At age 86, Minnie Rose Lovgreen became the author of the charming book, Recipe for Raising Chickens. It’s a timely book as urban dwellers across North America argue over the right to keep chickens in cities.
Vancouver, Halifax, San Antonio, Flagstaff, New Haven, Boca Raton, Chicago, Louisville, Niagara Falls, Calgary – all of these cities and dozens of others across North America have been through the now familiar city chicken debate. Many such debates have turned into divisive, lengthy battles over the pros and cons of keeping chickens in urban back yards.
Opponents worry about smell, noise and rodents. Supporters cite renewed interest in raising food closer to home, knowing what goes into it and knowing that it was produced in a sustainable, humane way. As The Globe and Mail reports, even in cities that don’t officially permit chickens, people are secretly keeping the egg layers anyway.
Change seems to be on the side of the hens and their keepers. And as city after city flocks to the side of layers, their keepers are looking for advice. As one Vancouver blogger put it, “it is time to start building our own local knowledge on keeping urban hens.”
Enter Minnie Rose Lovgreen… or rather, re-enter. You see, Minnie died over 30 years ago, but her book Recipe for Raising Chickens lives on in a third edition.
Nancy Rekow knew that neighbour Minnie always wanted to write a book about raising chickens, and as Minnie lay sick in a Seattle hospital at age 86, Nancy recorded her advice on raising chickens. Charmingly illustrated by another neighbor, Elizabeth Hutchison Zwick and hand-lettered by Nancy Rekow, Recipe for Raising Chickens is a lovingly offered production and a tribute to an unassuming friend who wanted nothing more than to see others benefit from her sixty years of experience keeping chickens.
You always feel like you’re in good hands with Minnie as she offers practical advice on everything from the elements of the perfect chicken coop to raising young chicks in your house, all in a conversational tone. In Chapter V called “Eggs”, Minnie offers, “The main thing is to keep them happy. Have dry straw or littler in the place where they sleep so that when they get up in the morning they can scratch around in that dry stuff.”
She goes on to offer feeding schedule tips: “I put feed and water in for the chickens at night, so when they get up in the morning they can start eating and drinking right away, at daybreak. If you feed them at night, they lay early in the morning… If you get eggs early in the morning, then usually they lay well all week.”
In Chapter IV, called “Room and Board for Chickens”, Minnie offers, “Soon as they’re let out in the morning, first thing they do is hunt out to get green things. Which shows you that they know what’s good for them.”
In Recipe for Raising Chickens, Minnie explains how to test a chicken to see if it’s laying eggs, what to expect when it’s time for the chickens to molt, and what to do when a hen starts getting “broody” or ready to hatch eggs. Her technique for keeping freshly hatched chicks in the house is both charming and practical. “I put chicks in a box and pin part of a wool sweater or sock over the box with clothespins, letting it touch their backs, but so they can still get air. The sweater feels like the warm mother sitting on them.” The section on raising chicks is quite extensive and full of common sense instruction.
When housing chickens, it’s important to take into consideration their preferences and habits. For example, Minnie says, “They like their perches up high next to the ceiling. They like the secure feeling of a roof right close over their backs.” And on chicken yards, she offers, “I like to have a place under the chicken house with soft soil for dust baths. Chickens like to take a dust bath every day. Get the dirt onto their feathers and then shake it all out. Then they feel pretty good. They love to lie and bask in the sun like people would.”
Minnie’s is the kind of reference book that both suits it’s intended purpose – to guide those who are keeping chickens for egg production, no matter where they live – and as just a fun book to have around. While it doesn’t solve every urban flock keeper’s problem, it goes a long way toward making a happy, safe, clean and productive home for urban birds.
For those practical problems that remain unsolved – what to do with the birds after they stop laying eggs, where to keep the chicken feed – there are other solutions. For example, an enclosure called the Omlet was specifically designed to keep city chickens happy and safe so city folks can also enjoy fresh eggs delivered daily in their own back yards.
To order Minnie Rose Lovgreen’s Recipe for Raising Chickens, contact your local bookstore or visit www.nwtrilliumpress.com. The list price is a more than reasonable at $13.
“Broody and Grey Hen” nutmeg66 @ flickr.com. Creative Commons. All Rights Reserved.
All other photos © Darcy Rhyno. All Rights Reserved.