Spring is the season for preparing food gardens and for hatching chickens. I apologize in advance to our readers who are not fans of the feathered fowl, as there is an abundance of chicken-related material within this issue. If you've made it past our cover, that’s a promising sign. And you don't have to raise chickens to love the egg-rich recipes shared by Elizabeth Winslow (Cooking Fresh), Lucinda Hutson and Tipsy Texan David Alan (his recipes for flip cocktails are on our website). But for those who want to venture beyond the gastronomic rewards, we encourage you to explore the benefits and pleasures of chicken husbandry, if just vicariously.
Mark your calendars for the second annual Funky Chicken Coop Tour in early April to learn more about the care and housing of backyard chickens. Get inspired by reading our Department of Organic Youth essay by Ella Poliakoff, a.k.a. the Chicken Whisperer. Enjoy the winning entries to our chicken-and-egg haiku contest (page 15). And if all that fails to convert you, read Carol Ann Sayle’s
Seasonal Muse column, “Dyeing for a Flock”. And while on the subject of chickens, let me just say a few words in defense of roosters. While not usually sold or even necessary for backyard egg production, you may find yourself the owner of an accidental rooster, as it’s not easy to determine the sex of young chicks. If this happens don’t despair. An Austin Roosters support group has mobilized to persuade the City of Austin not to include an outright ban on roosters in an ordinance that otherwise encourages backyard chickens, and has compiled a list of pros to outweigh or at least balance out the cons of including a rooster in your flock (primary cons being noise complaints and the raising of roosters for cockfighting). A rooster offers protection for the flock by alerting them (and you) to predators (or intruders). You’ll need a rooster to fertilize eggs to raise your own chicks in order to perpetuate your flock and/or to breed heritage and endangered breeds. Backyard breeders play a valuable role in livestock conservation, as genetic diversity has been lost in industrial poultry production. Roosters are also raised as meat birds and are favored over standard chicken meat by many ethnic cooks and restaurants. And some accidental roosters become beloved pets, like Ella’s Señor Checkers. The rooster boosters also argue that rooster noise complaints can be dealt with by proper rooster-housing practices and existing noise-complaint procedures. Roosters are also exceedingly beautiful birds and their feathers are used in making prized fishing lures and costumes. (Which reminds me that the Carp Anglers Group's Austin Texas Challenge will return to Lady Bird Lake this March. Read all about fishing for and cooking carp in our web-exclusive “The World According to Carp,” by Mary Syrett.)
Regardless of which side of the chicken wire fence on poultry raising you might be, spring is here and there's an abundance of farm and foodie events to enjoy. Find out about many of them on our Notable Mentions pages and website calendar listings. Another great way to stay informed is to sign up for our monthly e-newsletter (you may e-mail us to request this or simply do so on our website) and we promise to keep you updated. See you out and about!