The New Rules of the Roost: Organic Care and Feeding for the Family Flock

The New Rules of the Roost: Organic Care and Feeding for the Family Flock

by Robert Litt, Hannah Litt

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781604698664
Publisher: Timber Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 07/10/2018
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 627,923
File size: 22 MB
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About the Author

Robert and Hannah Litt are the owners of the Urban Farm Store, authors of A Chicken in Every Yard, and experts on keeping backyard chickens. They have been featured on Planet Green’s Renovation Nation, National Public Radio, and Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Robert Litt founded the Urban Farm Store in Portland, Oregon with his wife Hannah. They’ve been featured on Planet Green’s Renovation Nation, National Public Radio, and Oregon Public Broadcasting. He was named one of Food & Wine’s “40 Big Food Thinkers Under 40” in 2010.
Hannah Litt founded the Urban Farm Store in Portland, Oregon with her husband Robert. They’ve been featured on Planet Green’s Renovation Nation, National Public Radio, and Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Read an Excerpt

Kauai, the oldest and northernmost of the Hawaiian Islands, is renowned for its rugged canyons, tropical beaches, and laid-back lifestyle. It also provided the lush jungle setting for the dinosaur epic Jurassic Park, in which the ancient beasts are brought back into the modern world through genetic science—with predictably chaotic results.

In reality, Kauai is teeming with living dinosaur relatives of Tyrannosaurus rex, and there is indeed a very real, and uncontrolled, genetic experiment underway. The tiny raptors are Gallus gallus domesticus, better known as chickens, and the island is overrun with them. Visitors are charmed by the antics of these familiar birds in this unexpected milieu, eagerly spotting them juking through the jungle greenery or cautiously collecting cabana crumbs. Locals regard them with disdain. They patiently explain that these are nothing more than fowl gone feral, an introduced irritation, escapees from local farms run amok in a relatively predator-free environment.

Local lore has it that island chickens escaped from their coops and cages in the chaos of Hurricane Iwa in 1982 and again with Hurricane Iniki in 1992. These free-ranging chickens began to breed with the local Polynesian birds of Indian origin. Subject to the forces of natural selection, hundreds of years of purposeful breeding were undone in a few generations. Now absent from the island are the fluffy Orpington, the noble Rhode Island Red, and the green-egg-laying Ameraucana. In their place thrives a diverse population of chickens that share both domestic and wild DNA, a comical rabble of recognizable farm animals and exotic avian majesty.

As so-called chicken-keeping experts, we were stunned and humbled by the spectacle of chickens by the thousands surviving, and indeed thriving, without the least bit of human care. Though we knew to expect the island birds, our first encounter with them was nothing less than a revelation, and seeing our first truly freerange, wild-breeding chicken on the lawn at the airport was a thrill (we’re easily thrilled). She was small, perhaps 3 pounds, sporting brindle plumage that fl ashed iridescent green in the low morning sun. We set down our bags and approached for a gleeful gawk. She stopped feeding on some invisible tidbit in the grass and turned her head sideways to take a skeptical glance at us. We silently admired her for a moment, noting how she resembled her wild ancestor— the jungle fowl of Southeast Asia. These forest-dwelling, low-fl ying birds were the genetic source material for today’s domestic chicken. This particular fowl was not in the least interested in our genetics, however, beyond identifying that we were some sort of large, chicken-devouring creatures with ugly feathers. We loudly fumbled for a camera, confirming for the small hen that we had some sort of malicious intentions, and she was gone in a tiny fl ash of green. We decided to name her Cluck.

At that very moment, back home on the mainland, our motley crew of plump, waddling hens would have been receiving their first visit from our well-paid chicken sitter. Our soft pets were no doubt abusing him with squawks about the perceived delay in food service or the lack of expected treats. “And another thing, whoever you are! The water is too cold! Please warm it before you go!” we imagined that Checkers, our constantly cranky boss hen, would have been demanding.

Cluck needs no such doting care to thrive. She lives a mostly healthy life that will likely be longer than most working farm hens—of a comparable span to those in our own urbane and demanding flock. Her nourishment is scratched up, nibbled, and hunted—or provided as a morsel forgotten by a careless human. She is free to wander as she pleases, at night roosting concealed among low palm fronds or perched upon the warm roof of a tour bus. To lay, Cluck will simply select a quiet spot and produce two or three smallish eggs that will hatch into smallish chicks. Together they will spend their days loitering at an outdoor mall or darting among hotel lounge chairs on a never-ending prowl for tiny bugs and dropped ice cream cones. They pose for occasional photos but are wise to keep a low profile, lest they end up on the menu.

“Maybe our hens could live like Cluck,” we mused that night. It seemed like a reasonable notion at 2 a.m. A Kauai-style, semi-feral flock would require less time and care, save us lots of money on feed, and provide the old girls ample opportunity for healthy exercise. But such jetlagged musings were not so reasonable in the light of day. We knew that our Portland, Oregon, climate was relatively temperate but very cold compared to this island, with seasonal light and temperature changes that make food periodically scarce and stress unsheltered hens to the breaking point. Foraging alone, even in summer, would never provide the concentrated nutrition domestic chickens need to lay a good number of sizable eggs. And that’s not to mention the murderers’ row of local coyotes, hawks, and raccoons awaiting their opportunity to enjoy an easy chicken dinner.

We might not be able to simulate the relative easy life of a tropical climate with few predators for our own chickens, but we intuited that there was much we could learn from plucky Cluck and her chicks. Unlocking her secrets could help us improve how we feed our flock, better protect them from predators, heal our injured and sick, and work within their enigmatic pecking order to foster harmony.

Table of Contents

Introduction 9

Birds of a Feather: The Need for Breeds 17

Best Breeds for the Backyard

Flocking Together: The Growing Brood

Picking Up Chicks: Guidelines for a Healthy Brooder

Hen Habitats: Successful Shelters 47

Siting the Habitat to Avoid Ruffling (Human) Feathers

Room to Roam

Keeping Peace in the Flock

Boredom busters

Hazards of the Traditional Urban Coop, and How to Fix Them

Poultry in Motion

The Need to Feed: Providing Nutrition

Feeding Fundamentals

On the Hunt

The Elements of Nutrition

Feeding Equipment

Feed Storage

Common Feeding Problems and Solutions

Whole Hen Health: Maintaining a Healthy Flock 115

Chicken Little versus Big Pharma

The Body of Knowledge

Performing a Basic Chickon Exam

Flock Fixers

Treating Hens with Botanicals

Nonbotanical Natural Remedies

Administering Daily Supplements

Mock Diseases

Gastrointestinal Illnesses

Egg-Related Conditions

Respiratory Illnesses

Wounds and Infections

Neurological Conditions


End-of-Life Considerations

Blending Your Own Feed 183

How to Make Bokashi 188

Sample HOA Letter 189

Weights, Measures, and Conversions 190

Additional Resources 192

Acknowledgments 199

Photography and Illustration Credits 200

Index 201

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The New Rules of the Roost: Organic Care and Feeding for the Family Flock 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am new to this and I am going to need a lot of help. Thank you for your book. Gd bless you and your family.