Last Wednesday I spent the afternoon with a roomful of poultry at the Royal Winter Fair where I was treated to an exhibition of fascinating chicken, turkey, and duck breeds.
There were so many beautiful breeds on display. It was truly eye-opening and great research for the day I am finally able to keep my first small flock (Backyard chickens are still illegal in Toronto.) I was jumpy clapping on the inside all day long.
Rhode Island Red is a classic that most people have heard of.
Plymouth Rock Barred is known as a good layer and is particularly suited to cold weather.
Buff Brahma Bantam is another good layer that is recommended for cold climates.
Antwerp Belgian Bantam
My friends and I all agreed that the most stunning and surprising breed of the event were the Silver Sebright bantams. Unfortunately, some quick research reveals that they lay very small eggs and are primarily kept for their beauty rather than egg productivity.
Our off-time on a recent trip to New York City was spent wandering around soaking everything in and taking pictures. I didn’t go out of my way to visit specific gardens or community gardens this time, but naturally found some along the way.
One of the community gardens I came upon was the LaGuardia Corner Gardens located in Greenwich Village between Bleecker and Houston Streets. I have come across this particular garden on past trips and have even taken some photos of it. I had a rough idea of where it was located and was pleasantly surprised when we stumbled upon it on our last day.
I’m not sure what it is about this garden that had me hoping to find it again. Maybe it’s the location, which is particularly interesting as the garden sits smack dab in front of a supermarket with a fence around it.
There are several community gardens in New York City that are a good twenty years in the making. Through the years the landscape and socio-economic standing of the communities that surround them have changed, often times from poor to rich and from rubble to fancy metal and glass contemporary structures. As a result, these gardens and their gardeners always have an interesting story to tell.
The history of LaGuardia Corner Gardens is your typical community garden story beginning with local residents digging a garden on barren, unused land, then fighting to keep the garden alive amidst a changing neighborhood.
While I was taking photos, a woman came up to me and mentioned that a rooster had been spotted poking around in the garden the day before. She didn’t know where he came from or if he was still there. This exchange and information sharing is one of the things I enjoy most about photographing gardens. If you hang around long enough looking like you belong, someone is always bound to come by, eager to reveal the garden’s secrets.
Sure enough, as we made our way around the perimeter we eventually spotted him darting about, stopping now and again to take a bite out of a plant. I wonder if he is still there and how much of the garden remains!
And watching these chickens I can see that they have a scratching behaviour that roof chickens would not be able to indulge in easily.
I learned something new about chickens yesterday that gave me pause for thought. Chickens eat plants! Yes, they eat insects. And yes, they eat weeds. But they are not discerning about either, which means that if you’ve got a chicken and a garden living together you can expect the chickens to take a bite or two (or several) from your prized plants. The chickens I visited were penned off into a very large roaming area (the largest I have seen for 3 chickens) and they had still managed to strip the leaves off of most of the foliage in that area within just a few short months! And that’s on top of their regular diet which includes lots of greens.
Good to know. Maybe I’ll shift my urban livestock dream to ducks.
I often dream of hens clucking around in a small garden pecking at bugs and laying fresh, organic eggs but alas that is not going to happen living in the cold, white north with no backyard or shelter against raccoons and minus will-it-never-end winters. And seriously, that was an actual question. Will winter never end? I see photos online of people working outside in tank tops and flip flops. Dangling their springy, warm weather like an evil, tortuous carrot. We’re still wearing layers and big jackets over here people! Local weather reports keep reminding me that it is unseasonably cold. Yeah, that’s the kind of thing I like to hear. That and the words “possible flurries.” But I digress (a lot). I found the book “Keep Chickens!” by Barbara Kilarski at Pistils Nursery in Portland, Oregon and while I can not provide a full review it looked like a very thorough introduction and resource to urban chicken-keeping.
The ultra modern, ultra stylish, and ultra expensive Eglu is not helping to curb the fantasy one bit. It’s like an imac for chickens!
Over the long weekend we happened upon an open garage door while walking through a Toronto alley. Two large bird coops lined the side walls. So strong is my chicken-keeping itch that it took me half a minute to clue in that those were not chickens cooing back at me but fancy pigeons. After five years, I think I’ve finally solved the mystery of turkey pigeon!