“Backyard chickening” alive and well in Chicago

With everything else going on in my life, I haven’t been writing much about my chickens and the community of chicken keepers here in Chicago. There have been a lot of good things happening in this area, so I thought I’d give a quick summary.

First, an update on the stuff that has been happening in my own little flock. The days are definitely lengthening and the hens are responding accordingly: more eggs!

I don’t get to see my chickens every day now that I’m living at my sister’s house, but I do stop by my house regularly to check on them and the dogs and to clean up the coop. (Mark is doing a good job keeping everyone fed and watered, but he doesn’t do clean up duty.) So, I get to pull eggs out of the nestbox occasionally and I can attest to at least one 3-egg day.

I know that one of the layers is Speedy, my sole Delaware pullet, as her eggs are still the smallest. Maisy is definitely one of the other layers. She has always been my most reliable laying hen, and even with the short day length and her molt she continued to provide me with an egg about every other day. I’m not certain if the third one laying is Selma or Betty, but I was glad to notice that Selma’s comb and wattles are getting larger and redder again, signaling that she is pretty much done with her molt now. So, she could be laying, too.

Around Chicago, there have been great strides made in building a community of chicken keepers and advocates for chicken keeping.

  • Angelic Organics Learning Center held a sold-out workshop last November on Basic Backyard Chicken care. I attended and brought Maisy along so folks could get a look at a real, live hen.
  • Another Basic Backyard Chicken Care workshop is planned for March, and is nearly sold out already. I’ll be there again, this time as a presenter. (!)
  • A positive outcome of the first workshop was the establishment of a Google Group to enable folks to connect with each other. (I think the group is open and anyone can visit it, but I’m not sure.) Through the group we’re tracking advocates, and strategizing how to make sure chicken keeping stays legal in all wards in Chicago, as well as talking about ways we can organize a feed co-op and generally sharing tips.
  • Healthy Dining newsletter just published an article about raising backyard chickens, featuring a few words from moi and a good photo of Marshall, my “accidental” rooster.
  • I’ll also be interviewed about keeping chickens in the city next Tuesday, February 10, on a new Chicago Public Radio initiative called Vocalo.org. The interview will be streamed live through their website www.vocalo.orgat around 7 AM CST, as well as on the air at 89.5 FM. It should be available via podcast, too.

See, quite a bit is happening! With spring just around the corner, I expect there will be much more going on and plenty to keep us urban chicken folk busy!

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Heating up

We’ve been enjoying a mini “heat wave” here in Chicagoland for the past few days. It has not only gotten above freezing, it’s become warm enough to put away (temporarily, I’m sure) the big, down-filled “sleeping bag” coat I wear during the coldest part of winter. Yesterday the temps were above 60F, and the rest of this week looks to be in the high 40s and 50s.

I’m not really complaining here, but this has caused me a few problems as I only had the one warm coat with me here at my sister’s house. I had to make time to run over to my house and bring yet more clothing back, including some lighter outer wear and thinner shirts to wear with my suits. It almost seems as if my full closet WILL be transported over here by the end of the month.

Mark emailed me a couple days ago with some good news: he has signed a lease at an apartment beginning March 1, but since it is currently vacant he can pick up the keys early and start moving stuff over at any time. He said he’s calling movers tomorrow to schedule the move for the big stuff (bed, bookcases, etc.) Dare I hope that he will move early, and I can get back into my home before the end of the month?

There are still some adjusments needed to the MSA (marital settlement agreement) apparently, but my lawyer said they will try to schedule the “prove up” (this means, the final court date when the judge grants the dissolution of marriage) for the third week in February. Hooray!

I’m happy and sad about this news. At the very beginning, I was sad and cried a lot, but then had to get busy doing paperwork, meeting with the lawyer and the mortgage broker, making lists of this and that, etc. Keeping busy and in motion gave me something to do to keep my my off of the emotional aspects of the divorce.

Now we’ve reached a big milestone, though: Mark really is moving out. I really will be living in the house on my own soon. And that is sad and scary. I know the mortgage broker said that I will have no problems meeting my mortgage payments, but it is still scary to know that I will be sole support of my small household.

Moving from 2 incomes to one also means I have to change my lifestyle to be more vigilant about what and when I spend. I’m not a profligant spender who makes shopping a hobby, but I have enjoyed the DINK (dual income no kids) lifestyle that has allowed for travel, eating out at pricier restaurants, and purchasing high quality stuff off-sale. I know this may sound sort of whiny considering the hard reality many others are facing with layoffs, the rising cost of living, etc. I’m just saying it’s a change I have to get used to.