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Chicken Crazy.

Colonial Heights City Code says we can have up to three chickens. I also see we have to get a (revocable) permit. Not sure how to go about doing that yet. I would just skip the permit and have illegal chickens, but we have a corner lot, not to mention some really nosey folks around. One in particular does her morning walking picking up trash, which is super cool… until you met her. I’ll just call her “Fancy Pants.” It is a guarantee that the second we had hens in our backyard Fancy Pants would call City Council, the Police, and run us out of Colonial Heights on a rail. I don’t think chickens are in her plans for city beautification. Little Rhode Island Reds running around is exactly my idea of city beautification.

26484_slr_1478I spent some time looking at chicken coops on line and craigslist and discovered those suckers are expensive. I’m talking $650-1,500 expensive. I hate to tell the buyers of those coops that the chickens just don’t care. Mostly, a chicken coop just needs to keep the chickens safe. Growing up we used an old honey house as a chicken coop. Over time a Racoon tunneled in. It wasn’t pretty (it was really, really sad actually). The only one left standing was our ridiculously mean rooster.

There are some cute chicken coops, that I’m sure anyone with a high school wood shop carpentry skill level could make. I mean, it’s a box. Even if it has shingles and looks like a cottage, it’s still a box. Unfortunately, I can barely put prefab Ikea furniture together. Backyardchickens.com has a really inspiring photo gallery. A girl can dream right? My husband told me I was “chicken crazy.”  He’s probably right. This as been going on for about six months.

My Uncle Robin and Aunt Susan had city chickens when they lived in Monrovia, Ca just twenty miles outside of LA. They converted a greenhouse/shed the previous owner had and my grandfather built the run. I wish my grandfather was closer. I wouldn’t be typing this up, I would be posting pictures of a chicken coop. Aunt Susan suggested a booklet that Lehman’s carries. Side Note: Lehman’s is the coolest hardware store on the planet. If you ever find yourself in Dalton, Ohio go there. You’ll thank me.

Anyway, I didn’t see the booklet that she was talking about, but I did find The Chicken Tractor by Sue and Richard Merriam. Sue also has a great website on Organic Gardening and Homesteading if you are interested. You can order the book directly through her website for only $12.95. Her book gives you the plans and building materials list to make the cute little coop on the cover. And if you are a chicken raising novice (I could use a refresher course), she has lots of other information in there as well. DIY projects are not only much cheaper, but way more gratifying. A friends dad built his entire house, attached greenhouse and barn from salvaged and reclaimed wood. I’m hoping he can help me get my hands on the materials this winter.

tractor21A chicken tractor is a bottomless, mobile coop. You can move it around your garden bed or yard and the chickens free range, eating your weed seeds and dropping there magical fertilizer. It will allow our chickens to be free range, which is what gives them those yummy dark yellow yolks (loaded with vitamin A, beta carotene, omega 3 fatty acids, lower in cholesterol and taste like nothing you’ve ever bought at the grocery store), while still protecting them from neighborhood strays.

Why chickens? I think the country girl and city girl in me are in conflict with one another. I like our manageable city plot, walkability, parks, friendly community and neighborhood kids running around our front yard after school. I also want to give Owen a taste of my childhood. While I can’t give him sheep and feeder calves, I can give him homegrown vegetables and chickens (and a rabbit. That’s a another story). That and I really want the manure. I’m obsessed with my compost pile and chicken manure is a much desired ingredient (this is actually where Mr. Rabbit comes into play as well). I actually paid a lady $.10 a pound for manure. Country people think that doing such a thing is ludicrous. Oh the things we take for granted. Eggs are a kind of bonus. A really tasty bonus.

I also recommend The City Chicken sight if you are a city slicker who is interested in have feathered friends of your own. Imagine, fresh eggs right in your own back yard. Not to mention the fact that chickens are more entertaining than television.

To Be Continued…

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Inspiration: Books and Blogs

**My house is so quite with the boys gone this morning. I should be getting ready for work, but I’m drinking coffee, listening to NPR and procrastinating…so here’s another blog post.

Owen is an outdoors kind of kid. If it involves fresh air and and a ball, he’s in. Unfortunately being outside all-day-long is not always an option. Especially in February. (I’m a wimp). I have some activity/craft books on hand for days when I need an inspirational boost for indoor (and outdoor) fun. When I see an idea that I want to store away for a rainy day I have an a recipe box full of note cards. This way I don’t forget and everything is right at my fingertips.

The Toddler’s Busy Book, The Preschoolers Busy Book, and the Children’s Busy Book all by Trish Kuffer: These were all in the clearance section at Borders for a couple dollars each and I’m so glad I got them. Lots of inexpensive, hands-on activities that don’t require lots of prep. (The Toddler’s Busy Book is probably what I reference the most.)

Unplugged Play by Bobbi Conner: 710 activities from ages 12 months to 10 years. The book is organized by age groups and sub categorized into solo play, play ideas for parents and child, playing with others, birthday party play. She includes an appendix for family game night and well-stocked toy cupboards for the different age groups. Some of the ideas you could think of by yourself (who didn’t play grocery store when they were a kid or make paper collages?) but it’s a great reference. Again, I’m not totally opposed to toys that have batteries, but I try to strike a balance.

Kindergarten Themes from Carson-Dellosa Publishing Company: This is actually a teacher’s lesson plan book. I purchased this, and a couple other art/craft books off of a former teacher’s craigslist post. It’s organized by months and includes literature/stories, poetry and music, creative drama, science, math, arts and crafts, food experiences, field trips, and thinking exercises. I haven’t used this one a whole lot yet, but I think it will come in handy over the next few years.

And that brings me to MOMMY BLOGS! There are so many good ones out there, but here are a few of my favorites:

Chasing Cheerios: This is the first blog I started reading. She has such awesome ideas for Montessori inspired toddler activities. Her blog is what made me want to start blogging in the first place. I would say this site is my number one inspiration. I check it first to come up with new games and toys. I made this for Owen around Christmas time and he loves it!!

No Time for Flash Cards: Great, great, great kids educational craft site. Often times she includes songs to go with the craft and a video to help parents learn the song. Here is one of her ideas for teaching shapes. I sang “Herman the Worm” (scroll down the page for the video) to Owen last summer while he was eating lunch in his high chair. He knew all of his shapes after that. Can’t recommend this site enough. (Oh! and great book recommendations to tie everything. Brilliant! Really!)

Frugal Family Fun Blog: is a recent discovery. This video highlights some great ideas that are on her blog. I just love anybody that looks at their recycling bin and sees a treasure chest. And the door-way puppet theater? Genius!! (We have that same $1 puppet from Target). She has great ideas, that require little to no prep work (or money) if you have some basic stuff on hand.

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And of course my mom and Evergreen are inspirational. They have a patients and boundless energy with their first grandchild that is something to be seen.

My mom was telling me over the phone how creative she thought I was in refernce to the felt board I made Owen. She even said she wishes she had been more like me when SHE was MY mom. It was funny, because the idea came from her! She made me one when I was a little girl. I still remember the play kitchen she made out of boards and cyinder blocks on our front porch. My brother and I played with that thing all summer long. I wish blogging excisted back then… I wonder if I can dig up a picture of that kitchen?

Owen always come home with the best table manners and disposition after a day with his grandma Evergreen. He hasn’t just learned good manners from his Ni Ni, he’s also picked up quite a bit of Chinese. I’m so thankful that Owen will grow-up bilingual. She has made Owen some of the cuties sweaters, hats and baby blankets. (Don’t get me started on her cooking! Fantastic!) My favorite house slippers were made by her. Evergreen inspires me to learn new skills like sewing and knitting. When I do I’ll blog about it 🙂

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