Saturday, January 15, 2011

CLUCK on Location: Sarah the Buff Brahma visits South Poinsettia Picnic

Sarah the Buff Brahma spent two hours today at the South Poinsettia Neighborhood Picnic. It was a classic neighborhood event --the police talked about the importance of locking cars, Commissioner Clapp answered questions, and city staff helped make the case for neighborhood involvement in traffic calming. CCNA representative Warren Miller had invited Sarah and myself to help gauge neighbors reactions to chickens. The results surprised me.

I had assumed children would be drawn to the big fluffy bird and I was right. Tiny kids pointed, older kids asked questions. One girl was alarmed by Sarah's bright red caruncled comb. All that was to be expected.

But many adults stopped by with their own chicken tales about keeping them in England or New Hampshire or a relative that has 18 out east. One gentlemen inquired if he could give Sarah a cookie, and, like a concerned parent, I told him a little. I watched as he broke off crumby pieces and Sarah gobbled them up. Maybe I was projecting but I imagined the experience was transporting him back decades to another time when kids actually fed the chickens instead of lobbying to play Angry Birds on their parent's iPhone.

It just so happened that this was the neighborhood that lived through the menagerie that led to the banning of chickens in the first place. It seems that back in the late 90's one recalcitrant neighbor on Datura had accumulated  45 chickens, 40 rabbits, 8 turkeys, 2 pheasants, and a pygmy goat on a single family lot. No wonder the City Commission got heavy handed. 

Still, you have to wonder what would have happened if it had been 30 dogs, 20 cats, etc. Would those animals have been banned in the City or would the response have been more pinpointed, less broadbased?

Even in this neighborhood that had suffered from an inconsiderate neighbor in the past, it was not hard to find support for backyard hens.

Sarah made it easy, she was a great ambassador. She perked up once and started clucking alarmingly when a small dog on a leash approached. Other than that, she was the queen of calm, sampling some Spanish Moss, drinking occasionally and serenely demonstrating that chickens need not be noisy, smelly, life threatening or any of the other scary traits attributed to chickens.

It was a lovely sunny picnic that re-affirmed our experience that when people meet chickens and learn what is actually being proposed, concern melts away.

Too bad more neighborhoods haven't seen fit to approach the matter with an open mind.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sarasota CLUCK's Top 25 Funky Chicken Facts

Chickley's Believe it or Not!

1) In addition to white and brown eggs, some breeds lay eggs in shades of blue, green, or red-brown, while others lay chocolate colored eggs! 

2) Roosters are not needed for egg production. When a young female hen (pullet) matures she will start laying eggs whether there are males around or not!

3) Chickens may actually have what some would call culture, since mother hens attempt to pass on what they have learned to their chicks!

4)The relatively new website Backyard Chickens has nearly 90,000 registered users and sometimes over 1,500 backyard chicken tenders are online at the same time!

5) "Scarce as hen's teeth" is an expression meant to convey something that doesn't exist, but a Scientific American article Mutant Chicken Grows Alligatorlike Teeth suggests the exception might prove the rule!

6) Research shows chickens have about 24 different vocalizations. University of Connecticut researcher Ebenezer Otu-Nyarko is conducting research in an attempt to understand what each cluck or bwack conveys!

7) The native songbirds in your yard (birds like the common Carolina Wren) will sound louder than the neighbor’s loudest chicken noises due to natural sound reduction with distance!

8) According to National Geographic, some chickens exhibit male features on one side of their bodies and female on the other side. About 1 in 10,000 chickens hatch with this unusual condition and they are called gyandromorphs.

One chicken in corner mirrors- right side has coloration and plumage of a rooster, the left, a hen.

9) Over 75 well-known US cities allow residents to keep chickens! (Click and view page 384Of the ten US cities with the greatest population, all allow chickens (although Philadelphia currently requires 3 acres). Those ten cities have a population greater than 24.5 million people!

11)Chris Evans of Macquarie University in Australia notes chicken’s intriguing ability to understand that an object, when taken away and hidden, nevertheless continues to exist. This is beyond the capacity of small children!
16) Less than a century ago the US government had a campaign: Uncle Sam Expects You To Keep Hens and Raise Chickens. It said that there should be two hens for each person in the household and stated:  In Time of Peace a Profitable Recreation. In Time of War a Patriotic Duty!
18) There are at least three websites dedicated to answering the question: "Why did the chicken cross the road?" ! Joke site. Wikipedia. Philosophers. "Sounds of Chickens"
19) The six cities most attractive to college-educated adults (2007-2009) are Austin, Raleigh, Portland, Riverside, Phoenix, and Charlotte. ALL SIX allow backyard chicken keeping!

20) A recent experiment suggests that chickens may possess empathy. A doctoral candidate at Bristol University measured hen's responses when their chicks were stressed by a puff of air that ruffled the chicks feathers. According to one account of the experiment, "the hens' heart rates increased, their eye temperature lowered - a recognised sign of stress - and they became increasingly alert. Levels of preening were reduced and the mothers made more clucking noises towards the chicks".

21) Toasted chicken feathers could reduce the cost of a single hydrogen powered car by over five million dollars!

Strange "Penguin" Chicken
22) FACT (or FAKERY?): "Penguin" Chicken (left) appears to lead an upright life. Is this creative taxidermy or breakthrough comparable to runner ducks, shown below? We suspect taxidermy because no feeding poses are shown and the birds center of gravity appears to be in front of the feet - an impossibility. See more pics at SOMETHIN BIZARRE.
Well, two more videos of "penguin chickens" have surfaced. One. Two. So we think it is real and wonder if this is the result of disease, injury, a birth defect or is it a trait that can be inherited?
Runner Ducks adopt upright stance

23). Robot hatchling chicks (yume hiyoko) join virtual pet robot dogs and cats in Japan. The photo below shows two robot and one real chick.

24) A 120 pound Great Dane in Canada took a turn watching over 30 baby chicks!

25) They may not be pretty, but so called Transylvanian Naked Neck chickens have a mutation with survival value! 

26) A Colorado man holds two Guinness world records for balancing eggs. He balanced a dozen in 92 seconds and stood 900 on end in a Hong Kong mall! Read more about Brian Spotts and watch a video here.

27) The National Chicken Council estimates that in 2011 over 13.5 billion chicken wings will be marketed as chicken wings (as opposed to wings remaining on other cuts of chicken). Not all of them will be consumed in the U.S. The Council projects "that more than 1.25 billion wing portions will be consumed during Super Bowl weekend in 2011"! 

28) Archaeologists working at the Kingsley Plantation on Fort George Island, Florida found a chicken burial inside the doorway of a slave cabin! They are not sure of the exact meaning, but they believe the sacrificed bird may have been placed there to appease spirits when the structure was built.

29) It seems that in the late 50s the British were concerned that Russia might launch an invasion to the west and they thought ten kiloton nuclear land mines might stop them. The problem was keeping the electronics warm enough and the solution was adding chickens with a supply of food and water. The chickens body heat was to warm the components. When this strategy was revealed, many assumed it was an April fools joke, but the British insist it was a real, but abandoned, strategy. It was code named Blue Peacock.

30) Chicken manure in the Netherlands is expected to produce over 270 million kilowatt hours each year! The biomass 36. 5 megawatt plant in Moerdijk will convert 440,000 tons of chicken manure into enough energy for 90,000 homes!

The following facts are bonus facts specific to Sarasota Florida:

Chickens have been allowed for most of Sarasota's history-- over 85%! The Town incorporated as a City in 1913 and it was not until 2000 that chickens were banned -- partially in direct response to one inconsiderate resident that had accumulated 45 chickens, 40 rabbits, 8 turkeys, 2 pheasants, and a pygmy goat on a single family lot!

Even if code complaints quadruple after passage of our new ordinance, that would still be less than 1% of recent code complaints.  There were nearly 3,000 city code complaints in last two years – only seven of those were chicken related, resulting in only one actual case!

Our Sarasota CLUCK blog has recorded over 30,000 pageviews, despite the fact that it is a local blog focused on backyard chickens in Sarasota!

And here is a completely BOGUS BONUS FACT that is not true: The Onion News Service is reporting:

Genetically Modified Chicken

Lays Its Own Dipping Sauce


Thursday, January 13, 2011

City Posts Agenda that Includes Recommended Code Changes to Re-Legalize Backyard Hens

This 101st Sarasota CLUCK blog posting reflects a long awaiting moment -- the listing of the agenda item related to changing the City Code relating to keeping chickens. The meeting will convene at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday the 18th at City Hall, but, as you can see, there are a number of items ahead of the chicken changes.



Recognition Re: 2010 National Night Out Against Crime Award - Presenter(s): Mayor Kirschner (Citizens’ comments are not permitted)

Presentation Re: President John F. Kennedy Legacy Award Certificate of Achievement to Gabriel Colucci, Member of the City’s Youth Advisory Board - Presenter(s): Mayor Kirschner (Citizens’ comments are not permitted)

Adoption Re: Memorial Resolution No. 11R-2209, recognizing the passing of Dr. Samuel Carroll Buchanan, active contributor to and supporter of the arts and community activities - Presenter(s): Vice Mayor Atkins


Presentation Re: Priorities for the 2011 Legislative Session - Presenter(s): Representative Ray Pilon, Florida House of Representatives, District 69 (Citizens’ comments are not permitted)

Note to the Public:
At this time, citizens may address the Commission on topics concerning the City. (3 minutes per person time limit)
Citizens' Input is to allow citizens the opportunity to present their view on matters concerning City topics but not on items scheduled elsewhere on the Agenda.  Questions and answers will not be permitted.

Note to the Public:
At this time citizens will take an oath if they desire to speak at the following public hearings.
Applicants - 15-minute time limit; Responses - in favor of or in opposition to - 5-minute time limit; Rebuttal by Applicant and/or Affected Persons - 5-minute time limit, subject to the City Commission's discretion

Legislative Public Hearings:

Public Hearing Re: Proposed Ordinance No. 10-4927, amending the Zoning Code (2002 Edition) of the City of Sarasota by making several errata amendments which: add the newly created RTD-9 Zone District to the additional development standards applicable to other single family districts; correct cross references within the Historic Preservation Board powers and duties and Historic Preservation process; eliminate obsolete references to design guidelines; add missing text in Landscape Standards for Motor Vehicle Sales Agencies; add the option of aluminum fencing materials in the first layer in the DTN Zone District; and provide for internal consistency between existing sign regulations in the CT, CBN and Downtown Zone Districts; and further by: allowing awnings by the encoachment permanent process in the public right of way in the CT Zone District; prohibiting certain types of awning materials in the CT Zone District; allowing additional signage for businesses on the second floor in the CT Zone District; adding DTNE to the list of Zone Districts that require Public Art; providing for the City of Sarasota to follow the same procedures as Sarasota County in providing Public Art; clarifying that canopies are a type of awning or gallery or balcony and clarifying how they are to be regulated in the Downtown Zones; revising and updating illumination standards for parking lots and garages; clarifying that commercial wireless telecommunications towers and antennae may be placed within public rights of way subject to Zone District Regulations; and requiring Florida friendly landscaping for certain types of projects; providing for severability of the parts hereof, etc. (Title Only)(Application No. 11-ZTA-01, Applicant City of Sarasota) - Presenter(s): Neighborhoods, Redevelopment and Special Projects General Manager Taylor

Click to View Backup Material for Item XII A 1 

Public Hearing Re: Proposed Ordinance No. 11-4955, amending the Sarasota City Code, Chapter 8, Animals, to allow chickens to be kept in the City subject to restrictions more fully set forth herein; providing for regulations associated therewith; providing that private restrictions may be more stringent than applicable city regulations; repealing ordinances in conflict herewith; providing for severability of parts hereof if declared invalid or unenforceable, etc. (Title Only) - Presenter(s): Neighborhoods, Redevelopment and Special Projects General Manager Taylor

Click to View Backup Material for Item XII A 2 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

CLUCK Asks: Can Backyard Hens Make Sarasota Hip?

Can backyard hens make Sarasota hip? Unlikely. But they may be able to keep Sarasota from being labeled unhip.

Between New College, Pine View, Ringling College and other institutions, hundreds of intelligent creative young people graduate each year in Sarasota. Some find work elsewhere and some pursue their education elsewhere. Some leave, never to return. At least not in the short run.

It would be great to retain as much of this talent as we can, or offer conditions that persuade young people to return when they are ready. We don't need everyone to do this, just a healthy percentage.

in order to figure out how to be more competitive we might want to look at the cities that are attracting college-educated young people. According to a recent Brookings Institute by William H. Frey, Migration Declines Further: Stalling Brain Gains and Ambitions the top six major metropolitan areas with the highest annual net migration rates for adults with college degrees (2007-2009) are Austin, Raleigh, Portland, Riverside, Phoenix, and Charlotte.
And what might these cities of over 1,000,000 population have in common?

Raleigh Sixth Annual Tour d'Coop had 20 coops last year. No permit, four chickens.

Riverside Five chickens or pigeons are allowed in single family residential, non commercial, have to be 50 feet from neighboring residence. However Riverside allows roosters, providing that such roosters are housed from sunset to sunrise in an acoustical structure so as to reduce noise emitted by such roosters and such structure is at least one hundred (100) feet from any residence on an adjoining lot.

Phoenix: Requires chickens to be 80 feet from neighboring residence with written permission of that neighbor, but this is to allow up to 25 chickens. Not in the front yard, fenced enclosure, no roosters.

Charlotte Requires a $40 permit, renewed annually. Must be kept in a coop at all times. Must be 25 feet from any property line. But you can have 20 chickens per acre (10 per half acre, etc.)

Well, there you have it -- wide variation in rules and approaches, but all these major metropolitan areas popular with young college-educated people allow chickens.

Will allowing chickens make Sarasota as popular as these places? Probably not. But it may make us a tad more competitive, and that (combined with our arts, environment, sports, etc.) may just be enough to retain or return more of the young people we want and need.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

CLUCK: The Parable of the Chickens

The following parable has been told many ways. We found this version on something called the Parables of Gary.
It is at the entry of an old medieval town.  There is a blind beggar sitting there as people go about their business.  A man enters through the gate and walks up to the beggar.
“Hello.  Can you help me?  I am moving to this town.  What kind of people live here?” he asks.
“Let me answer your question with a question.  What are the people like in your town?” says the beggar.
“Well,” says the man, “that’s the problem.  The people are all very nice, trustworthy and helpful.  They are pleasant and courteous and always willing to lend a hand.  We are going to miss them.”
“Ahh,” says the beggar, “I have some good news for you.  You will find the people in this town are very much the same.
The next day, at the same place the same beggar sits.  A man enters through the gate and walks up to the beggar.
“Hello.  Can you help me?  II am moving to this town.  What kind of people live here?” he asks.
“Let me answer your question with a question.  What are the people like in your town?” says the beggar.
“Well,” says the man, “I am going to be happy to be rid of them.  Those people are never very nice or helpful.  They never have a good word to say and are always looking for favours.  You can’t trust any of them.”
“Ahh,” says the beggar, “then I have some very bad news for you.”
And here reframed as the parable of the chickens
It is at the City Hall of a popular coastal town, the type place where urban amenities meet small-town living.  There is a homeless man sitting at the base of a statue called "Nobody's Listening" as people go about their business.  A man enters from the parking lot and walks up to the homeless man.
“Hello.  Can you help me?  I am moving to this town.  Do they allow chickens in town?” he asks.
“Let me answer your question with a question.  What are the chickens like in your town?” says the beggar.
“Well,” says the man, “that’s the problem.  The chickens there are great, productive and easy to care for.  They are beautiful and entertaining and they cackle once a day when they lay an egg.  We are going to miss them.”
“Ahh,” says the homeless guy, “I have some good news for you.  You will find the chickens in this town are very much the same.
The next day, at the same place the same homeless man sits.  Another man enters through the parking lot and walks up to the statue.
“Hello.  Can you help me?  I am moving to this town.  Do they allow chickens in town?” he asks.
“Let me answer your question with a question.  What are the chickens like in your town?” says the beggar.
“Well,” says the man, “I am going to be happy to get away from them.  I've heard those birds are noisy and smelly.  They are some stupid farm animal fad and I suspect they spread disease and attract vermin.  That's why I'm moving.”
“Ahh,” says the beggar, “then I have some very bad news for you.”

The Sarasota City Commission has a choice -- it can listen to critical naysaying people, many of whom have no or very limited direct experience with chickens, people with decidedly negative expectations of our citizens and whom prophesize doom, OR listen to people with long experience with chickens, people who have successfully raised chickens in neighborhoods and can't understand why Sarasotans should be any more dysfunctional and irresponsible than the citizens of more than 75 other well known cities that allow backyard hens.

Monday, January 10, 2011

CLUCK's Counter-intuitive Reality: If you don't want fugitive chickens in the neighborhood, you need to let them out of the coop.

CLUCK's Counter-intuitive Reality: If you don't want fugitive chickens in the neighborhood, you need to routinely let them out into a fenced yard.

Another concern expressed about backyard chickens is that they will get loose and become feral, like the unowned or abandoned cats that live in some neighborhoods. This birds on the loose specter is heightened by the reality that chickens can fly, which adds a third dimension to the challenge of recapturing them once they "fly the coop".

The solution proposed by some well-intentioned parties is that the birds should be enclosed at all times and never allowed to roam freely in a fenced backyard. That may seem commonsensical, but it reflects some mistaken assumptions that people not familiar with chicken behavior can easily make. 

In order to explain why, it is helpful to start by thinking about domestic cats.

Cats are a little like carpet --  you’ve got your indoor-outdoor and indoor types. The indoor-outdoor cat has both an inside life and an outside life and it knows where it is warm and dry, and where the Friskies are kept. Once let out, it is skilled at announcing its desire to get back in, either by meowing, drumrolling its paws on a window, or using the pet door. If the indoor-outdoor cat gets out, no big deal, it will return on its own accord (and maybe bring you a mouse or lizard as an offering).

The indoor cat is a different beast. It lives its life inside, unaware of the great beyond and its owners are skilled at positioning an intervening ankle in an open doorway and advising visitors to not let the cat out. But accidents occur and occasionally Tigger or Boots seizes the opportunity and squirts out. Uh oh. Now the cat is confronted with a world of insurmountable opportunity and may or may not have any idea how to get back in the house. Pandemonium may ensue. Evidence of the magnitude of this problem lies in the fact that if you google “my indoor cat escaped” you get more than three thousand hits. We've all seen the poignant xeroxed signs on phone poles around the neighborhood. 

Two types of cats, two entirely different reactions to being outside the house.

Now substitute hen for cat and coop for house. Chickens that get out regularly know exactly how to get back in. As shadows lengthen they long for their safe perches and head inside on their own through the doorway they have traversed many times. 

But cooped-up chickens that escape and have never been out in the yard are likewise confronted with a world of insurmountable opportunity and may or may not have any idea how to get back in the coop. (There may not even be a door positioned that would allow them to get back in). Pandemonium may ensue. The flustered clucker may conclude she should roost in a tree and efforts to catch her are complicated by both her disoriented panic and ability to flee in three dimensions. Now you are on a path to having a chicken on the loose.

So, counter-intuitive as it may seem, the unintended consequence of keeping chickens enclosed 99.9% of the time creates conditions that can result in having chickens on the lamb while letting them out creates conditions that leads to the re-entering the coop on their own. 

Virtually every pet that walks or flies has the potential to get out, either by accident or as part of a deliberate escape attempt. Snakes break out. Dogs take off. Indoor cats escape. And, let's admit, Ms. Feathers could somehow find herself outside looking in. 

So you have to ask yourself: " Do I want a confused bird that has no idea how to get back in the coop on the loose in an unfamilar  backyard that may have no enclosing fence? 

Or a yard-savvy bird that knows exactly how to go home to roost and is confined by a backyard fence?

The answer is easy, although contrary to first assumptions.

That's why CLUCK is offering substitute wording that restores the original covered enclosure or fenced enclosure wording proposed by staff:

The chickens shall be provided with a movable covered enclosure (henhouse/coop) and must be kept in the covered enclosure or a fenced enclosure at all times. Chickens must be secured within the henhouse/coop during non-daylight hours.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

CLUCK on the air: WMNF Monday morning at 11:00

WMNF's Sustainable Living Show hosted by Jon Butts (with Rob Lorei) will include an interview with CLUCK representative Jono Miller. Tune in at 11:00 am at 88.5 FM on Monday Jan 10th to hear the show live. Other guests include Rick Martinez with Sweetwater CSA  (Community Supported Agriculture) and an attorney that deals with issues related to sustainable food efforts in urban areas.

University of Florida IFAS Sarasota County Extension Office holds its first "Chickens 101" class

According the the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, about 20 interested citizens participated in the University of Florida IFAS Sarasota County Extension Office's first "Chickens 101" class on Saturday January 8th. This class, and others offered privately, are a response to the growing national interest in small scale chicken raising and was spurred by CLUCK's local initiative to allow backyard hens in the City of Sarasota. Agriculture/Natural Resources Extension agent Robert Kluson PhD taught the workshop. The University of Florida IFAS Sarasota County Extension Office is not an advocacy group but cooperative partnership dedicated to educating the public. 

"Cooperative Extension is a partnership between the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS)(through the University of Florida Extension), the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Sarasota County Government to provide scientific knowledge and expertise on subjects related to agricultural, human, and natural resources to sustain and enhance the quality of life for the residents of Sarasota County."

The top quote from the article: "Chickens are pets with benefits," he (George Lauterbach) said. "What other animal can make you breakfast every morning?"

Readers are cautioned not to misinterpret the statement that "chickens are only allowed in Sarasota County and not in the City." Chickens are allowed in some County zoning districts, but the majority of districts prohibit pet hens. 

To read the Sarasota Herald-Tribune Article by Nikki Stephens, click here.

To see Sarasota Herald-Tribune photographer's Thomas Bender's photos from the workshop, click here.

In addition to IFAS sponsored introductory chicken workshops, private entrepreneurs with chicken expertise are hosting their own workshops. The next is a workshop (the second) taught by Alex Coe who provided lots of wisdom when we first started defining what we should ask for. That workshop: 
 "So, you think you want to raise chickens" will be held on Friday January 21st from 10 - 1. 
You'll learn how to set up new baby chicks and see various stages of chicken development. This is an introductory class to the responsibilities and understanding of chicken husbandry. For more information, call Alex --941 378-0314/941 780-3447 cell

Workshop content is determined by the providers, not Sarasota CLUCK. CLUCK provides information regarding introductory workshops and local manufacturers of chicken tractors as a public service and receives no financial compensation from the individuals or entities mentioned.