to allow them, a couple of fairly local groups are offering courses.
It has always been a goal of River City Chickens Collective to offer this type of thing, but that will have to wait until the City is further down the road in terms of legalizing backyard hens.
Offered by CLUCK Red Deer:
Offered by Shovel and Fork: http://shovelandfork.com/shop/backyard-hens-new/
River City Chickens