Lesson 521: Chickens 101 and lava lamps

Last night I gave a chicken 101 workshop for the Capital City Organic Gardeners club in Concord, NH.

Concord is running a 21 month probationary program where home owners are allowed to have up to 5 egg laying chickens in their backyard. There are a few restrictions including:

  • Single family residences only.
  • Lot size may be less than 1 acre.
  • The chicken coop must be at least 30 feet from each lot line.
  • Coop must be located in side or back yard. Coop cannot be in front yard.
  • You can have no more than 5 female chickens.
  • No  roosters are  allowed.
  • Chickens cannot be free ranging.
  • You cannot sell the eggs or the meat. On site slaughtering is prohibited.
  • Chicken manure must be covered by a fully enclosed structure or container. No  composting or fertilizing must be removed from property.

While this isn’t a perfect situation, it is certainly a start.

I can, however, see a few problems which could potentially arise. For example, we couldn’t figure out if “on site slaughtering” meant that you couldn’t cull an errant rooster that might have gotten into your flock – some people learned what the term “straight-run” meant last night-, or even if you couldn’t cull an injured or sick bird.

Not something that you want to think about but it’s part of owning chickens.

My other concern is about the chicken manure that must be covered by a fully enclosed structure or container, as we all know chicken poops composts hot. (One of the reasons you don’t muck out the chicken house in the winter is that you want to take advantage of that composting heat.) If all that poop is going into an enclosed container I certainly hope people are diligent about periodically turning it over.

Other than those relatively mild concerns (and, of course, the one big one that if they pull this allowance after 21 months, Concord is going to have a huge chicken problem) it looks like the capital city of New Hampshire is heading in the right direction.

In the workshop I covered the basics: essentially how to get your flock started :

  • Reasons to have chickens
  • Reasons not to have chickens
  • How to get chicks
  • How to care for chicks
  • Hen houses
  • Hens
  • Predators
  • Roosters
  • Eggs

There were lots of good questions, these people are serious about getting chickens and taking care of them.

When I was covering chick care which includes putting a heat lamp in the brooder, one young girl who had come with her Dad raised her hand.

Could you use a lava lamp for heat? She asked.

Can honestly say I’ve never been asked that one before. I told her that I didn’t think it was a good heat source but that I’d bet the chicks would have fun watching the bubbles in a lava lamp.

Later on, toward the end of the presentation she again raised her hand and asked me how many birds should you get to begin with and what types would I recommend?

Now here’s a kid who had paid attention for a full hour and one half, who had questions about the information and had no problems at all asking those questions in front of an audience of adults. She’s even an out of the box thinker – I’ll wager that no one else has ever thought to use a lava lamp in a brooder before, maybe it will be the next big advancement in chick care.

Although it was nice to see the adults and listen to their questions, it was that girl that got my attention.

She’s got heart, she’s got spunk. She knows what she wants and she’s going to get it.

Just the kind of smart chick we value as members of our flock.

I'm wearing my pink cowboy boots, another reason to have chickens.



Filed under Backyard Chickens, chicken care, Chicken talks

11 responses to “Lesson 521: Chickens 101 and lava lamps

  1. Stephan

    So if the minimum is 5 hens are they then prepared to allow purchase of 5 at a time or is the minimum still 12?
    Composting of chicken manure not allowed? I mean they are saying “keep fully enclosed” … wow! any reason why?
    And what’s with the no free range? I mean, the greatness of having fresh eggs IS, among other things, the fact that the hens run free range.Make a larger pen then? or fence in the whole backyard so they are “contained”…:-)

    • Wendy Thomas

      Ah, little grasshopper, you’ve learned well!

      I think the fully enclosed restriction was put there to eliminate odor but not sure. And yeah, no composting of chicken poop means that you are literally throwing out garden gold.

      Free range – well actually that one kind of makes sense. Concord is a city and we’re talking about *some* relatively small yards, you wouldn’t want chickens free ranging into the street or onto other’s properties. I think (hope) that you can free range your chickens in your backyard as long as you are out there with them and have them under control.

      Again, I wasn’t involved in this allowance so I’m not entirely clear what it was trying to restrict with some of the stipulations.


  2. Sounds like a great workshop! I can understand those few concerns, but I think they will work themselves out…quietly.

    • Wendy Thomas


      I think you’re right on that one. A sick chicken taken quietly into the garage to be coned, is probably not going to disturb anyone (however slaughtering by ax in the backyard on a Sunday afternoon just might.)

      Right now, people are treading lightly as they want to do the right thing so that the program will continue. Best thing we can all do is give them information on how to proceed and a pat on the back for attempting.


  3. When I was a kid (almost 60 years ago) in Orange County, CA (not that far from Los Angeles), my parents went on a kind of spastic “back to the land” kick [and my mother HAD grown up on a farm in Indiana]. I milked a cow and then a goat before and after junior high school. We had chickens (in a badly constructed chicken run) who often escaped and roamed (as did the cow and goat at various times). Our neighbors were not that much amused. [A cop who lived down the street once brought the cow home and sternly told me the next time he found her eating his flowers he would use his service revolver to end the matter then and there.]

    Looking back on the whole matter, I now feel more sympathy and empathy for those long ago neighbors than I did when I was a child. My wife and I were perhaps a little more circumspect than my parents were. We live on five acres of woods; our neighbors keep chickens and ducks; we have no cows or goats. Of course, our other neighbors are coyotes, raccoons, hawks, eagles, and owls, whose affection for our chickens is perhaps a little too intense for my wife’s taste.

    • Wendy Thomas


      Yup, you need to take neighbors into account which is what I think all those restrictions are trying to do. Noise (those damn roosters), smell, and invasion of garden are definite ways to build a fence between you and your closest neighbor.


  4. I think the lava lamp would work best a little later when Mr. Rooster and Miss Hen are looking to create a bit of atmosphere!

  5. Pingback: Lesson 547 – Notes from a chicken workshop « Lessons Learned from the Flock

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