Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Good Fight

I haven't posted in awhile. Mostly because things stalled out and I didn't want to say anything to jeopardize my chances at getting these little girls a home in Norfolk. However, I think people should know how it is going.

So FIVE weeks... that is right FIVE weeks ago the city asked me for a waste management plan and the blueprint rendering of the chicken coop. I had to list the type of material I would be using (down to the gage of the wire) and what I would do with the waste water after washing their coop out. Which is really just silly as you don't wash a coop out with water. You actually strive to always have a very dry coop and use wood chips, sand, straw as an absorbent layer and just sweep that away. (into our pest proof composter) So I was a little annoyed I was being regulated by people who don't even know how to care for chickens themselves.

But I complied and sent in all my material... FIVE weeks ago. Since then I have emailed Agnes Flemming, the environmental health manager, twice a week asking how the process was coming, if she needed additional material, if she wanted a meeting, if she needed to meet the chickens. Last week when I emailed she simply replied she had made her recommendation and it was now at the health directors desk. She did this without informing me she made a decision, without us meeting, without anything. Grrr. So I have now emailed the health director twice without any emails back. Next Tuesday I am calling and if I don't get a reply I will just go in. I don't really think three chickens should actually take FIVE weeks of the city's time. It is pretty yes or no. And if there are questions I think I should be involved in mitigating those problems before recommendations are made.

The chickens are currently out at Beekeeper Franks house. They are doing well and enjoying all the space.
Moe said goodbye. He misses them a lot and always looks for them. 

Their half-way house. :( They have been moved to a big cage with a run but I wish they weren't there at all.

They were excited with the fresh air. 

The pretty yard they get to look at! 

This also seems to be how the beekeeping ban is going. They schedule a meeting about the ordinance and then cancel it without informing anyone. They were to have a meeting May 10th. I called the evening of May 9th just to confirm the room and was told, "we decided we didn't need it and will just go to public hearing in June." I wrote back how it is REALLY hard to be an involved citizen in the City of Norfolk, when the City of Norfolk has no interest in involving their citizens in any decision making process.

I often wonder what they think of me at the city. I just want to see this chicken thing get done before we move. I just want to hear their reason on WHY chickens would ever be a no. I have heard rumors of why but they are just rumors.

All I know is my babies are growing up out at Frank's and they should be home. I know the city asked for all this information and then has continually ignored me, my emails, and hasn't asked a single question since then.

I will keep you posted. I will keep fighting the good fight. The good chicken fight.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Happy Two Months!!

I know I am a terrible blogger but let's be honest for the most part the chickens just sit there.

However, today is their TWO month birthday.

Notice the dust! They are getting so BIG and Bernadette may not be the prettiest. as she gets older. 

Eight weeks is the time when they now have all their grown-up feathers and can be moved outdoors. Brian and I have been counting down until today. Excited to get them out of the apartment. (seriously our apartment is SO dusty)

BUT... today I got a call from the city. I knew I needed a health permit but I really assumed it would be easy as I knew the health director, but now the environmental health department is involved and they need a coop rendering, a waste management plan, and a sit down meeting.

Are you serious?!

So now my chickens are moving out to a nice farmers farm for a few weeks while we get this sorted out. I just think they deserve more space, sunshine, and they need to roost. It is best for their development.

I tried to name drop all over the place this morning with the city's environmental manager. I said I was an MPH in environmental health too, I worked under Chesapeake Health Departments director, my Dad is a veterinarian, I am a farmer with lots of chicken experience but... she said nothing much and just "hmmm" She asked how I would wash their coop and I said I wouldn't as water isn't good for them and she was very concerned. I said I would use cedar chips and compost their waste in an enclosed tumbler but she didn't seem impressed.

I think this may become a painful process. Praying it is just us showing our competence and then moving forward.

Brian and I are very sad our babies have to go further out in the country and I am worried for them. Frank is a great guy though and he has lots of chickens so I know they will be safe.

My poor babies. :( I'll miss them.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A deal is a deal....

Brian is a hands off Dad. He has yet to change their pen since the day the arrived. Every night I go and get new bedding, water, and feed. Tonight I just couldn't do it. I have been working a bagillion hours this week and was just exhausted. So I made a deal if Brian changed their box tonight he could buy a new model fire truck. To Brian model fire trucks are the VERY best things in life. It is all he ever wants for Christmas and his birthday. He usually goes to Code 3 Collectibles everyday and checks out their newest trucks. They average $90 so they are a big purchase in this house. 

So a deal is a deal and Brian was set to change their box. I thought I would take a picture to commemorate Brian's active father role. 

 Little did I know.... he is actually terrified of touching the chickens. 

So I got it all on tape:

At one point he actually had to stop and wipe the sweat away from his face. He was seriously that freaked out. But he prevailed and at the end of the chicken changing he held Betty for a picture :)

After he put her down he said he was ready to go sky diving because if he could get over holding a scary chicken.... he could do anything. 

That is what we are all about in the Walsh-Bird household. We are all about overcoming obstacles and becoming a better farmer each day ;-)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Flew the Coop!!

Every night I have to change the chickens cage. It used to be VERY simple and I would place them next to the brooder and they wouldn't go further than the light could shine. They stayed perfectly still until I was done and then I placed them gently back in their cage.

... but then they got BIG! Now they run and fly and poop everywhere if you let them out!

So for the past week I would keep them in their cage while I quickly took the bedding out and changed their food and water. I just worked around them and it was going well. Until tonight I walked away to rinse out their water dish and returned to see Betty.... flying the coop!

Betty is always our adventurer

So it seemed my girls had grown too big and too smart for the "quick change." I looked around until I found the next best "holding pen" 

The trash basket worked perfect!

I was worried they wouldn't fit, but I then remembered factory farming. I thought they would be more thankful for their  plush lifestyle after the basket experiment.

My babies are getting SO big! Sometimes I get sad realizing we will most likely have moved before they ever lay their first egg. But I know they will be in good hands at the farm market. 
The Three Girls

I also found a few pictures from a couple weeks ago. They are MUCH bigger now but the pictures turned out so cute.  A look back.....

A chicken model in the making

Poor Bernie. She is just a wallflower


Monday, April 11, 2011

What I have learned....

Since moving to the city and joining this whole "local food movement" and starting to see both the city, granola crunching side, all while having my family's background and talking to my brother everyday and hearing his struggles. All I can say is Dwight said it best.

"Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you're a thousand miles from the corn field." ~ Dwight D Eisenhower

I pray I never ever forget that in all my work and throughout my career. 

Time and Chickens FLY!

So sorry I have lapsed in my chicken updates. Life has been hectic since Brian learned of his discharge! Last week Brian went to DC and Annapolis for job fairs. He is taking his time in the decision and we are really thinking about where to move! Life was much easier when the Navy said where to go.
I was offered a job in DC working with minority farmers. When I called to turn them down because of timing issues they offered it to me long distance until we figure out if/when we are moving! If we don't move to DC I can turn it down with no hard feelings but for now they need help on a certain project. Awesome!

But enough about us, you really just care about those chickens.

Bernadette, Martha, and Betty are getting TOO big! We are both very ready to have them out of the apartment and at the market. Brian is now frantically working to get a coop built within the next two weeks and get them out. They start to smell a little by the end of the day, so we are changing their cage twice a day and they are SUPER dusty and our house has a blanket of chicken food dust everywhere.
Next time we get chickens they will live in a mudroom or a garage for sure!! This one time experiment is enough. I remember growing up and always having abandoned lambs in our kitchen during the winter lambing season. I always was so embarrassed at our level of redneck and now I am an adult redneck in the city. But they are still very quiet and cute to watch.

We got a video of them attempting to fly. They get better everyday. They HATE the laser pointer Moe plays with and so inhumanely we scared them with it so they would fly on video.

Bernie is still the very best at it. She is still super scared of her own shadow and when you change their box she just about has a heart attack each time. Betty and Martha walk right up and let you pet them and they will follow you around.

Hopefully we will get lots more pictures up this week of us building a chicken coop!!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Happy Three Weeks!!

Another week and our girls are GROWING fast! 

I haven't blogged as much after the SURPRISE news Brian will be leaving the Navy this summer! While not totally expected it was Brian's final choice to leave and we are VERY excited as to where life is taking us and never worrying about deployments again. Brian's baby chicks would be SO sad to see him go!! Needless to say this week has been a little hectic as we try to get ready for our next chapter. 

Betty, Martha, and Bernadette had a big week too. All three have figured out they have wings and spend a lot of their time "flying" or scaring each other as they spread their wings flap and then fall over. We have had "free range" nights in the apartment where we let them out and watch them "fly" across the living room! It is pretty hysterical and they seem to take turns and watch each other go. Bernie is definitely the best and she just flaps her wings all the time. However, it is becoming more and more apparent she is going to be SO much smaller than the other two. They keep growing and she keeps getting puffier.  Our goal this week is to get video of them flying. 

The girls have also had a lot of visitors. I invited a few Mom's over with their kids yesterday. Little 22 month old Hazel kept laughing and laughing as they flew. She spent a long time "talking" to them and having her Mom pet them as she was a little unsure about doing it herself. The Euans children came in a pack of 3 and I think our 3 little hens weren't sure what to do!!! It was their first visit from a boy and they are a little more loud and excited than girls. They really flapped their wings and ran around crazy. They kept pooping and the kids would let me know each and every time screaming "ewwwwww!!!" However, the eldest Euans child explained to me how the chicks would grow to be hens and lay brown eggs! I was pretty impressed when I know grown adults who don't even know that much!!

Brian's job this weekend is to really get cracking on the coop. He has the next 12 days off and needs to really start working hard or they will not have a home soon! We are thinking of using an old dog house and converting it to a chicken coop. 

Hope you all have a great week and are still thinking about getting yourself some chicks. :)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Happy TWO weeks chicks!

Who knew in just two short weeks these little guys would cause such a stir!

Bernadette on the left, and Betty on the right
I can't believe how big they are!!!

Well poor Bernie (the little Easter Egger is going to be MUCH smaller than her fellow sisters! They Rhode Island Reds are like 1/3 bigger. The picture doesn't show just how big a difference there is.

At this age they are just starting to act like big chicks and that means pecking order. Poor Bernie seems like she isn't going to be on the top of the totem pole. Poor Brian about had a heart attack the first time they pecked each other. He ran over and said, "I'll peck you and show you who is boss" and I had to explain it is just how they are. We will put another little roosting spot up high so Bernie can escape if she needs to!! I think Brian relates most with Bernie, as he too was the runt of his family :)

I'm sitting here watching them try their hardest to fly. It is hilarious, they scare the heck out of each other!!

Well off to garden! I spent the morning cleaning up the area their coop will eventually be in and now that our frost free date has passed I am going to plant some tomatoes!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

WOW! We ARE famous!!

So yesterday the little article ran in the paper and today... there were three more!!

People are pretty pumped my last name is Bird and I am for chickens.
Thank goodness I didn't take my married name. See there really was a good reason I stayed Bird!

You can see the funny follow-up articles:

Where they say I am a "all around good person"

Super cute article about a guy's love for chicks.

And finally... the REAL stamp of approval
Kerry Dougherty is one of the main columnist here in the Hampton Roads region. She doesn't like many people and calls city council out ALL the time. She is pretty influential and today she gave me her stamp of approval. HUGE! I have been getting texts over her article all day.

It is kind of crazy all of this happened over the last two days. I finally made a big old splash here in the Norfolk and all of a sudden a lot of people know who I am. I am a little activist and I am excited to bring about change, however, yesterday we found out we will be moving by July 31st. Though we knew it change was coming I hate to see an actual date attached to it.

Don't worry my chicks have a good future home and will be cared for by Amelia Baker of Green Alternatives but what will happen to the bee ban and chicken ban? I hate that finally when it all starts to get noticed I will have to leave.

But isn't that life and especially that of a Navy wife.

Monday, March 21, 2011

And..... we are famous

Today was the day our little chicks made the paper!!
Well the "idea" of them did. We still didn't talk about their actual presence but it is now known they are coming to the farm market.
The article was very brief but the reporter and I talked for seriously 4 hours.

and at one point she asked me if a rooster could lay an egg.
Seriously. Ah the American media.

It was pretty frustrating to be interviewed. I felt the reporter was really trying to act like it was a much bigger deal than it is. Because really it isn't a big deal.

But it was right there above the fold and they are famous! The title of the article is HILARIOUS!! "Norfolk woman pecks away at chicken ban" I felt weird to even be called a woman. When did I get so old.

You can find it here:

You must read the comments below. People are CRAZY! It seems pretty hard for people to understand you don't need a rooster to have an egg. Ah, 7th grade science.

Anyways, pretty exciting! :)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Today is our Martha, Betty, and Bernadette's first week birthday!
And BOY have they grown!! Since getting them a week ago, it seems they have doubled in size. And today all of them popped their first tail feathers. It was crazy how in the eight hours we were away they grew tails!

Brian and I ended up having an entire day off together! (it never happens as I work weekends) so we made the most of our day and took a day trip to Elizabeth City, NC. It is only about 45 minutes away and is super country. We stumbled across a Tractor Supply Company and decided to stop and buy our babies a NEW big chick gift!

The chick waterer is on the right, they will eventually grow into using the one on the left.

Now that our babies are one week we retired their DIY waterer made from old recycled yogurt cups. This one is much stronger and will last them through their first few months!

We also saw a REAL adult automatic waterer for sale. This one holds 2 gallons and will ensure they always have access to fresh water. And... it looks just like the one my Mommy uses!

Finally, their BIG one week birthday surprise was Brian installing a roosting perch! A little dowel stick will do the trick and give them the chance to practice roosting! They aren't very good at it yet and just hide behind it for right now.
Excuse their messy cage! You would think they were born in a barn. 
We tried to decrease their temperature by 5 degrees today to 90 degrees, like all the books say but they didn't like that too much so we put it back up and will watch them. If they get too hot they will begin to stay farther away from the heat lamp and then we will turn the temperature down more. 

One week down.... :) Honestly, we are realizing how care free and self sufficient they can be. Just be sure they always have water, food, and change their bedding once a day but other than that.... they just hang. So don't be afraid to get out there... and get your own!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Getting SO Big!!

Martha, Betty, and Bernadette had a busy week of eating, sleeping, chirping, and repeat.
They spend most of their time trying to sleep but it always seems one is running around disturbing the other ones.
It is amazing how much they have already changed. I am sad the "cute" phase goes so quickly. They already are forming their wing feathers and I noticed today Martha and Betty's little comb begin to form.
Brian and I had to travel to DC one night this week and Moe did a good job chick sitting. He really just sits ON their cage everyday all day.
Here is a little picture update :)
Moe's new favorite sitting spot
Sometimes he tries to "play" with them. 
Getting in some "people" time so they grow up being more comfortable around humans.
They LOVE being held and fall asleep in seconds. 
Moe the chicken sitter.
Our family
This is the box the chicks were shipped in. It is now Moe's new bed.
Bernadette is narcoleptic. As soon as you pick her up.... she falls immediately asleep.  I swear she is not dead.
All grown up with big kid feathers.
The little comb is starting to form
Bernadette, the little Easter Egger, is soooo pretty!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Norfolk's Newest....

I don't think I slept more than an hour last night worried to death over the safety of our little guys. It was really cold here and so I was so nervous they would just freeze. When the post office hadn't called by 8:30am (when they said they would) I started to mildly panic. However, they did call by 9:00am and we were off to fetch our newest family members!

As soon as we entered the post office you could hear the little guys chirping away!!! I was so anxious to just rip the box open and check on them.
I can HEAR them!!!
I am sure the postal workers were pretty happy we picked them up so promptly. They were LOUD!

I couldn't get out of the post office without ripping the box open and making sure everything was okay. I am so embarrassed by this video and the fact I start crying when I open the box. If I get this emotional over three baby chickens.... I am going to be a WRECK when I am a Mom!
But as we opened the box.... they were all just perfect and happy and HUNGRY! 

They were shipped from Meyer Hatchery in Polk, OH. They had a little nest, heating pads, sponge for water. Perfect little home for their big adventure. They really are the picture of health. 

They settled into their new home and ate all the food and drank all the water we set out. 
We even named the two orange ones, Martha and Betty. I just picture some old hens clucking away in the coop! (the little easter egger will be named by Amelia Baker... more on that later)
The thermometer tells us if it is staying a toasty 95!

However, the highlight of the day was our first born's insane jealousy and curiosity. Moe did not leave their side and has now settled into laying in the box/nest they were shipped in for hours. He doesn't try to "get them" but he just watches and watches and watches. I am sure if he had the chance he would eat them, but for now.... he watches. Baby chicks will "imprint" (just like Twilight) on whatever they assume to be their mother. Usually it is the care giver but since Moe hasn't left their side since the second they got home... we are pretty sure they assume Moe is Mom. They even follow Moe as he circles around the box. It is hilarious. 
Meeting His Sisters!

And Where He Stayed The Next 12 Hours.

Today was an awesome day! I am very excited to be a chicken Mom and Brian is such a great Dad! They have been SO humorous as they attempt to spread their wings and fall over. They peck at each others faces and when they sleep they seriously look dead and just flop on the ground. 

Welcome Home Baby Chickens.... Welcome Home! (okay, temporary brooder, Brian still has to build your actual home)

All Three!!!

He's a "hands on" Dad! ;-)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Calling All Chicken Prayers

Our baby's should have been shipped today. One day old and they are off on a HUGE adventure. I awoke today so very excited and went to work getting the final pieces for our chicks home and giving my phone number to the post office so they can call me and I can pick them up ASAP.

I needed to pick up a baby chick waterer at the local feed and seed store (not the Norfolk one). Well it turns out they didn't have any but BOY did they have an opinion on my chicks. The man behind the counter pretty much told me to prepare myself for dead chickens. He said how he never gets baby chicks through the mail because they will freeze to death and urban chickens will just get eaten by raccoons. Thanks for the buzz kill.

I just told him my Daddy is a veterinarian and a farmer and he said it was okay... so there!

But it sorta but me in a funk all day. I am so nervous and anxious for the little guys while they make their way.

They should be here tomorrow morning but it could be Wednesday! Brian will be able to go with me to pick them up if it is tomorrow morning and I would like him there just to be sure it is all okay.

We are praying in our home tonight for the chicks safe and healthy arrival and I believe they need lots more prayers! So just be thinking of them tonight and pray the postal workers treat them well and they get here early tomorrow!!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Not a Nest, But Second Best

The babies will be shipped tomorrow and will be here Tuesday or Wednesday! This means that Brian and I had to spend our Friday night building them a home.

Baby chicks first home is called a brooder. This is a small heated structure where they can stay safe and warm until they grow their feathers (about 5-8 weeks.... shhh don't tell Brian it takes that long).

And this is where the "forbidden" probably takes on its most literal term. The baby chicks will have to stay in our home for the first weeks of their lives. The farm market is only open 4 days a week and it is loud and fluctuates a lot in temperature and with lots of little curious kids and not so responsible parents (the reason all of my onion plants were pulled out of the ground last week by kids who's parents stood right there not paying attention). So the dining room will suit just fine! (Brian wanted me to add a joke about Moe "dining" on the chicks but....)

My parents have always just used cardboard boxes and a heat lamp. We have friends who have used small cat carriers too. We decided to go "fancy" and use a tupperware container. We aren't going to write a DIY. We simply used one of the million online DIY instructions we found off google.

Our only two requirements were that it be super warm (95 degrees the first week, decreasing by 5 degrees each week after) and Moe (the cat) proof.

Moe, the cat.

All it took was $45 (would have been less had we not just moved and packed away our desk lamp into storage) and about 45 minutes! I wasn't home but Brian being his cute little self took pictures so you could follow along at home. 

Brian used a box cutter to cut the middle out of the lid

All you need wire snips to cute the wire mesh, box cutter, and 12 small screws (he even used a penny so you could tell the size!)
Just clip the desk lamp on!
We put a thermometer in tonight and it isn't going above 85 degrees. This is with us using a 60 watt bulb so we are going to try a 75 watt bulb tomorrow. We will line the bottom with paper towels and VoilĂ  you have your chickens first home!

Now let's really hope that thing is Moe proof.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


We are currently residents of the city of Norfolk in the great Commonwealth of Virginia.  We have been here for two and half years, while Brian is stationed at Naval Station Norfolk. I am a manager at the Five Points Community Farm Market. 

While working at the farm market I became aware of the city's ordinances banning the keeping of poultry and bee's within the city! I became pretty passionate about repealing the beekeeping ban, especially in this time of Colony Collapse Disorder. While working with the city on this issue I learned of a loophole in the city's ordinance. While I had been previously told it was illegal to keep bee's and poultry within city limits, it is actually only illegal on residentially zoned lots within the city!!! The city ordinance does NOT prohibit the keeping of chickens and bee's on lots zoned anything else.

Lucky me working at the farm market on a lot zoned..... light industrial!

With a quick ask of my supervisor and our landlord I quickly purchased three baby chickens before ANYONE could stop me!

We are now expecting our baby's on Tuesday!!

Slightly forbidden, we are excited to use this loophole to help usher in a conversation with city officials on the creation of more sustainable friendly ordinances and use our chickens as a "pilot" project showing others how friendly, easy, clean, quiet, and AWESOME backyard chickens can be!!

"How Did I Get Here?!"

"How Did I Get Here?".... a term I hear often coming from Brian's mouth.  He first said it on his first trip to meet my family. We had been on the farm less than 20 minutes before one of the baby lambs got in the grainery (Definition:  building usually intended to house animals for long periods during the winter season) and ate an entire bag of cracked corn. Sheep, like other ruminant animals, can eat themselves to death and so immediately Brian had to help me stick tubes down the squirming lambs throat, pour soapy water down, and let it throw up all over us.

Welcome to farm life, city boy!

I have heard him say it often as we drive hours to produce auctions, spend our life savings on green houses, spend hours in a field bending over planting collards in the 95 degree weather and now today as we prepare for the arrival of our first THREE little baby chickens.  But he is my super trooper and probably one of the most supportive husbands on the face of the earth.
(Brian on vacation at the farm. vacation = free labor for my family)

 (Working my family's produce stand at farm market within a week of returning from 7 month deployment!)