Friday, April 23, 2010


I know next to nothing about chickens - but I am about to learn a LOT!!! We live in the country, just outside of a major Canadian city - Calgary, Alberta. This is the land of BIG blue skies, mountains and prairie. It is a beautiful place to live.

My family likes to eat as "clean" as possible - which for me, means growing and preserving as much of our own food as is possible. But our growing season is very short. Because we live close to the mountains, and are at a high elevation, our nights are cold. We get snow, sometimes every month of the year. We have late frosts and early frosts, and summer hail is a threat to every gardener and the farmers who grow crops all around us. And then we have the Chinook winds, which warm the air temperatures in the middle of winter, and dry out everything - killing many plants, including trees and shrubs. It is a challenge to grow food!

Lately I've been thinking about chickens. I have read several books and watched several films which have totally changed my view of buying any birds or creatures which are not organic and either free-range or free-run. Food Inc., Fast Food Nation, Eating Animals, and several more reveal the toxic soup consumers are being sold... well, not me anymore.

So... we've been talking about starting our own flock of chickens. A small flock of 6 birds - all hens, which will lay eggs. We will know what they have been fed, and we will know the eggs are totally organic. We will treat the birds well, and they will become another addition to our menagerie of critters.

Saturday, we traveled about 2 hours to get to a huge show of birds - both domestic and exotic - to see what is out there and to ask questions of those selling the birds. (It was called "Critters and Crafts") Unfortunately, we didn't get there until 4:00 p.m. The sale had opened at 10:00 a.m., and we were told, had pretty much sold out by 11:30 or so. There were only a few vendors left with birds, but we did get to see them, and ask questions in preparation for beginning our own flock.

Some of the birds were amazing! These ones had a Brahma rooster as the "daddy"... their coloring was so pretty...

I love the black feathers against the red feathers. These birds were really quiet as well... a good thing!

This was perhaps the most unusual chicken - a Silkie. Silkies actually have BLUE skin under their feathers which are more like fur, and ultra soft. They come in all kinds of colors - from black to blue to white, and variegated mottled combinations of all those shades as well.

Lots of curiosity shown by the chickens in these transportation pens...

But no roosters for us - even though they are beautiful in their coloring. We only want 6 chickens, thank you very much. That will be MORE than enough for us.

So now, we are researching the best chicken coop to build, and trying to discover where we can buy chicks in a few weeks when we are ready for them...

I must now go and find that painting of chickens and roosters that I started weeks ago, and then abandoned for a while. I think it might be time to finish that up before the real thing arrives in my yard.

By the way, there is one thing I am NOT looking forward to... in one of the videos on YouTube that I watched, the woman called chickens "the poopers from hell". Apparently I will have no shortage of fertilizer for my gardens from now on! Oh yes - and no leftovers, ever. Between the compost, the chickens, the dogs, and the recycling, we'll have very little garbage to haul to the dump. Our waste footprint will be even smaller than it already is!


teresa stieben said...

When you visit Calgary stop by The House Sanctuary in Kensington at 126 10th St. Emmaus art group shows there. Its a wonderful outreach coffee shop.
My mom used to raise chickens for eggs and meat. I really disliked the smell on chicken plucking day, pheewe, hot wet feathers stink. I think chickens will make good models for paintings though I have not painted one yet, but have painted a guinea hen, they are fun critters. I wish I could live on a small acreage and know where and how my food is raised. Its a sad state realizing how our food industry has declined.
good luck with the chicken venture.

Joanne said...

Thanks for the recommendation Teresa! I will definitely visit The House Sanctuary. :-)

I can imagine the smell of plucking chickens on a hot day would be something you wouldn't forget! I am not planning on doing any butchering...uggh! And yes - I think that the chickens could become good models for painting! They just don't stand still long enough to get decent pictures of them!
Have a great week.