Saturday, June 29, 2013

What I learned from Pat Foreman's Two-Day Intensive Chicken Workshop

I confess, this blog post is late! I participated in a two-day intensive chicken workshop with Pat Foreman, the author of City Chicks, back in early March. I meant to write about the experience months ago, but better late than never. We met at First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach.

Pat Foreman, Chicken Whisperer and Workshop Presenter Extraordinaire!
Pat Foreman's Sidekick, a Rare Chantecler Hen Named Oprah Henfry

 Pat gave us lots of handouts and advice. Much of it I had read in some of her books, but the refresher was useful. I came away realizing that our society and our world need to do more to conserve our soil and our sources of fresh water, which we are rapidly and suicidally depleting. Chicken-keepers can help by employing chickens and their manure in organic gardening.

The chicken-handling portions of the workshop were the parts that were most useful to me. I am much more confident handling my hens and much less likely to accidentally harm them as a result of this experience. I am glad that local chicken-keepers are giving free workshops through 4 Chesapeake Hens and other groups, but I wish that everyone who raises chickens could get to spend the time with Pat that we did.

Here I Am, Talking to My Buff Orpington, Minerva (photo courtesy of Craig Mills)

Oprah and and this participant seem to have hit it off!

Lisa Dearden was Pat's Co-Presenter
My Friend, Lanette, Handles a Gentle Dominique Rooster, a Colonial-Era Breed from Williamsburg
Pat Brought In Some Day-Old Chicks. How FAST They Grow!
Can You Spot the Chick?
This Chick is Hard to Miss!

Some random tidbits that I found useful: avoid the use of particle board in coops because they harbor mites. Pat prefers plastic or metal nest boxes to wood ones, and plastic nest-box liners, for the same reason. Never use cedar shavings in coops because they off-gas and can cause the birds respiratory and other health issues. Aspen shavings are preferred. Sprouting grains improves the nutritional availability to the chicken; they *love* sprouted wheat berries! Heritage breeds of chicken need higher levels of protein than the factory-farm birds, up to 28% of their diet. The shells of chicken eggs, crushed up and fed back to them as a source of calcium, are much more nutritious than crushed oyster shells. NEVER grab and squeeze a laying hen; it can kill hens if you break an egg inside them.

Speaking of eggs, Lisa Dearden demonstrated the differences between pastured eggs and supermarket eggs. She scrambled some of each up, and it's easy to tell the difference. The richer color of the pastured eggs is evidence of superior flavor and nutrition.

Can YOU Tell Which Part of These Scrambled Eggs Came From the Supermarket?
The color of the eggshells, however, has nothing to do with freshness or nutritional content, despite popular belief to the contrary. Still, the variety of colors and sizes is fun and nothing like what you find in stores:

Different Breeds of Chickens Produce Eggs with Different Colors of Shell

Pat recommended Countryside Organics feed. A friend keeps reminding me that it is available at New Earth Farm in Virginia Beach. Maybe next time I need to buy feed I will hunt this down.

For more pictures and another perspective on this workshop, check out this blog post by my good friend and urban homesteader, Lanette Lepper. Unlike me, she managed to post her thoughts in a timely manner. For more about Pat Foreman's workshops, visit Chickens and You.

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