Deporting an abusive rooster didn’t solve a plucking problem because my hens continued to lose their feathers and I was sure it wasn’t due to molting. Eventually, I caught Geezbrook, my prize Buff Orpington rooster, in the act with a telltale feather in his beak. I decided, as handsome as he was, that he would have to go to King’s Auction. Back on the farm, the remaining rooster continued the abuse, but I decided not to give him up because then I wouldn’t hear his crow in the morning, which always gives me a charge. Instead, I fitted a painless wire that amounted to something like a horse’s bit in his beak that allowed him to eat, but prevented him from pulling out any more feathers. I suppose I should have tried this with Geezbrook but that egg was already fried.
Still, the plucking problem continued and I came to realize that the hens were pulling each other’s feathers out. I called my chicken guru, Roger Vaughn, to see if he could come up with a solution. “Maybe you’re feeding them too much corn,” Vaughn suggested. “That could result in a dietary imbalance making them crave protein — and feathers are made of protein.”
Christine McBrearty-Hulse takes a moment to check in with one of her farm’s North American Cashmere Goats
The chickens, Christine McBrearty-Hulse said, were “the gateway drug to farming” when she thought it would be fun to raise a few. Hulse Hill Farm, on Route 28 midway between Cooperstown and Fly Creek, still has chickens, but also pigs, barn cats, a rabbit, and goats of various age gathered in spacious fenced-in fields, with the farm’s North American Cashmere goat herd at the core of her farm products.
“It’s a true homestead farm experience,” she told The Freeman’s Journal / Hometown Oneonta on a tour of the farm, which includes a bed-and-breakfast (including a well-appointed ‘tiny home’), vegetable gardens, and farm stand with products from the farm and local artisans. “We looked at our options and took old ideas from farming and 4-H and it turned into all this.”
Along with the b-and-b, Hulse Hill offers at-the-farm events, gearing up for an April 16 Make-a-Posey Fiber Pin workshop, farm tours on April weekends, and two projects about which Christine is excited – a ‘native paw paw
The hens I finally found in late spring last year were now laying prolifically. I was feeding them mash but they were scattering it around the coop and yard so I switched to pellets that for the most part stay in the feed pail. Good egg production continued but I noticed that feathers were missing from the necks, breasts and rear ends of some of the birds. It wasn’t Romeo the rooster. He had been a gentle sweetheart. The girls seemed to be pulling each others feathers out — not all of them, just a few. One in particular was missing more feathers than the others. I assumed she was at the bottom of the proverbial pecking order. I didn’t think the feather-pulling was due to a lack of protein because the feed I was using had a high protein content. Also, allowed to free range, the birds had access to worms, bugs and greens that aid in providing them with a well balanced diet.
I have a problem with at least one of my chickens. She’s been eating eggs out of the laying boxes. It’s hard to determine which one is the culprit, but if left unchecked, the habit will be contagious. Egg eaters are aggravating. I’ve already consulted local experts, Vaughn and McNulty, who told me the problem is likely because of a calcium deficiency. “If you don’t have oyster shells,” Vaughn said, “you could give them some Tums which are loaded with calcium.” After taking a Tums myself, I broke up the rest of the roll and mixed it in the feed.
The other day I finished weeding the garden and walked out to the chicken coop to water and feed my birds and collect their eggs. Disappointment hit me when I opened the door and found a dead chicken sprawled out on the floor with a leg half chewed off.
I had left the chute leading to the yard open overnight as I had been doing for the last several days. Obviously, some critter had taken advantage of my carelessness. It’s been about three years since a weasel had decapitated one of my hens and made off with the head. I say weasel, not because I saw it, but because the crime fits that animal’s M.O.
Anyway, I drew a chalk line around the murdered chicken, picked it up with a shovel and headed for one of several vacant woodchuck holes in the hedgerow in back of the barn. The holes are unoccupied due to the efforts of my neighbor’s son who picked off seven unwelcome diggers last year. I was thinking of how to mount an investigation to find the animal that had committed henicide.
Back in the coop, I lifted the outside door to the laying box and was about to reach in when I noticed that there was something in there, apparently sitting on the eggs, a chicken, I thought. I bent to look inside and came face to face with a raccoon. He had a matter of fact expression on his face as if he were asking, “What, I can’t hang out for a while?”
ONEONTA – Common Council member Larry Malone, a Hartwick College economics professor and protege of former Mayor Dick Miller, told his colleagues a few moments ago he won’t run for a second term this fall.
“Working to improve our city with my fellow Council members has been tremendously rewarding,” he said at this evening’s Common Council meeting. “Our successes come from casting aside politics and always putting the interest of Oneonta citizens first.
“When my term concludes, I will continue to help others discover Oneonta, for a visit, for college, or for the remainder of a lifetime.”
By LIBBY CUDMORE•HOMETOWN ONEONTA, THE FREEMAN’S JOURNAL
(Edition of Friday, Oct. 10)
Oneonta residents will have to wait a little longer before they start their mornings with eggs fresh from their own chickens.
In the half hour of public comment at the Common Council’s meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 7, Council members heard passionate arguments from both sides of the chicken debate.
“This is a particularly foul idea,” said Frank O’Mara, Ford Avenue. “It’s guaranteed to pit neighbor against neighbor. You approve chicken, what’s next? Can I have four pigs in my barn?”
“If we turn this down, we are making a statement that local food isn’t important to us,” said Tracy Allen, Church Street. “There are people who can’t afford to go to the store and buy organic eggs – so let them raise a few chickens.”
But Common Council decided to table passing or vetoing the ordinance in hopes of tightening the law’s language. “I have nothing against chickens and I would support this if there was a permitting system in place,” said Council member Maureen Hennessey.
Council member Bob Brzozowski agreed with the permitting process, and his colleague Dave Rissberger hoped to add a provision that would require chicken owners to get approval from all neighbors before purchasing hens.
This would also be a way to inform owners about proper handling to reduce the risk of salmonella. “I don’t think we’ve done our homework,” he said.
Council members Russ Southard and Madolyn Palmer heard overwhelmingly that their constituents did not want chickens. “I’ve had an outpouring of people against this,” said Southard.
“I’d add an amendment that says this won’t be permitted in the Fourth Ward,” added Council member Mike Lynch.
Council member Larry Malone found his ward divided on the issue. “It’s generational,” he said. “Those under 40 are in support of it, while those over 40 are against it.”
In his research, he found that Burlington, Vt., had a similar ordinance, but limited chickens per household to three.
“It sounds reasonable to go smaller,” Brzozowski agreed.
But for Chip Holmes, Eighth Ward, the issue was more than just squawking. “The problem is that we don’t trust our neighbors,” said Holmes. “I have no problem with what my neighbors do on their property, and I hope we take this as an opportunity to get to know our neighbors better.”
It’s not a matter of which came first – the chickens or the ordinance. It’s about which one will go on the chopping block.
“There’s a lot of concern about where our food comes from,” said City Council member Bob Brzozowski. “People want to know that their chickens are cared for, what they’re fed and the quality of their lives. It’s the obvious solution.”
Under the proposed amendment to municipal code Section 1, Chapter 68:
• Up to 10 chickens would be allowed within city limits.
• Roosters, the outdoor slaughtering of chickens and the sale of the eggs are prohibited.
• Chickens must be kept in an appropriate-sized pen 25 feet from another dwelling, not in a front yard or allowed to free-range unsupervised.
The movement was started by Howard Lichtman, who wanted to add chickens to his River Street garden. “We have fruit trees. We grow our own vegetables. We thought it would be nice to have our own eggs from our own flock of hens.”
The laws preventing fowl from being raised in city limits have been on the books since at least 1975, according to Robert Chiappisi, code enforcement officer. “It’s hard to imagine it wasn’t allowed at some point in the city’s history.”
Lichtman and Chiappisi worked together to draft the ordinance. “It’s an extension of the urban farming movement,” said Lichtman. “What you can get out of your own backyard is so much healthier than what you can buy at the store, and it cuts down on carbon emissions and energy use.”
However, City Council member Dave Rissberger said he will vote against the proposed ordinance. “There’s nothing in this amendment that says someone can’t buy 20 chickens and throw them in the back yard without proper shelter,” he said at his ward meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 24. “This ordinance doesn’t have any teeth for code enforcement.”
Citizens who have spoken up at Common Council meetings are worried that chickens will bring foxes into Center City, that chickens will run loose like feral cats and get hit by cars, or that the noise from the chickens will disturb the peace.
“My neighbors hardly know I have chickens,” said Al Dicka, owner of Daddy Al’s deli in the West End, just over the city line in the Town of Oneonta.
He raises 30 chickens in a coop on his West Oneonta property and sells the fresh eggs at his store. “At night, they don’t make a sound.”
And although they do occasionally make a break for it, his neighbors don’t really mind. “They eat the grubs in their gardens,” said Dicka. “And they don’t make hardly any noise.”
“It’s such a benign amount of noise,” said Brzozowski. “I don’t believe it will have a negative impact on the quality of life.”
“It’s good for me,” said Dicka. “Instead of sitting on my couch watching TV, I get up, go out and take care of them.”
The ordinance will be voted on at the regular meeting of Common Council, at 7 p.m. next Tuesday, Oct. 7.
“They allow chickens in all five boroughs of New York City,” said Brzozwski. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to raise them here as well.”
For 2 Cooperstown Families, Chickens Help Children Learn
By LIBBY CUDMORE•AllOTSEGO
With four white and brown chickens quietly clucking and pecking in a sun-dappled yard, you might think that you’re on a country farm at harvest time.
Nope – you’re in Cindy Falk’s backyard on Irish Hill.
“We knew people had raised chickens in the village,” said Falk, a CGP professor who is also a village trustee. “My daughter Elizabeth wanted some, so we went down to ask.”
In the City of Oneonta, raising chickens is banned, although there’s a push on to allow it. In Cooperstown, however, the Falks discovered no legal obstacle.
So, after looking into how much it would cost to raise chickens, they built a little henhouse and got some chickens – two white Silkie Bantams, Snowflake and Cupcake, and two Golden Comets, Nugget and Pip Pip.
“The eggs from Snowflake and Cupcake are really good,” Falk said. “They’re lighter, they whip up well. Fresh eggs are the biggest benefit (of chickens), and they help in the garden with pest control.”
And it’s a benefit she shares with the whole village. “Last year for the Harvest Fest” – the annual Community Dinner that was last Sunday, Sept. 28, this year – “we brought fresh deviled eggs,” she said. “And every year in the Halloween parade, Lizzie puts Snowflake and Cupcake in a baby stroller and walks them down Main Street.”
Matt and Kara Grady, co-owners of Stagecoach Coffee, are raising two chickens, Sandy and Ava, in their Elm Street backyard. “Matt always said he wanted to start a garden and get some chickens, something to help sustain our family,” she said. “We love cooking with our own eggs and teaching our kids how to take care of (the chickens).”
The chickens came from CCS kindergarten teacher Lisa Lippitt, who hatches the eggs every year with her pupils. But the chickens continue to be a learning experience for the Grady’s three children, Gavin, Lily and Kian, who are tasked with watering and feeding the brood, as well as gathering the eggs. “They each lay one a day,” she said. “But they’re blue and yellow, they’re different than the ones you get in the store.”
Among those acquired chickens were some roosters – village ordinance doesn’t allow them. “We made a big pot of chicken soup,” said Kara. “But we felt funny about it. They’re our pets.”
But it’s a chance, Kara said, to teach their children about sustainable agriculture. “We know what they’re eating and that they’re living happily,” she said.
The birds are quiet enough that the neighbors don’t mind. “We keep them penned up unless we’re around,” she said. “It’s about being respectful – but if one does escape, they call us and we go get it.”
“I wouldn’t mind having another,” said Matt. “They’re getting to the age where they’re starting to lay less, and I’d love to walk over to my neighbor’s and hand off a bunch of eggs.”