February 2011 CoverOn the wings of Oakhurst Community Garden Project’s wildly popular “Chicks in the City” classes comes a full day of urban poultry-keeping.

On Saturday, Feb. 26, the Chicks in the City Symposium offers attendees a full plate of essentials on backyard chickens. Taught by local experts, the five sessions highlight how-to’s from coop design to breeds and from chicken first aid to getting started with backyard poultry. The symposium will also feature the return of Andy Schneider, The Chicken Whisperer, whose Saturday morning national radio show will broadcast live from the event.

With urban farming on the rise, and as concerns about how food is made increase, this full day of workshops will engage and enlighten both the committed “locavore” and the merely curious alike. New topics this year are chickens as food, predator proofing your coop and first aid. There will also be a silent auction to familiarize you with the best local chicken care products.

The Chicks in the City Symposium runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Decatur Recreation Center, 231 Sycamore St. The cost is $65. Oakhurst Community Garden Project members and City of Decatur residents pay just $50. Pre-registration is requested and limited to the first 100 registrants. For more info, visit Oakhurstgarden.org.

Urban Chickens:
A few thoughts with chick-a-holic, Stacy Reno

How long have you had chickens and why did you get them in the first place. Besides the smell and all?
I got my first chicks last spring. My grandmother always had chickens and I have very fond memories of going over to her house, feeding them and collecting eggs. As I grew older and had kids of my own they had a chance to know her as well and their favorite thing to do at her house was to feed the chickens. She passed away a couple of years ago and I was inspired to raise a flock of my own.

What is the process of being able to have chickens: permits? recommendations? visits to the home? background checks?
It’s not necessary to obtain a permit, however, every county or city government has their own code regarding keeping chickens, so I would suggest checking with them. For example, the cities of Atlanta and Decatur allow chickens, but unincorporated DeKalb County does not. However, I know many in the areas that do not allow them that have them anyway. There is a takeoff on the old saying, “If you outlaw chickens, then only outlaws will have chickens.”

About how much a month do you spend on them, and is it worth it- also is the upkeep strenuous & is it a daily thing (excluding feeding of course?)
I tell folks that they can spend as much or as little as they like on their flock. You can buy 50 pounds of organic feed for $32 and you can buy the non organic for less than half of that. Once you have your coop up and running, feed is really your main cost. I also keep fresh pine shavings in my coop at all times which could run anywhere from $6 to $20 a bag depending on where you get it. Other items you could invest in are nesting boxes, heat lamps and feed and water containers. However, I’ve seen folks make nesting boxes out of items around the house & see no need for heat lamps.

Coop or no coop and why? What are the pros and cons of the coop vs. no coop?
I highly recommend having a coop. It protects your flock from the elements and predators. Again, you can spend as much or as little as you want. I have seen people spend into the thousands on their coop and I’ve seen folks build their own with scrap lumber basically for free.

How many do you have now? Any preference in the species? (are some loving, some aloof while others might be snooty?)
Let’s just say I have several. In addition to my hens, I have a Royal Palm turkey. In the city of Atlanta, you are allowed up to 25, but most back yard flocks have about five or six hens. I would encourage anyone starting a new flock to do their research. You will find that certain breeds are aggressive or easily handled. I am partial to an English breed known as the Orpington. I would also suggest to buy local if you can. It is helpful to know where your chickens come from.

How are they with other animals, or how are other animal with the chickens?
My dogs and chickens get along very well. I often let my hens free range in the back yard right along side the dogs. It is important to keep an eye on the little ones as the pets seem to think they are toys, but as the chickens get older, they are usually able to hold their own. Of course, you would want to make sure that your pet is open to having feathered friends, not a feathery snack.

Your favorite chicken name?
Usually the kids name them, but I have a breed known as a Jersey Giant that I named Snooki.

Find Reno on Twitter as @CrazChickenLady and www.crazychickenlady.wordpress.com

Bawk This Way
Q & A with chicken owner, Mark Cohen

Who is this little one on your head?
The little chicken on my head is named Surprisey. She was named by my eldest daughter when, after we ordered three chicks, we discovered a bonus fourth. Thus she was a surprise.

Are you reconsidering the coop now that some chicks have been “taken” by predators?
My coop is safe, but I let my chickens run free in the backyard during the day. Live free or die, I say. Unfortunately, the latter is often the case.

What’s your favorite part of owning chickens?
Besides the fresh/free eggs, they become our pets. We raise our chickens from the time they’re two days old so they don’t mind sitting in our laps or anywhere else they deem perch-worthy.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.

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