UCP Blog 025: Splay Leg in Baby Chicks & How to Treat It

Springtime brings spring chicks to many of our homes.  Spring chicks occasionally can become injured and ill and require extra attention and care on the part of the owner. One common baby chick ailment is called “Splay Leg.”

Splay Leg (also commonly called “Spraddle Leg”) is a condition that causes young chicks to have one or both of their legs slip to the side of their bodies twisted out from the hip, making it impossible for the bird to walk or even stand.  Splay Leg is often caused by the use of slick surfaced materials (e.g. newspaper) for brooder bedding. The condition may also be caused by vitamin deficiency or incubator temperatures being too high or fluctuating. Continue reading

UCP Blog 024: What Killed My Chicken?


Crime Scene - photo by Alan Cleaver

Crime Scene – photo by Alan Cleaver

I recently was contacted by a Chris W., an Urban Chicken Podcast listener who sadly had just had one of her chickens killed and left some ways away from the scene of the crime. Chris wanted help detecting who had destroyed her lovely hen and I did my best to try to deduce the culprit from the evidence provided.

I have shared my conversation with Chris and my attempt to get to the bottom of this backyard chicken murder case.  See if you agree with my detective skills and whether I am the next Sherlock Holmes of chicken mysteries.   Continue reading

UCP Guest Post 002: My New Zealand Urban Chickens – Mindy has Babies! – by Fiona Campbell

Mindy and her Chicks (circa 1980) - photo courtesy of Fiona Campbell

Mindy and her Chicks (circa 1980) – photo courtesy of Fiona Campbell

Today’s Post is provided by UCP guest blogger, Fiona Campbell, an avid backyard chicken keeper living in rural Kapiti, New Zealand on fiveFiona Campbellacres. Fiona is the author and illustrator of the book, “Ruby’s Diary,” which is a chicken memoir penned from the point of view of her top hen, Ruby.  The book cleverly considers what is important in life (which is remarkably the similar whether that be a human or chicken life).  You can join Fiona at her blog Ruby’s Diary, where Fiona’s pet hen Ruby waxes lyrically about life and happenings in her flock.  Fiona’s book, “Ruby’s Diary” is also available on her blog website, Ruby’s Diary Hen (LINK).  


My pet chicken Mindy was a complete unit. In and of herself she was perfect. Her urban backyard and our family house were her domain. She lived solely focused on the here and now and wanted for nothing. I on the other hand, being eight years old, wanted baby chicks!

I grew up watching David Attenborough’s BBC Nature documentaries and consequently knew what was required when it came to getting chicks. As Mindy was mateless, I knew she needed help to achieve ‘her’ dream of becoming a mother. Taking on a rooster seemed much too challenging, so Mum and Dad suggested fertilized eggs instead. Continue reading

UCP Blog 023: “The Art of Happy Hens” Chicken Infograph

Chicken Infograph - by Janel Crisp Goodwin & Terry Golson

Chicken Infograph – by Janel Crisp Goodwin & Terry Golson

The Urban Chicken Podcast was recently contacted by graphic designer Janel Crisp Goodwin, who teamed up with chicken expert, Terry Golson (of Hencam.com and Golson was the guest in the UCP in Episode 052 LISTEN HERE) to create a very cool chicken infograph called “The Art of Happy Hens.” For those of you new to the ‘infograph’ world, it is the use of graphic art to convey information in very palatable and aesthetically pleasing manner. “The Art of Happy Hens” infograph is a delightful melding of art and chicken information. Goodwin invited me to share this chicken infograph with the Urban Chicken Podcast audience, which I have done at the end of this post.   Continue reading

UCP Episode 057: Understanding Chicken Molting with Meredith Chilson

Frida cooperating for Molting Picture - photo by Jen Pitino

Frida cooperating for Molting Picture – photo by Jen Pitino

Backyard chickens molt every year to replace broken, frayed and old feathers.  Though conventionally, chickens molt in late summer/early fall, a bird can molt anytime of year that suits.  Molting is both a physically and emotionally stressful time for the bird.

Meredith Chilson, a veteran chicken keeper with over forty years of experience and knowledge joins me on the Urban Chicken Podcast this week to discuss feather molting in chickens.  Meredith also shares some practical tips on how to make the molting process a little easier for you flock.  Continue reading

UCP Blog 022: Wintertime Chicken Spa Idea

Heated Chicken Spa - photo courtesy of Deb Bino

Heated Chicken Spa – photo courtesy of Deb Bino

Wintertime this year has been especially brutal for some areas of the U.S.  In particular, the New England states are reporting 20 year record-breaking snowfalls and cold temperatures.

Deb Bino, an Urban Chicken Podcast listener living in Pennsylvania, has come up with a clever way for her backyard chickens to get some relief from the winter weather — a chicken spa!  Deb’s winter chicken spa is easily constructed and greatly appreciated by the birds who are as tired as their human owner of the endless snow this year.

Here is how Deb constructed her chicken spa to fight the winter blues.  First she buried an electric, heated foot-mat in the bottom of a sand box under a mixture of sand, diatomaceous earth, wood ashes and peat moss.  The sand mixtures is about five inches deep, which gives the birds plenty of material to dig and lay in.  Being mindful of fire safety, Deb wrote that she carefully wrapped the cord to the heating pad in duct tape to keep the spa more secure.

Deb then constructed a simple box frame (roughly 4’x6′ in size) covered with clear plastic sheeting.  This sheathed box frame is leaned against a building and over the chicken spa so that the birds can enjoy the warm sand mixture out of the elements.  According to Deb, her wintertime chicken spa can comfortably accommodate four hens at a time.  The flock has been greatly enjoying their heated oasis from the winter weather!

UCP Blog 021: Chickens May Not Have Teeth, but They Are All Born with a Tooth

Newly Hatch Olive Egger with Egg Tooth Still Attached - photo by Jen Pitino

Newly Hatch Olive Egger with Egg Tooth Still Attached – photo by Jen Pitino

The ability for birds to develop teeth was lost approximately 70-80 Million years ago.  Yet all birds are born with what is called an “egg tooth.”  Though called a tooth the egg tooth is actually a horny protrusion of harden skin found at the tip of the chick’s beak.  The egg tooth is shaped in a point and is an essential part of the gestation process. Continue reading

UCP Blog 020: Tiniest Egg EVER!

Fairy Egg, Regular Egg and DoubleYolker - photo by Jen Pitino

Fairy Egg, Regular Egg and DoubleYolker – photo by Jen Pitino

My newest flock members (a set of five pullets – three Blue Bresses and two Sulmtalers) are not all laying quite yet.  The Sulmtaler pair, (which I’ve named Frick and Frack) is definitely laying semi-regularly.  The Blue Bresse hens though are much smaller than the Sulmtalers and not laying at all.  Well, not laying at all until recently.   Continue reading

UCP EPISODE 056: Winning the Chicken Legal Fight (a Conversation with Kathy Shea Mormino)

Kathy Shea Mormino (The Chicken-Chick) - photo courtesy of K. Mormino

Kathy Shea Mormino (The Chicken-Chick) – photo courtesy of K. Mormino

In 2013, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) studied urban chicken keeping in four major cities (Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York City) and discovered that less than 1% of households had backyard chickens.  The study however further revealed that though only 1% had chickens another 4% of the study’s respondents reported that they planned to get backyard chickens in the next five years. Interestingly, slightly more than half of the study’s respondents said that they thought keeping chickens in urban areas would lead to more illnesses in humans and yet 2/3 of the respondents in Los Angeles, Miami and New York (and 3/4 of the respondents in Denver) also said that they believed that eggs raised in small flocks in backyards were more nutritious than their store bought counterparts. What do these study results mean?

Americans are divided on backyard chickens.  

This nearly even split on the issue of urban chickens is evident in the on-going great chicken debate that is being argued in every corner of this nation.  The competing interests between autonomy over one’s own backyard to raise chickens and live as one chooses is at odds with the beliefs that chickens are strictly a livestock animal that has no place in an urban/suburban landscape. When these diametrically opposed views on chickens happen to live next door to one another, sparks fly.

Kathy Shea Mormino, more commonly known as the Chicken-Chick, comes onto the Urban Chicken Podcast to discuss her long fought legal battle over her backyard flock. The bitter, year long fight over her chickens was not only emotionally and financially draining, but threatened to cost Mormino her livelihood.   Continue reading

UCP Blog 019: Setting Up a Chicken Sick Bay

Injured Chicken - photo by Jen Pitino

Injured Chicken – photo by Jen Pitino

It is an unavoidable part of keeping backyard chickens – at some point one of your flock members is going to get injured or become ill.  In these situations you need to be able to create a workable “chicken sick bay” indoors where you can provide the necessary chicken nursing care.  The need to be able to dispense home chicken health care is especially true with the general shortage of veterinaries with poultry expertise at a reason price in today’s world.  Recently, I found myself scrambling to assemble a makeshift “chicken sick bay” to care for an injured pullet. Continue reading

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