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The Urban Chicken Podcast - The Urbanite's Podcast Resource for Keep…

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The Urban Chicken Podcast is a weekly resource for the suburban/urban dweller who wants to enjoy all of the benefits of living in the city while carving out a small slice of bucolic bliss in their own backyards with a small flock of hens. Jen Pitino, the host, will discuss topics pertinent to the backyard chicken-keeper and also feature regular guests on the show who are experts in various areas of raising chickens. The show is a balance of practical information for the hobbyist dealing with the day-to-day issues of owning chickens (e.g. coop building, brooding chicks, predators, illnesses/injuries, feed, eggs, etc.) and fun and interesting poultry facts providing plenty of intrigue to entertain all chicken enthusiasts. If you love owning chickens (or at least love the idea of someday owning some backyard hens) then listen to The Urban Chicken Podcast every Wednesday to revel in your interest as a chicken fancier!


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UCP Episode 059: The Livestock Conservancy – Saving Heritage Our Breeds (Discussion with Jeannette Beranger)
How many grizzly bears are in the United States? 1,800. How many grey wolves in America?  5,443 in the lower 48 states (there is an estimated additional 7,700 -11,000 in Alaska.)  How many Redcap breed chickens in the States? Fewer than 500 (and fewer than 2,000 in the world.) There are currently twelve different chicken breeds listed as “critically endangered” and an additional twelve breeds on the “threatened” list (fewer than 1,000 in the U.S. and 5,000 worldwide) according to the Livestock Conservancy. While the WWF is fighting to protect pandas and rhinos, the Livestock Conservancy is tirelessly working to protect threatened heritage horse, cattle, donkey, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys and rabbit populations. Jeannette Beranger – photo courtesy of The Livestock Conservancy Jeannette Beranger, the Research and Technical Programs Manager for the Livestock Conservancy joins me on the Urban Chicken Podcast to discuss the mission of this organization, some of the projects the Conservancy is currently involved in and how backyard hobbyist chicken keepers (like you and me) can help save some rare and special breeds from becoming extinct from our own backyards. Jeannette has over 25 years of experience working with animals first as a veterinary technician and then later for several years with the Roger Williams zoo, where she eventually became the head zookeeper.  For the past few years, Jeannette has worked with the Livestock Conservancy researching, educating, networking and implementing various programs and efforts to save endangered heritage livestock breeds with the Conservancy.  She has a depth of knowledge on animals and particularly heritage breed livestock to share on today’s show. Agricultural systems in the United States (as well as worldwide) have increasingly My Isa Brown – photo by Nico Nelson become very industrial since the 1950’s “green revolution.”   Consequently, industrialized farms utilizing hybridized breeds have replaced the traditional and varied livestock once found in backyards and on small family farms across this nation.   Though these “improved” hybrid poultry breeds (e.g. sex-links, ISA Brown, ISA Warrens, Cornish-Crosses, Leghorns, etc.) may grow faster or lay more eggs, they are not necessarily the hardiest or most delicious breeds for the table. The Livestock Conservancy is working to protect nearly 200 breeds of livestock and poultry from extinction.  The organization seeks to save these rare breeds, not by trying to have them replace the hybrid breeds used on large-scale, commercial farms, but rather as complimentary alternatives found on small-scale farms and private lands. The Livestock Conservancy works tirelessly to protect the future of agriculture in the United States through safeguarding the genetically diverse bloodlines found in each of these endangered heritage breeds. The Livestock Conservancy’s Mission in Action A three prong approach is used by the Livestock Conservancy in its fight to save our heritage breeds:  1) Discover, 2) Secure, and 3) Sustain.  Each of these conservation prongs is crucial to saving rare livestock breeds. photo by David Goehring The discover prong means to actually find rare breeds. These rare breeds often have quietly survived for generations until they are found again.  Historical research, DNA testing and physical examination and comparison are some of the techniques used in “discovering” rare breeds that need protection. The second prong, secure, means to safeguard discovered rare breeds from further genetic erosion.  This is accomplished mainly through encouraging breeders to save these breeds by continuing to raise and breed them.  Conservation of genetically diverse bloodlines within these breeds is crucial as well to prevent inbreeding. Helping breeders to maintain several bloodlines secures these breeds for the future. The last prong – sustain, is crucial for the continued success of a rare breed. In order to sustain a breed, efforts to grow interest and enthusiasm in the breed, practicing good animal husbandry and helping the breeders find markets for these animals are all necessary to prevent the breed from slipping back into peril of going extinct. Discover, Secure and Sustain are the three steps that the Livestock Conservancy has used for more than 30 years to enact its mission to ensure the future of agriculture through genetic conservation and promotion of heritage breeds.  This organization recognizes the inherent danger in commercial agriculture relying on a very limited genetic pool.  Any significant disease or genetic defect in the world of industrial farming could topple that structure.  Rare breeds are needed to be available to provide diverse genetic material if the worst should happen. The Livestock Conservation Priority List & Criteria The annual priority list of the endangered livestock breeds is based on current populations of that species. In order to get accurate numbers on the existing populations of poultry breeds, a census of hatcheries, major breeders, breed clubs, poultry associations, and Livestock Conservancy members is taken. Additionally the census survey is advertised in magazines to the public at large. Only breeding stock birds are counted in the poultry census.  Consequently, if a person owns just one bird or a few hens with no intention of breeding them, these birds will not be counted in the census.  Birds which will not be bred provide no genetic contribution to future generations and are irrelevant to such a census. There are five levels of priority in breed conservation: 1) critical, 2) threatened, 3) watch, 4) recovering, and 5) study.  In order to be place on any of these conservation priority lists, the breed in question must first satisfy certain parameters. All breeds on each of the five conservation lists must: a true genetic breed (i.e. when mated together, a true breed type is reproduced); the breed has an established and continuous breeding population in the United States since 1925 (or if imported/developed since 1925); the foundation stock is no longer available: there are at least three (3) breeding lines in the United States; there are at least twenty (20) breeding females in the United States; and Must be contributing to the breed’s survival internationally. In additional to all of these initial criteria, endangered breeds which end up on the Livestock Conservancy’s “Priority List” for protection must also meet some stringent census numerical parameters. The direst of the Conservancy’s five categories for protection is the eponymously named “critical” category.  Poultry breeds which are deemed “critical” have fewer than 500 breeding birds in the United States (and fewer than an estimated 1,000 birds worldwide) with five or fewer primary breeding flocks (i.e. flocks comprised of 50+ birds of that breed) in addition to meeting all of the above mentioned initial guidelines. Breeds fall into the “threatened” category if there are fewer than 1,000 breeding birds in the United States (and fewer than 5,000 breeders globally) with seven or fewer primary breeding flocks. Breeds with fewer than 5,000 breeding birds in the U.S. (10,000 globally) with fewer than ten primary breeding flocks are on the “watch” list. Breeds which were once listed in the “critical” or “threatened” categories, but have since increased there population numbers to exceed the watch list parameters, are still monitored under the “recovering” list.  Finally, rare breeds which are of interest but lack genetic and/or historic documentation or lack general definition are often placed within the Conservancy’s “study” category for closer examination and consideration. There are currently over twenty chicken breeds alone on the “critical” and “threatened” 2015 conservation priority list.  Below is the entire 2015 chicken priority list published by the Livestock Conservancy. History of the Livestock Conservancy The Livestock Conservancy was founded in 1977 by a group of farmers, environmentalists, historians and scientists who recognized the drastic genetic erosion of livestock in America and international and shared a concern for the fate of America’s heritage livestock breeds. The organization began with 58 due-paying members and the goal to conduct research on breed populations, education the public and provide technical support and advice to farmers and livestock breeders. Golden Campine Chickens – photo by InAweofGod’sCreation A decade later the Livestock Conservancy was a registered non-profit, had 800 members and was deeply busy working to save Santa Cruz sheep, San Clemente goats and Randall cattle in additional to several other breeds. In 1987, the Livestock Conservancy became the first conservation organization to add poultry to its endangered breeds list and established a semen bank of rare breeds. In the 1990s, the Livestock Conservancy continued to significantly grow in membership and expand the breadth of its work, including the publication of several books on heritage breed conservancy.  During this period, the organization was instrumental in helping to found the international livestock conservation group called, Rare Breeds International.  In 1997, the group’s census of heritage turkey populations in America found only 1,335 breeding birds. Throughout the 2000s, the Livestock Conservancy continued to blaze new trails in rare breed conservation.  The organization is credited with coining and defining the term “heritage chicken” and began to promote these rare breeds in the marketplace.  The organization founded the first annual National Heritage Breeds Day this past May 23rd. Through the past four decades this organization has worked with unflagging dedication to discover, secure and sustain endangered heritage breeds of livestock. As a result, the Livestock Conservancy today is the largest, non-profit organization in the United States working to protect and preserve rare and genetically diverse livestock breeds. Join and/or Donate to the Livestock Conservancy The Livestock Conservancy is able to pursue its mission (safeguarding the future of agriculture through conserving heritage livestock breeds for future generations) through the participation of everyday livestock keepers such as you.  Even backyard hobbyists can serve a critical role in the preservation of heritage breeds by raising endangered breed hens – thereby providing a market for potential breeders/hatcheries for these birds. Join the Livestock Conservancy HERE. If you are unable to join the Livestock Conservancy’s mission through direct participation, consider donating to their cause.  This group is doing magnificent work protecting breeds that would likely be extinct in the next few decades without their efforts.  That is a cause worthy of support.  You can donate to the Conservancy through this LINK. CHICKEN NEWS: MAIN SEGMENT: Livestock Conservancy – website for the organization HOMEPAGE  Jeannette Beranger’s Book – An Introduction to Heritage Breeds: Saving and Raising Rare-Breed Livestock and Poultry Livestock Conservancy – Conservation Priority Poultry Breeds 2015 CHART Mother Earth News Fair – See Jeannette Speak Live about Chickens FAIRS LINK Livestock Conservancy – National Heritage Breed Day (and week!) Info LINK Facebook – The Livestock Conservancy’s Facebook PAGE Twitter – The Livestock Conservancy’s Twitter FEED Mother Earth News – Preserve Endangered Breeds w/ Heritage Chicken ARTICLE Mother Earth News – Enjoy Heritage Chickens ARTICLE Backyard Chickens – Meet the Chooks: Critically Endangered Chickens ARTICLE US Fish & Wildlife – Gray Wolf: Current Populations in United States CHARTS Defenders of Wildlife – Grizzly Bear Fact Sheets CHART/STATS  Down the Lane – Battery Hens Breed Information FORUM THREAD SALLY’S SIDENOTES:  Support the Urban Chicken Podcast by shopping Amazon starting here: Amazon If Amazon is not your thing – you could also support the show HERE
UCP Episode 058: Listener Q & A Session #5
Wright’s Book of Poultry – Plate on Page 488 It is time again for another session of Urban Chicken Podcast Listeners’ questions and answers.  This Q and A session we consider and discuss ISA Brown chickens, a rooster who is acting like a hen, issues with spilt feed in the coop, identify a mystery breed hen, and hear about another crowing hen!    A few weeks ago I received several questions from Urban Chicken Podcast listener Ahmad Eido in a couple different emails.  Ahmad is relatively new to keeping backyard chickens – most of his flock being rescue birds from his local humane society animal shelter. Here are the first two questions Ahmad posed in his initial email: Hi Jen,        I hope all your flock babies are doing well.  I have 2 questions for you. 1.) I have 6 hens and one rooster … they are about 8 months old [and] just starting to lay eggs.  I went in the coop today to check on the water and freshen their bedding and … as i was in there, the rooster “Rocko” ([by the way] I love this bird so much) jumped in the laying boxes next to me and starting clucking like a laying hen. He then laid in the middle and looked at me like a broody hen. What do you think that means? Is that a normal occurrence?      2.) My flock does not free range as of yet – I have a large pen attached to my coop. … I went to check on [my flock] and give them some treats …. and I noticed that the 30lb metal feeder that I use is almost empty, even though I filled most of it 2 days ago.  All the feed is on the ground around the feeder.  My chickens have never done that since I [have] had them.  As I was investigating the site, I noticed that there was blood on the walls of the feeder.  I checked all my flock one at a time and none of them has any injuries … and there no evidence of a predator or any forced entry to the pen. What do you think happened? I’m very concerned.      Thank you so much for all your great podcast, keep up the good work. Your Avid Listener – Ahmad These are both rather unusual questions and my answers are more experiential and anecdotal in nature than scientifically based.  It is difficult, if not impossible to give an absolute answer to either of these inquiries. ROOSTER ACTING LIKE A BROODY HEN  Let’s start with issue of the rooster behaving like a broody hen.  According to Ahmad, Rocko the rooster one day decides to strangely climb into a nesting box, cluck like a hen Hen on Nest – photo by Karen Jackson and pretend to be broody. Yup – that is some pretty odd behavior for a rooster.  However, I suspect the cause of this rooster’s nuttiness is not as enigmatic as one might initially assume. All animals, chickens included, are as individualized and full of unique personalities as humans.  Consider how bizarre some humans act from time to time.  Often there is not a reasonable explanation for their behavior – perhaps the individual was just feeling a bit silly or kookie that day or perhaps acting in such a way for their own amusement.  Anyone who has ever owned a regular household pet would be able to recount how these dogs or cats have acted playfully and silly just for fun.  Arguably, chickens are no different. Here is a similar example from my own life.  My sister owns a Black Copper Marans rooster named Napoleon.  Recently, when one of the hens was laying eggs and crying out her  “egg-song,”  Napoleon began to mimic her. He was not clearly crowing – he was very carefully echoing this hen’s egg-song.  Why was Napoleon sing a hen’s song?  Truthfully, I have no idea.  I suspect he was doing it for his own amusement or perhaps out of some deep-seeded rooster neurosis.  However, Napoleon is not the only rooster to take up mimicking the “egg-song.” Rooster Singing Hen’s Egg-Song:  Napoleon has not demonstrated any other female like behavior.  If Rocko has not done anything more than act a little crazy that one day, I would not read too much into it. However, should Rocko begin to regularly behave as though he were a hen, that would be something different. There are a few reports of roosters sex-reversing into hens, though those reports are not generally substantiated.  More commonly are reports and studies on various species of animals (several of which are birds) exhibiting “homosexual” behaviors in the wild.  There are reports of pairs of male birds partnering up and running female birds off of their nests to take-over the care and hatching of eggs.  This is not likely to be the issue with Rocko – he was probably just being playful around with his owner. If Rocko continues to behave like a hen or if any other Urban Chicken Podcast listener’s roosters (or hens) are behaving like the opposite sex, please let me know.  I am conducting an informal study on sex-reversed chickens and looking to see if there is any correlation with the rise of rooster-free backyard flocks with that phenomenon. CAUSE OF MISSING/SPILT FEED IN THE COOP The second question Ahmad asked was to help him find the source of missing and spilt feed in his coop.  This is sort of a “whodunnit” mystery question.  Since I have never visited Ahmad’s coop or seen his flock in action, I can only make an educated guess at the cause of his feed troubles. The evidence list of facts in this case to consider are as follows: 1) an unusual amount of feed was consumed; 2) though it is generally common for chickens to scratch in their feeders and waste feed, this is not a behavior his flock has ever shown; 3) there was a smear of blood inside the metal feeder, but none of his birds were injured when he checked each of them individually, and 4) there was no signs of a forced entry into the coop. Assuming that all of the facts provided by Ahmad were correct and there is no additional omitted evidence the most likely answer is that his own flock is guilty for this mess. Chickens are notorious about spilling their feed and could have done so on this occasion for the first time.   Moreover, it is highly possible that the injury that cause the blood smear was simply overlooked. A Small Mouse – photo by Berit Watkin However, if flock did not cause this mess in Ahmad’s coop and an outside culprit is to blame, then the likely offender was either a rat or mouse (or a similar rodent).  It is very common for open and available feed in a coop to attract entrepreneurial vermin.  Rodents have voracious appetites and can eat and stash remarkable amounts of food. Additionally, rodents are well known for being able to shimmy through small gaps in what appears to be a secure structure.  Consequently, it is not surprising that the coop showed no evidence of a “break-in” by an outside animal.  The blood smear might have been cause by the rodent cutting itself when squeezing through a tight gap to get into the coop.  Alternatively, perhaps the chickens saw the little interloper in their feeder and spilt the feed while putting an end to this intruder. Remember, chickens eat mice.  It is not so far-fetched that a thieving mouse came to a bad end inside the coop.  If Ahmad is convinced that it is an outside culprit to blame, then he would be well-served to put out some mouse traps around the coop placed where neither chickens or other pets could reach and see if he catches any rodents.  It is imperative to take a proactive stance when dealing with rodent issues.  Rodents bring bother disease and pests (e.g. fleas, ticks, lice) into chicken coops. These vermin can be determined and chew holes through plastic and wood to reach food sources.  Ultimately, if left unchecked, rodents can cost a flock owner significant money and energy.  IDENTIFY THE MYSTERY CHICKEN BREED As mentioned earlier, Ahmad posed a third question in a second email.  Here is what he asked in that second message: Hi Jen,      I want to thank you for your great podcast. I have just found your podcast and now I am hooked and starting to listen back to all of your older podcast [episodes].      Since I was a little kid, I wanted chickens for myself as pets. We lived in Beirut, Lebanon, which is a large city, in an apartment so there was no way for me to get chickens.      Two months ago, I bought a 12 acre property in the U.S. and I just bought my first coop [and flock of]  six hens and one rooster. My flock is made up of: -“Ethel,” a Barnivelder from a breeder; -“Gertrude,” my Ameraucana (who was a shelter     adoption); -“Louise,” an amber sex-link; -“Lucy,” a Rhode Island Red shelter rescue hen; -“Rocko” a beautiful Buff French Marans (he was also rescued from almost being slaughtered); and … -“Rosie,” my mystery hen who was also a shelter rescue.      I adopted most of them from the Humane Society that I work at.  I LOVE my chickens! …     I am attaching [for] you some pictures of … my baby girl Rosie, the mystery hen. Hopefully you can identify what breed Rosie is.  She is much smaller than the rest of the flock as she is only about 2-3 lbs.  I am not sure if she is a bantam.     I just wanted to thank you for your awesome podcast and please keep up the good work. I have learned lots of things from listening to you.  You will hear from me again with questions. — Ahmad Rosie the Mystery Breed – photo courtesy of Ahmad Eido I have carefully examined the picture of Rosie the small, mystery hen and believe I know exactly what chicken breed she is. However, I want you to have a chance to try to identify the breed.  Share your guess at her breed in either the Facebook comments or Twitter feed for this UCP episode.  I will reveal the answer during the next podcast. See if you can identify Rosie’s breed! ISA BROWNS IN AMERICA ISA Brown – photo by Nico Nelson Recently, Urban Chicken Podcast listener, Patrick Hallene, (author of the backyard farming website called the Little Country House) wrote to share some information about ISA Browns with all of the UCP audience. In UCP Episode 055,  I discussed sex-linking in chickens and briefly talked about ISA Brown sex-link chickens.  If you did not listen to UCP Episode 055, ISA Brown is short for Institut de Selection Animale, which was the European company that developed this sex-linked hybrid by crossing Rhode Island Reds with Rhode Island Whites.  In that episode, I mentioned that ISA Browns were fairly rare to find in the United States. Patrick wrote to share that he has some ISA Brown hens and his thoughts on this sex-linked breed.  Here is what Patrick wrote: Hey Jen, I just wanted to tell you I have a couple Isa Brown hens. I live in SW Ohio and purchased them from our local Ag store, Rural King. They lay wonderful large brown, thick shelled eggs. I have read they stop laying reliable eggs after two years. From what I understand, the eggs stop being uniform and can become misshapen. My hens are in their first year. They have a great temperament and are beautiful. Thought I would pass this info along. You can get them in US now. Not sure how long they have been available. I recommend them! Take care — Patrick After Patrick’s email I did a little google hunting and found that ISA Browns are available for sale through the mail (or locally if you happen to live in southwestern Ohio near the Rural King Ag Store).  One of the reliable retailers of ISA Brown chicks I found in the United States was Purely Poultry. If you also keep ISA Brown chickens please share what you think of this breed and where you bought your birds.  Please post that information on the Urban Chicken Podcast Facebook page. ANOTHER SEX-REVERSED HEN?  The last Urban Chicken Podcast listener contact for this episode was a tweet that I received from Deena Anreise a couple months ago, reporting a possible sex-reversed hen. Here is what Deena tweeted: Help! My BEST layer has started randomly crowing like a rooster. She’s 10 months old. I tweeted Deena back and asked whether her young hen was laying and if she had physically changed in any way (i.e. grown spurs, longer waddles, etc).Deena answered me with the following additional information: They’ve all stopped laying. Winter? Not much has changed [with] her appearance & she only crows occasionally. About a month later I sent Deena a follow Tweet asking if the bird was still crowing like a rooster and not laying eggs.  Deena tweeted her answer: She cries a bunch in the mornings but not other times. She’s NOTHING the dominant of the group. And she DOES lay. So odd Based on this information, I do not believe that her crowing hen is an actual sex-reversed bird.  The fact that there are no other indications of sex reversal (physically of behaviorally) suggests that  that the hen is simply trying to show her dominance in the pecking order.  Even though this little hen is not the dominant bird in the flock, she could still be crowing to gain some stature in the pecking order. I do not suspect that her left ovary has failed and triggered a sex-reversal, especially since the bird is so young. Perhaps this is a situation similar to Rocko the rooster, yet another chicken acting nutty for no apparent reason. I have added Deena’s crowing hen to the Spontaneous Sex-Reversed Chickens study chart located on the Urban Chicken Podcast website HERE. DEDICATION OF UCP EPISODE 058 TO LISTENER MARIE GLADWELL This episode of the Urban Chicken Podcast is dedicated to listener Marie Gladwell of Arkansas.  I am thinking of Marie as she fights cancer and praying for her full recovery. Please join me in sending Marie lots of love, support and positive energy.  Here is a poem that I learned a very long time ago that made me think of Marie and her current struggles with her health.  Hope is our most powerful internal strength – never underestimate its power.   CHICKEN NEWS: NY Times – McDonald’s Moving to Antibiotic Free Chicken ARTICLE The Dodo – What McDonald’s Antibiotic Free Chicken Move Means ARTICLE  Yahoo News – McDonald’s Chicken gets New Standard ARTICLE Eater – McDonald’s Axes Treated Milk and Chicken ARTICLE Here&Now – McDonald’s Phases out Antibiotics from Milk/Chicken AUDIO National Geographic – Why the McChicken Crossed the Road ARTICLE MAIN SEGMENT: Wikipedia – Homosexual Behavior in Animals LINK Wikipedia – ISA Browns Chickens – LINK Purely Poultry – ISA Brown Chicks PAGE Townline Hatchery – ISA Brown Chicks PAGE  Little Country House – Patrick Hallene’s Backyard Farming Blog LINK  Twitter – Tweets to/from Deena Anreise about Crowing Hen THREAD SALLY’S SIDENOTES: Support the Urban Chicken Podcast by shopping Amazon starting here: Amazon If Amazon is not your thing – you could also support the show HERE  
UCP Episode 055: Listeners Q and A Session #4 – Understanding Sex-Links, Bad Broodies & Plants Toxic to the Flock
Backyard Garden with Chickens Today on the Urban Chicken Podcast, I answer more chicken questions posed by listeners in Session #4 of Listeners’ Q & A series.  The chicken issues being discussed and considered in this session are: 1) understanding “sex-link” chickens; 2) dealing with a bad broody hen; and 3) learning which common yard and house plants are toxic to feed to your flock. WHAT IS A “SEX-LINK” CHICKEN? Sex-linked chickens (often just referred to as “sex-links”) are a very common type of egg-layer chicken that is available.  This hybrid chicken is not a specific breed and the practice of breeding sex-links is well worth understanding.  Here is a recent message that I received from one Urban Chicken Podcast Listener in Oregon who wrote to learn more about sex-links.  Here is what Erin emailed me: Hi Jen! I still faithfully listen to your podcast each week and enjoy all the great topics.  I have a question for you about 2 of my girls. I have a black sex-link and a golden sex-link chicken and I am curious what the sex-link actually means.  What is their actual breed?  I have noticed that these two girls are my most dependable egg layers.  For the past year, I am quite sure they have each produced an egg every day.  They also have friendly, docile personalities. Thanks for your great podcast! Erin Eugene OR This is a terrific question!  I suspect that many hobbyist chicken keepers who own sex-links are unfamiliar with the origins of this hybrid chicken. First it is important to understand that a “Sex-Link” is not a breed of chicken (and likely never will be.)  Rather, “sex-link” is a name used to describe a practice of cross-breeding various genders and breeds of certain chickens to produce particularly colored, hybrid offspring.  More specifically, this cross-breeding practice bears sex-linked progeny whose color and markings upon hatching reveal the chick’s sex. Sex-linked male chicks will have very distinct and different coloring patterns than sex-linked female chicks. The ability to easily sex day old chicks by their feathering is a tremendous benefit to hatcheries which would otherwise be forced to manually sex their chicks (i.e. hire experts who inspect baby chick genitalia bird-by-bird) which is required in most breeds. The other main benefit to sex-linked hens is that they are hybrids of laying or dual-purpose breeds and so they tend to exhibit enhanced qualities and vigor from their different parentage breeds — more typically referred to as heterosis.  Heterosis, is just a very fancy term for improved or increased function of any biological quality produced in a hybrid off-spring resulting from the mixing of the genetic contributions of its parents.  Heterosis is the diametric opposite of in-breeding; it is strength through cross-breeding.  Consequently, cross-breeding two different egg-laying chicken breeds can produce sex-linked hens who are extremely good egg layers. It is quite common to find sex-linked hens who will  easily produce 300 eggs a year or more.  This would probably account for Erin’s sex-linked hens being her best layers. There are several different combinations of chicken breeds which can be crossed to produce either Black or Red Sex-link chickens.  I am not going to go through all of those different combinations.  However, one example of Black Sex-link parentage is to cross a Rhode Island Red (or New Hampshire) rooster with a Barred Rock hen.  To produce Red Sex-links, a common example of the cross parentage is a Rhode Island Red (or New Hampshire) rooster bred to a Silver-laced Wyandotte or Delaware hen. (See links below for more detailed information about cross-breeding for sex-links.) There is one important characteristic of sex-link chickens to keep in mind:  the sex-determining feather colors and patterns is only displayed in the first generation of these crossbreeds.  Therefore, breeding a sex-link to a sex-link will not produce offspring with the gender-distinguished plumage. My Frida chicken (who is my top hen and the one who’s voice always opens the main segment of the Urban Chicken Podcast’s shows) is a Black Sex-link hen.  Even though she is a mongrel according to the A.P.A., I believe she is beautiful and a really lovely hen. WHAT TO DO WITH A BADLY BEHAVING BROODY HEN? The next listener question comes from Corey who shared the following problem with me on the Urban Chicken Podcast Facebook page: I’ve got a broody hen and that brat changes nests every couple of days, leaving the eggs she had been sitting on. Is that a common occurrence? I had another hen go broody (that was my first) about 2 months ago and she was awesome, and continues to be awesome with the two chicks she hatched. Hatching via a broody hen seems so much easier than buying an incubator, trying to regulate the temp/humidity and then raising the chicks in a brooder. That first hen/chicks really got me interested in trying to take advantage of these situations. Now this one [bad broody hen] is driving me nuts. Short of putting her in a cage with eggs, I’m not sure how to keep her on the right eggs. Unfortunately not all broody hens actually make good mothers.  Whether a hen will perform well as a broody is partially dependent on her breed and partially related to the individual personality of the hen in question. Corey’s intuition that it is preferable to use broody hens to incubate, hatch and care for new chicks is correct.  Truly, it can be significantly easier to put a broody hen to work than employ a mechanical incubator and brooder to hatch out a clutch of eggs.  This is, of course, limited to scenarios where you are only want to hatch out just a few new chicks at a time. Before Corey makes any decision regarding this seemingly flaky broody hen, he needs to first due a little detective work.  Is this “bad broody” truly abandoning her eggs every couple of days or is there some other reason she is moving around?  Perhaps she is being tormented from the nest by other flock mates.  I suggest this as one of my family’s very broody bantam Cochin hens looks like a miniature vulture from having all of her head feathers pecked of by other hens who wanted into the nesting box where she set up shop. A first time mother hen (especially one who’s breed is not as strongly developed for the broodiness character as a Cochin) may get bullied off a clutch of eggs.  Trying to discover if there is a reasonable basis for this broody hen’s abandoning behavior is definitely the starting point for Corey. If it turns out that this newly broody hens is just irresponsible with her clutch of eggs, there are two routes that Corey may take to address this issue.  The first route is to “help” this hen follow through with her broody obligations.  The best way to assist in this situation is to set up a “maternity ward” of sorts (i.e. a dog kennel with a nesting box, food and water) and lock this would-be mother hen up until she gets the job done.  Isolated in a dog kennel with a nesting box full of eggs, there is really nothing else for her to do but set and get these eggs hatched.  where she is locked up by herself in a dog kennel with the fertilized eggs ready for her attention. The other route is to break this short attention-spanned hen of her broodiness.  The theory behind this approach is that if the hen does not have the wherewithal to finish setting on eggs on her own volition (especially when she is giving up after just a couple of days), then perhaps she does not have what it takes to hatch out eggs.  Some broody hens abandon their freshly hatched chicks.  Some hens, which are particularly ill-suited for motherhood, murder their chicks either in egg (by cracking them open early) or after they’re hatched.  I cannot advise whether murderous tendencies are more likely found in hens who lack the nature motivation to successfully set on eggs the full 21+ days with out being assisted (forced) to do so. One of the easiest and most effective ways to break a hen of her broodiness is to take her off of her nest and put her in a tub of cool water.  This lowers her body temperature and interrupts her biological imperative to set on a nest of eggs. I am not advocating one route over the other as each person’s (and hen’s) circumstances are different and require individualized consideration of their facts. CAN I FEED MY FLOCK GARDEN WASTE & OTHER PLANTS FROM THE YARD? The third question on today’s Q and A show comes to the Urban Chicken Podcast from listener Kevin Leal.  Kevin wrote me the following questions: Hi Jen, A question that occurred to me recently is regarding garden waste.  I recently finished picking all the green beans out of my garden and I was considering using the “chicken tractor” to let the chickens eat down the rest of the plants.  I’m just not sure if it would be bad for the chickens.  I tossed a bean plant into their run, and they did eat it, but they didn’t tear into it the way they do some of the other plants I toss in. Anyway, it occurred to me that it might be helpful to know what parts of a vegetable garden would be good or bad to tractor chickens over.  Probably not something you could focus an entire show on, but if anyone in The Urban Chicken Podcast community was an expert on that sort of thing, I would love to hear what they have to say. Congratulations on your new pullets.  I look forward to hearing about them on the podcast.  Good luck integrating them into the flock. I haven’t tried to do that yet, since all of my hens have been together practically since birth. I look forward to the next podcast. Kevin   Fall is squarely here in Boise and, like many parts of the United States, this is the end of the most productive growing season in the backyard garden. My hens have spent the past several weeks gorging themselves on dropped plums and Roma tomatoes.  Lucky birds! As I begin to rip out plants that are spent from my garden and prepare the earth for its fallow winter rest, the question of whether these plants can be used for flock fodder comes up.  It is important to be very mindful of what you present to your hens to eat. Generally speaking lots of vegetables, flowers, trees and other plants that you have in your backyards are toxic for your chickens to eat.  Don’t despair – most chickens when allowed to free-range in a backyard, tend to have enough sense to avoid the plants which are poisonous to them and nibble on the ones that are safe to consume. Though this is true usually, it does not mean that chickens will never try munching on toxic plants.  A little nibble here or there won’t kill your birds and need not cause you to rip out all of your foxgloves and rhubarb. I have read that occasionally birds will purposefully eat toxic plants to help themselves kill internal parasites. The problem arises with potentially poisonous plants and your chickens when they are not free to choose.  In other words, when they are locked into a run, you need to be really careful about what you provide them to eat.  Chickens in this situation (i.e. locked up with one option for treats) will tend to eat even poisonous plants out of boredom or lack of choice when it is the only option available. As a rule of thumb as you are cleaning out your vegetable beds for fall crops or just for winter – do not toss tomato, eggplant, peppers, tomatillos or ground cherry plants into your chicken coop.  These are all plants in the nightshade family – which makes them deadly poisonous.  Do not throw in bean plants, potato plants or rhubarb leaves, since these are also toxic to birds .  Sunflower heads/ leaves, bolted lettuces, spinach, arugula, or the tops of raddish, beet, turnip or other greens are safe and very nutritious, as are most herbs (e.g. oregano, bee balm, lovage, etc). These are just a few of the garden common veggies to consider.  There are numerous other plant varieties regularly found in backyards that are potentially dangerous for your birds.  To help you give garden treats with more confidence to your flock, I have created a lengthy list of toxic plants not to feed your chickens. This chart should address the safety of the majority of plants that will be in your yard. Check Out my HUGE List of Plants Toxic to Chickens HERE!     CHICKEN NEWS: Spontaneous Sex Reversed Chickens Study CHART Send Info About Your Sex Reversed Chicken to UCP HERE MAIN SEGMENT: Sex-linked Chickens  Backyard Poultry Mag – Sex-Link Chickens Explained ARTICLE Backyard Chickens – Sex-Links for Beginners ARTICLE – Sex-Linked Traits in Poultry ARTICLE Backyard Chickens – What is Sex-Linked Forum Discussion THREAD – Sex-Link Breeding Combinations ARTICLE – Sex-Links Not an Actual Breed ARTICLE Feathersite – The Making of Sex-Link Chickens FLOW CHART Sage Hen Farm Lodi – Sex-Linked Chickens POST Feathersite – Sex-Links Explained POST  Dealing with Bad Broody Hens  The Modern Homestead – Good Broody, Bad Broody ARTICLE Dark Brown Eggs – Taking Care of a Broody Hen Generally ARTICLE The Modern Homestead – Setting the Broody Hen ARTICLE Fresh Eggs Daily – Five Ways to Encourage a Hen To Go Broody ARTICLE – Breaking a Broody Hen – ARTICLE Fresh Eggs Daily – Breaking Broodiness ARTICLE New Life On A Homestead – Broody Hen Drama PERSONAL ACCOUNT Mother Earth News – Raise a Flock Using Broody Hens ARTICLE Toxic Plants for Chickens  Poultry Club of Great Britain – Poisonous Plants & Toxins LIST Backyard Chickens – Chicken Safe Plants LIST My Pet Chicken – Poison Plants in the Yard LINK Fresh Eggs Daily – Chicken Safe Landscaping ARTICLE Tilly’s Nest – Top Ten Plants to Grow for Your Chickens ARTICLE University of California – List of Safe Yard Plants LIST  Poultry Keeper – Poisonous Plants for Chickens LIST Grit – Top Ten Flowers Your Chickens Will Love ARTICLE Telegraph UK – Hens in the Garden ARTICLE  ASPCA – Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants (with Pictures!) LINK  Poultry Keeper – Plants Chickens Won’t Eat (Flowers/Veggies) LIST Garden Web – Forum discussion of Toxic Plants and Chickens FORUM THREAD Chickens for Dummies – Planting a Chicken Safe Garden LINK Univ. of Illinois, Veterinary Medicine – List of Toxic Yard Plants LIST Cornell University – List of Toxic Plants LIST – Guide to Plants Poisonous to Chickens ARTICLE Hanbury House – Toxic Plants and Chickens ARTICLE Poultry Help – List of Poison Plants for Chickens LIST Hotspot for Birds – Plants Toxic to Birds LIST Humane Society of United States – List of Toxic Plants for Animals LINK  SUPPORT THE URBAN CHICKEN PODCAST: Support the Urban Chicken Podcast by shopping Amazon starting here: Amazon If Amazon is not your thing – you could also support the show HERE photo by:
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Podcast Details
Mar 20th, 2013
Latest Episode
Sep 25th, 2015
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43 minutes

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