Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Web Research

So, with my two-pronged objective in mind (eggs and lettuce) I set out to do my research. At the recommendation of  Jenny, and my online buddy, Pip, I went to mypetchicken.com. Birdvana!


That weekend, instead of indulging in my usual vacation planning/armchair travel, I spent hours playing with the “Breed Selector tool” on mypetchicken. I didn’t just consult it, I wallowed in it. I changed variables, changed them again, cross referenced the results with breeder sites.  We’re talking a major chicken geek out.  


My objective: to somehow balance my desire for copious eggs (more than a dozen a week at least…I don’t just want eggs for my family, I want to be able to share!) with my daughter’s need for friendly, tolerant chickens, and my husband’s preference for freaky looking chickens with feathered feet. Plus, I wanted a diverse egg basket, with eggs of different shapes and colors.  With this tool, I was able accomplish all of our objectives with six chickens, (the legal limit in my municipality) two of each of the following:


Ameraucana (Cute, mellow, 3 blue/green eggs per week) http://www.mypetchicken.com/Ameraucana-B5.aspx

Faveroles (Tolerant, feathery-footed, 4 cream/tinted eggs per week) http://www.mypetchicken.com/Faverolles-B47.aspx

Silkies (Great pets. Cute, but freaky looking, 1-2 pink/brown eggs per week) http://www.mypetchicken.com/Chickens-Silkie_Bantam_Buff-P254.aspx


Not to count my chickens before they hatch, but I figure this lot will give me an egg basket of  16-18 blue, cream, and pinkish brown eggs a week.  Allowing for the variations of individual personalities, they should all be fairly kid-tolerant. And several of them will have that sideshow look that makes my husband happy.


With that victorious decision-making process behind me, I did some serious husbandry reading, after which I began my search for a coop.  If this had all happened two years ago, I could have gotten my handy-manny husband to build my coop, no problem.  But since he got his fancy job (aquatic biologist at a famous aquarium, dontchaknow…I’m so proud!) his honey-do list has expanded to biblical proportions. Thus, I figure my chances of getting a free coop are pretty slim. Hence, I must buy one.


I started on Mypetchicken, moved on to google, and quickly got coop-head. Not only is the information on what is required (2 feet per chicken, 10 feet per chicken, indoor, no, outdoor, no both, warm, no, ventilated) contradictory, but even a lower-end coop seems disproportionately expensive. For something big enough to house 6 chickens, I’d need to shell out at least $1000, plus several hundred dollars in shipping.


Surely in this economy there must be someone local who can build a good, attractive coop for less money, right? Then I’d have the added bonus of a coop made to fit my particular space. According to the local paper, backyard chickens are gaining popularity, especially since the truly free-range eggs now sell for $8 a dozen at specialty stores. So someone must be building coops, right? And so I turned to craig’s list.


Bingo. There were several well-designed, attractive options, locally made, in the three digit price range. But I also saw a more intriguing option.


In with the other coop builders was a fledgling NPO called The Backyard Food Project/ Planting Justice.  According to their brief description, they specialize in helping people like me turn their urban spaces into food production zones, complete with chickens, vegetables, herbs, composting, grey-water recycling, fruit trees, the works. They look at your space, analyze the sunlight, the soil, the microclimate.  They develop a plan. Then they help you build and install said plan. Furthermore, they do follow-up calls, so if some newbie (like me) can’t figure out why one plant is thriving and the other sickly, you have help.  Fantastic!  Money raised from the project is then redeployed in a school, public space, or low income backyard, so that more people can have access to fresh, home-grown food.  


I was immediately intrigued. My two-pronged project now seemed small potatoes. Why not go all the way? Why not get some help so I could do my project right? Tasty, fresh food, grown sustainably in my own yard. And to help someone else in the process? How much better could it get?


So I went back to google in order to research this new option.  And didn’t find much. After much digging, I found two mentions of significant projects in which they were involved, but their own website was still under construction and had no content.  ACK!  Was this a scam? Did this organization even exist? Perhaps it’s my own web-research-based bias, but a flimsy web presence is a big turnoff. I recognize these guys are new, and web-building hasn’t been a priority, but still… I checked the better business bureau and found no bad marks, but I was still nervous. 


After several days of hemming and hawing, I decided that I liked the concept so much that I should take a chance. At the very least I should meet with them, and see what they had to say.


Will my leap of faith pay off? Or will it be a disaster? Stay tuned to find out!


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