Virulent Newcastle Disease Can Kill Your Backyard Flock

In May of 2018, backyard chickens in Los Angeles County, California began to die – first in one backyard, then in another, then in many, many more.  It was the beginning of the spread of a terrible scourge known as Virulent Newcastle Disease (vND), a contagious and deadly viral disease that affects birds.  By January 2019, in spite of the heroic efforts by staff of the US Department of Agriculture and the California Department of Food and Agriculture, not only had vND found its way into large commercial flocks, it continued to spread through many, many more backyard flocks southern California. 

Six Silkie Chicks Grow Up

One bright morning in May, I traveled to Forest Lake, Minnesota where I adopted six baby chicks. By October, those babies were gone. In their place were six fine young cockerels and pullets. This post is about what happened in between.

A Children's Book: Gwen the Rescue Hen

Leslie Crawford has ably imagined and narrated this story of Gwen’s great adventure, and Sonja Stangl’s illustrations have perfectly captured the whimsy inherent in all things chicken.  Together they show children, and adults that “happily ever after” is a real thing—and making it happen can be as simple as letting chickens live like chickens.

A Carton of Eggs: Part 5—Vital Farms Organic Pasture-Raised Eggs

This is part five of a series about the information printed on egg cartons.  When you buy eggs with “cage-free” stamped on the carton, you probably think you’re doing the right thing.  Cage-free eggs are a huge improvement from eggs that come from hens living in tiny, cramped battery cage torture chambers. But as Vital Farms points out, hens laying cage free eggs probably live in one square foot of space in a cramped barn and never get to go outside.  Vital Farms advertises its eggs as “pasture raised” and guarantees that each hen gets 108 square feet of outdoor space. 

When Your Hen Dies

After our pet chicken dies, then what? We are often loath to talk about it, because too many people just don’t get it. While nearly everybody understands the importance of our cats and dogs in our lives, to most folks, chickens are “just chickens.”

A Short History of Organic Eggs

You’re in the egg aisle at the supermarket and want to get eggs from hens that are treated humanely. So, you grab the eggs with the green and white USDA Organic label and put them in your cart. Organic must be good, right? But what does it even mean in terms of how the hens are treated? Perhaps not very much.

Coop - A Year of Poultry, Pigs and Parenting – A Book by Michael Perry

Author, humorist, and radio-show host Michael Perry tells us the story of his first year in an old house on a Wisconsin acreage with his new wife and daughter.  It is a tale of lurching forward with pigs and chickens and gardening and hay-making and wood splitting and don’t forget building a chicken coop, and of course a home birth—all while maintaining a full-time career.  And other impracticalities.  Nonfiction.  Really. 

Are Chickens Dinosaurs?

Was Tyrannosaurus rex really just a big chicken? Are chickens are the closest living relative to Tyrannosaurus rex? Are chickens directly descended from T. rex? Are chickens dinosaurs? All your questions answered right here!

A Carton of Eggs: Part 3 - Wild Harvest Cage Free Large Brown Eggs

This is part three of a series about the information printed on egg cartons.  I’ve found you can learn from all that carton information once you figure out what it's actually saying.  And sometimes you can learn a whole lot by what it doesn’t say.   Wild Harvest is a brand aimed at consumers who prefer natural and organic products. These are consumers who expect that the producers of the food products they buy are adhering to strong and consistent animal welfare standards. Are these consumers getting what they think they’re getting when they buy Wild Harvest eggs?