Sunday, November 14, 2010

Fighting the Backyard Chicken Fad

If you haven't thrown this weekend's Parade Magazine away, you'll notice a favorable article about backyard chickens, just more evidence about how trendy backyard chickens have become. Martha Stewart raves about them and there is no shortage of other articles about this nationwide phenomenon. But trends can devolve into fads pretty quickly.

Of course, most fads are pretty harmless -- abandoned pet rocks don't suffer. But when a living pet trend becomes a fad, animals are at risk. Dalmatian registrations surged after re-release of 101 Dalmatians. And Clownfish capture increased in the wake of Finding Nemo. So there is a possibility the backyard chicken movement will turn into a fad placing chickens at risk.

The difference between a trend and fad is that a trend has underlying rational basis while a fad is driven primarily by its own popularity. So the challenge for serious backyard chicken promoters is to stay firmly connected to the underlying rational basis and resist popularity for popularity's sake.

That's why CLUCK emphasizes and supports workshops and educational efforts to impress on would-be chicken keepers the challenges and responsibilities of owning chickens. Those of us who have raised chickens before know what we are getting into, but first timers are owed a clear understanding of what is involved. Luckily both the local Extension Office and private educators are offering workshops and there are now some great resources that explain the dimensions of backyard chicken keeping.* Fight the fad.

* This blog lists a number of online resources in the column on the right. Perhaps the most impressive is the BackYard Chickens website, which has lots of info and over 70,000 chicken keepers in its forum.

One can also subscribe to Backyard Poultry magazine, which contains both helpful articles and advertisements for everything from the basics (baby chicks, coops, feeders, waterers) to automatic coop closers and incubators.

There are dozens of books (93 hits for "backyard chickens" on Amazon). Here are three I have and can recommend:

City Chicks by Patricia Foreman (Subtitled Keeping Micro-Flocks of Chickens as Garden Helpers, Compost Creators, Bio-Recyclers and Local Food Suppliers) This is the longest (464 pages) and the best I have seen since it focuses on micro-flocks.

Raising Chickens for Dummies by Kimberly Willis with Rob Ludlow

Keep Chickens! Tending Small Flocks in Cities, Suburbs, and Other Small Spaces by Barbara Kilarski

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