Wing Clipping

They might not be the most aerodynamic birds, but domesticated chickens can fly over a nearby wall, fence, or into a tree. They are not capable of long distance flight, as they are pretty bottom-heavy, but they enjoy getting up high to temporarily explore their surroundings or flee danger. Wing-clipping is a humane way to prevent your chickens from flying the coop, and doesn’t seem to cause any discomfort or affect day-to-day life.

Feathers are kind of like finger nails, if they are cut or fall out, a new one will grow in it’s place. The clipped feathers will fall out during molting and grow back again.  Molting is triggered by hormones usually once a year, and is a natural process where chickens shed and regrow their feathers. Here are some pretty simple no-nonsense steps to wing clipping.

Photo courtesy of:

Start with a good sharp pair of scissors and use your fingers to splay out the flight feathers: the longer feathers tucked under the wings, typically a different color than the others. Cut just one wing to offset the balance. If you cut both wings equally, they still might be able to fly. Remember: You want to offset the balance by making one different than the other. Be careful not to get too close to the quill, where it is attached to their skin. Only cut about 4 inches.



Don Titmus on Backyard Chickens

This is Don Titmus of the Rio Salado Permaculture Guild talking about the beauty and frustrations of keeping backyard chickens. It is his voice in his own words, but the video is of my backyard and my chickens.

Your Neighbors Versus Your Backyard Chickens

The laws for rearing backyard chickens are really in favor of those who are negatively effected by other people’s animals: the neighbors. Which I can agree with on some level. If there is a noise or stench problem coming from your neighbor’s chicken coop that is legitimately bothersome, the person is not doing a very good job. Proper urban chicken keeping (and proper chicken keeping in general) should not be smelly. It can however be noisy. When a chicken lays an egg, it can be quite an ordeal. Think child labor. But it shouldn’t be any noisier than the Mexican banda music I often hear blaring in my Phoenix neighborhood. Which as long as it’s during the day, I have zero complaints about.

Roosters are another story. The cock-a-doodle-do at 5:30 a.m. isn’t always the alarm clock you wanted on a Saturday morning when you wanted to sleep until 10. I get that. But roosters can be a great addition to a small flock. According to my mom, the hens don’t fight amongst themselves as much if there’s a rooster. It keeps them calmer by adding balance. But for the benefit of my neighbors, and to keep in compliance with the city code, I do not have a rooster.

Lucky for me, I don’t have a home owner’s association. If I did, I probably wouldn’t be allowed to have chickens at all. Most HOAs don’t allow them because they are considered a neighborhood nuisance. The city also has a tricky set of laws. It allows you to keep up to 20 chickens, but no less than 80 feet from a residence. It’s nearly impossible for my chickens to be eighty feet from my neighbors. If any one of them decided to call the cops, I’d probably be toast. Thankfully, after almost one year of chicken-keeping, this has been a non-issue. I could try to get written permission from them, just to be on the safe side, but I don’t want them to feel like I’m intruding on their personal choices or privacy. I talked to them all before hand, and if they ever changed their minds, I would be willing to work with them on that. So far they’ve all been really cool about it, and I’m sure giving them a dozen eggs once a month doesn’t hurt either. Just talking to your neighbors goes a long way. Most problems arise from lack of communication and respect. If there’s an issue, I would like to think they would come to me directly.

One time my chicken Betty (now deceased R.I.P.) flew into my neighbor’s yard while I was at school. Which is scary because he has big dogs that would’ve loved to eat her. He took Betty into his house and kept her there all day until I came home so she wouldn’t die. I think she pooped all over his house. In fact I’m sure of it. They poop constantly, and it’s really pretty gross. But he didn’t say anything about the clean-up. He was happy to ensure her safety over the course of the afternoon. But I realize not all neighbors are of this caliber. He really went above and beyond normal neighborly protocol.

I really feel blessed that my neighbors are all people I can call friends. But every city, house and living situation is different. There are complex city codes, neighborhood disputes, noise and smell issues to navigate. There are also neighbors out there that are just plain mean, grumpy and will call the cops on you for nothing. It’s upsetting that for people like that, the laws are essentially on their side. If nothing else, just try to be respectful and talk to the people who live close to you, especially the grumpy ones. You might be able to win them over with a dozen eggs and a handshake. Even if you can’t, you’ll be glad you tried. Because they can make your life hell, and make urban chicken-keeping impossible.

Praise for Uncommon Chickens

National Geographic just came out with a new “7 billion” mobile application describing the changes that are expected to come as the world’s population passes the the 7 billion mark sometime on Oct. 31, 2011. The photo-series is part of a year-long project on world population, and the associated problems with food production, climate change and disease.

One aspect of the series is called “Counting on Uncommon Chickens” which highlights some rare and beautiful chicken breeds. Poultry and eggs are at their highest demand in history, yet industrialized farming practices rely on just a few high-yeilding breeds. This is edging out nearly a third of all varieties, now at risk of extinction. Natural selection has taught us that variety in nature is important as some breeds have desirable traits such as heat and disease resistance, which could be essential to chicken survival.

Click here to view the photo series by National Geographic.

I recently visited the State Fair and discovered a cornucopia of unique chicken breeds and varieties, both strange and beautiful. Besides their visual splendor, I have also realized the importance of keeping them around for the benefit our society and their survival. I salute organizations like 4-H and Future Farmers of America who promote and encourage the raising of heirloom chicken varieties.

First prize largest male

Blue Silkie

White Crested Black Polish

Silver Laced Wyandotte

Black Silkie

First prize largest male

First prize largest comb

Buff Orpington

Golden Laced Wyandotte

Chicken Murals by Cache

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Photos Courtesy of ~db~ Flickr, anarchosyn Flickr, cody simms Flickr and tonx Flickr

Self taught street muralist and graffiti artist Cache has been painting the streets of Los Angeles with his signature bubble chickens since 2001. His style is both edgy and whimsical, drawing inspiration from writers like Carlos Castañeda, who describes people as being trapped by human chicken coops — humaneros. The chicken symbolizes how society has been constantly influenced by corporate branding. In response to the “media assault on the human psyche,” he found a logo of his own that would conversely fight the effects of homogenization, according to an article in Beautiful Decay Magazine.

“I paint throughout the city of L.A. from Hollywood to South Central, I don’t discriminate when it comes to walls…I live and breathe bicycles and painting and the projects that I like to create vary according to my mood. Sometimes I’m very political and sometimes I just want to make you smile.”

-Cache in an interview with Echo Park Patch

A Guatemalan immigrant, he grew up near the landmark Belmont Tunnel, which was known in the nineties for its huge, colorful and artistic graffiti murals. He was inspired by crews like MAK and STN, who were taking risks and revolutionizing the street art scene. He started out with basic “bomb-style” lettering and the chicken logo developed casually as a joke, according to Cache, but soon took on a complex and layered meaning as he started reading and studying about hegemony and media control. The development of his political persona can be seen over time, with the development of Zapatista cartoons, and other pieces like the Arab and Jew chickens, according to

For more pictures of Cache murals, check out: Juxtapoz Magazine

One of his most recent political pieces, a reaction to the #OccupyLA movement:

Photo Courtesy of Eyeone

For the full article by Echo Park Patch click here