Thursday, March 19, 2015

**MDAR Avian Influenza Poultry Alert**

See below for the official Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources Poultry Alert regarding Avian Influenza that was released this afternoon.

The gist of it is that there have been multiple confirmed cases of Avian Influenza in the west and midwest over the past few weeks, and it can be carried by wild birds (who happen to be migrating right now) so everyone should be on alert for symptoms of Avian Influenza in your flock.

IF you notice signs of illness in your flock, especially (though not always) respiratory diseases, please contact your vet and the MDAR and/or the Poultry Inspector for your area IMMEDIATELY.  The only way to help keep it from spreading is to identify it early.

If you aren't sure you can also get in touch with me, though I'm not able to do the testing necessary to diagnose the exact cause of the illness.  

By the way, the state of Massachusetts offers free testing for your flock, specifically to catch diseases like this before they can spread.  Check out the Poultry Program website for more details (in the middle of that page is also a direct link to the official alert shown at the end of this post).

The MDAR Division of Animal Health can be reached at 617-626-1795.
The poultry inspector for the Boston area is Megan Megrath: 617-626-1798 or

Thanks everyone!  Feel free to respond in the comments or on the Yardbirds Backyard Chickens facebook page if you have questions.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Ahhhh, I'm melting!

Sweet Pea says, "Oh hi there snow.  More?  Well... you know I love you, but I think I'm ready to move on."

Winter came late to Boston this year, throwing chickens' molting schedules off all over the place.  And boy did it show UP by the time it finally arrived!  Though by now that's not really news.

What IS news that we had just a single day with above-freezing temperatures this past weekend, and suddenly all that water weight and ice is shifting around and wreaking ALL kinds of havoc everywhere.

"But," you might say, "what does this mean for my girls?" 

In a word?  Flooding.

Not in the coop, necessarily, but in your igloo-encased run.

Assuming you've already dealt with any structural issues, your biggest challenge in the next month or two (assuming we ever get to put our winter jackets away!) is going to be that all of that melting snow and ice will have nowhere to go but into that nice, open area that you so thoughtfully cleared out for your girls.

SO... first of all, if you haven't already cleared the snow and ice off the top of your coop and run I recommend doing so.  And, if you can, toss it far, far away.

Second, dig a moat!  Your girls are all princesses, and every princess castle deserves a proper moat.  You could even build them a drawbridge.  The point is that you want to dig out some other space for that water to go that is NOT towards the inside of the snow-bowl that is currently playing the part of your run.

Third, cry me a river!  Or rather, dig one... or two or three.  Give your moat at least one good drainage path - preferably downhill and definitely away from any buildings so you don't just make your run-flooding issue into a basement-flooding issue.

Finally, raise 'em up!  If at all possible, take this opportunity to add as much sand and additional dirt to your run, ideally to raise the ground level in the run so it's higher than the surrounding area.  The sand will also help with drainage for whatever water does get in the run, and is a fantastic addition to your run flooring anyway (princess chickens love dustbathing in sandy soil!).

(Note: In this instance, I DO NOT recommend trying to supplement your run floor with bedding from the coop, straw, hay, leaves, or any similar plant-based "bedding".  Most of these are used because they are really great at absorbing water, and that is the opposite of the drainage you're going for here.  Most bedding is also very susceptible to mold and rot if it stays wet for an extended period of time, which it likely will in this situation, and that can cause a whole other mess of issues for your flock.)

In summary, if the floor of your run drains fairly well and is higher than your moat, and the moat is higher than your drainage river, and the drainage river has somewhere downhill to drain towards, then you have an excellent chance of keeping your chicky princessess' royal feet as dry as possible.

And now, with the Promise of Impending Spring, I bring you... 

Awkward chicks sunbathing.  :D


(All photos taken by and copywrite of Khrysti Smyth and Yardbirds Backyard Chickens.  If you would like to use any of them, please contact me for permission!  Protip: If you ask me, I'll probably say yes.)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

BRAWK in business! Whoohoo!

As of December 2014, WE ARE BACK IN BUSINESS!  Brawk!  Whoohoo!! 

YBC is proud to announce that after a nearly year-long hiatus, we have developed a new partnership with fellow local biz Green City Growers that will allow us to again offer the great backyard chicken-keeping services we were previously providing AND a few new services as well, including monthly maintenance and a chicken "health insurance" program!  Starting today, all chicken coop orders - including basic design consultation, just chickens if you already have a coop, and any add-on of the newly offered services - will now be submitted and coordinated through Green City Growers using this link.

I will still be coordinating my own petsitting services separately (and I am now officially insured and bonded - woot! Check out the Service and Rates section on for more info), and plan to have YBC merchandise available through my website sometime in the Spring/Summer of 2015.  Cluck back in for t-shirts, YBC First Aid kits, and more!

More details coming soon, or check the GCG page for updates on pricing and availability.

Upcoming Events: 
Feb 12th, 2015 - YBC Backyard Chickens 101 class at Green City Growers.  My next Backyard Chickens 101 class will be held at the Green City Growers location near Union Square in Somerville.  This class will cover the basics of backyard chicken keeping including coop design, breed selection, feeding and health, and I'll have a few of my Chicken Ambassadors with me for you to meet in person!  Go to the Green City Growers website for more info and to register for the class. (This class is limited to 20 seats, so reserve your spot now!)

Bok bok,
~The Chickeness

Monday, January 13, 2014

Northeastern Poultry Congress is THIS WEEKEND!

Well folks, it's that time of year again.  The time where all the poultry breeders and hobbyists in the region (stretching out as far as the midwest, and south all the way into Florida) pack up their showbirds and trek to the Big E fairgrounds in Springfield, MA for the annual Northeastern Poultry Congress.  Happening this weekend, Jan 18-19, it's free and open to the public 9am-3pm on Saturday, and 8am-11am on Sunday.

There will be approximately 2000 excellent examples of nearly every breed of chicken and duck you can imagine entered into the show and on display both Saturday and Sunday in the main showroom.  Birds compete by category, corresponding to the main regions of origin for the breeds (Asiatic, Continental, etc.) and there is a full juniors' division as well.

Most of you reading this message probably don't have birds to show, but this event is totally awesome for you too, because this is the BEST chance you'll have to go and see all these breeds you've been reading about IN PERSON!  And possibly ask their breeders for more info about the breed as well.  There are also a few presentations happening that you might find interesting.  Check out the website for a schedule and more info.

The other reason this event is awesome is the SALES ROOM.  This is where everyone who is showing will have birds and supplies for sale (only people entered in the show can sell birds, which is a good start to being sure the birds are healthy).  If you've been wanting to buy an unusual breed without ordering chicks, this is a good place to go!

Points of note:
**If you are hoping to buy birds at this event, get there FIRST THING on Saturday morning!  The good stuff - that is, the hens/pullets of all the popular breeds - tends to be just about gone by late morning on Saturday.
**If you are buying birds, be very careful about health!  Even if you are super excited about a particular bird, but the bird seems unheathly in any way, DON'T DO IT.  They may have something that can wipe out your entire flock.  Even if you buy a bird that seems healthy, plan to QUARANTINE the new bird for at least a couple of week.

I highly recommend going to the show site and printing out a copy of the 2014 show book before you go.  It sounds like they won't have any printed copies on hand at the event, and you'll want a copy to look up the exhibitors and vendors and take notes, etc.

I will be there for at least a handful of hours on Saturday morning, and I know there's at least one carpool heading over from the Cambridge/Somerville area, so stay tuned on the Yardbirds Backyard Chickens Facebook page for ride coordination, and or check out the Somerville Chicken Keepers googlegroup (not sure if that link will work to sign up, as it's a new group and I don't know if it's open to the public quite yet...).

YAY CHICKENS!  I'm so excited... :D
~Your Chickeness~

This is me and a couple of very supportive friends at the Poultry Congress 3 years ago.  The room behind us is the main show room, and is FULL of birds!  The birds we're holding are, L-R: Fleur (yep, the day I got her!), Mr. Sassy and Mrs. Floofy Pantss (RIP to both), and Goldie (also still in my flock, and my best chicky-mama!).

Monday, September 2, 2013

Monthly backyard chicken meetup in Union Square - tomorrow night!

Hey folks! Just a quick reminder that the next monthly chicken meetup is tomorrow night at Relish: Center for Urban Agriculture in Union Square from 7-9:30pm. This month's presentation topic will be: "Dirt, Sand, Straw, Grass - What to put in your run?"

See you there!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Beat the heat, and where to buy feed in Boston?

Hey folks, and happy summertime!  

Firstly:  Have you tried putting a few ice cubes in your girls' water to keep them cool in this heat?  It's a nifty little trick (and they love trying to peck at the bobbing cubes!). 

You can also hose down their run in the morning to create a slightly cooler microclimate and help cool their little down-coated bodies.  Just be sure that you let them run to the other side so they don't get hosed down too - chickens tend to be strongly averse to getting wet, and you definitely don't want to add to the stress. 

That said, a nice sponge bath under the front of their bellies or under their wings will help them cool down a bit more as well.  And, of course, make sure they have a place where they can get into some nice shade and always have plenty of water. 

And now, the main topic of today's post: where to buy chicken feed and supplies in the greater Boston area?

There are a couple of long-established feed stores a little ways out of town, and three smaller and really fantastic little Urban Ag centers a bit closer in:

Feed stores:
1) Agway in Waltham, MA (closest to us here in Cambridge/Somerville) - They only carry Agway brand feeds, but there are a couple of options to choose from (basic layer vs. "healthy hen" vs. organic, etc) and they have a variety of feeders/waterers/etc.  The guys who work there are great and a get a big kick out of us city dwellers coming to buy chicken feed.  :)

2) Erikson Grain Mill in Acton, MA - Great old place that operates in the old mill building.  They have some variety of feeds, and a good variety of supplies, including food grade diatomaceous earth.

3) Essex County Co-op in Topsfield, MA (north) - This place has the highest variety of feeds/brands and you can often walk into the warehouse to read labels, etc.  They also have a wide variety of supplies, supplements, meds, etc.  This one might be my favorite of the big feed stores in the area, and it's a nice drive to get up there.

Urban Ag Centers:
1) Relish: Center for Urban Agriculture, here in Somerville, MA.  They just opened, so they don't have much for supplies yet, but definitely keep this place on your radar if you're in the Cambridge/Somerville area.  They are already a fantastic resource, and as they grow and get their inventory and system better established they will serve our local community even more.  They will soon be organizing a monthly group feed order, probably in conjunction with our new monthly (1st Tuesday) urban chicken meet-up events that will be starting August 6th.  So stay tuned for more info on that excitement!

2) Pemberton Farms in Cambridge, MA.  This is one of my favorite stores in all of Boston - gourmet groceries with a very strong emphasis on locally-produced goods, plus a fantastic garden center, and they carry some chicken feed and supplies as well (the owners have a small flock of silkies!). 

3) Agricultural Hall in Jamaica Plain, MA (SW Boston).  They have been open about a year or so, and have limited hours, so check that they are open before you go.  They carry some feed and a few supplies, and occasionally host urban ag festivals like last September's Urban Ag Fair!

Thanks y'all, and stay cool!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

News and upcoming events June-July 2013

Hidey-ho, neighbors!

Long time, no blog!  There has been a whole heckuva lot going on in the world of The Chickeness these past few months, and now that one major job has come to a close, I'm looking forward to spending more of my time with the birds once again.

So... news and upcoming events!
  • Did you know that Somerville has a new Center for Urban Agriculture, called Relish?  Well we do, and I am SO excited about it!!  On June 13th (THIS THURSDAY!) I will be presenting my Yardbirds' "Backyard Chickens 101" class at Relish, which is in Union Square (behind The Independent).  The class is $15 - for more info and to pre-register go here.
  • Also at Relish on July 20th, Yardbirds will be doing our first all-day DIY coop workshop from 10am-4pm.  Come for the day, learn all the things, and go home with a coop of your own!  Stay tuned for details.
  • Did you know that I've been working to help the City of Boston come up with some new zoning that will allow and encourage urban agriculture in the city?  I have been, and they have recently released it for public comment and feedback.  Please help the City of Boston see that residents support urban ag (especially chickens!) and encourage each neighborhood to adopt the new urban ag-focused rezoning for their area by attending upcoming neighborhood meetings!  We really need public support for chickens to become legal to keep in each of these neighborhoods, so any and all voices are helpful.  Here is the BRA website with more detailed info, a site where you can download your own copy of Draft Article 89, and the full schedule of neighborhood meetings:
    • June 12th - Roxbury - 6:30-8:30pm (This Wednesday!) at Roxbury Community College, 2nd floor cafeteria, 1234 Columbus Ave
    • June 18th - Jamaica Plain - 6-8pm at the English High School auditorium, 144 McBride St
    • June 19th, 12-1pm, Twitter chat #UrbanAgBOS
    • June 26th - Allson/Brighton - 6-7:45pm at the Honan Branch Library, 300 N. Harvard St, Allston
    • July 1st - Dorchester - 6:30-8:30pm at Dorchester House, 1353 Dorchester Ave
    • July 15th - Dorchester #2 - 6:30-8:30pm at The Great Hall, 6 Norfolk St
    • July 8th - East Boston - 6-7:45pm at the Maverick Landing Community Room, 31 Liverpool St
    • July 10th - Roslindale/West Roxbury - 6:30-8:30pm at the Roche Community Center, 1716 Centre St, W Roxbury
    • July 17th - Hyde Park/Mattapan - 6:30-8:30pm at the Municipal Bldg auditorium, 1179 River St, Hyde Park
    • July 24th - Back Bay/South End/Bay Village/Audubon Circle/Fenway/Kenmore/Longwood - 6-8pm at the Copley Branch BPL in Raab Hall, 700 Boylston St, Boston Back Bay
    • July 31st - South Boston - 6:30-8:30pm at Condon Elementary School cafeteria, 200 D St.
  • On that note, the City of Cambridge is following suit, and has recently started discussions about how to handle urban ag rezoning within their city too!  Stay tuned here or on the Yardbirds website for how you can help make this happen.
  • And finally, check out this great article in the June issue of Edible Boston: Coops de Ville, featuring yours truly, as well as some of my friends and clients!
That's all for the moment... enjoy the rain and stay tuned for more news and info!

The Chickeness