Monday, February 23, 2009

Austin's Funky Chicken Coop Tour

Just an FYI for those of you that might like to attend......y'know, chickens are great consumers of bugs that might wander into your backyard.....

Austin, TX Feb 9, 2009 -- Seattle has one. Raleigh has one. But Austinites like to be at the leading edge of all trends. So, when a group of local backyard poultry enthusiasts realized that Austin lacked an annual backyard Chicken Coop celebration, they took action. The result? Austin's first free Funky Chicken Coop Tour.

Urban chicken-keeping is on the rise in cities across the USA, and for good reasons. Chickens can be easy-to-care-for pets, provide insect control, supply delicious fresh eggs, and help create better yards and gardens. Most chicken owners report that it's just plain fun to have them around.

On Saturday, April 11, 2009, Austin-area chicken coop owners will open their backyards to the
public. The free, self-guided tour will run from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and showcase a variety of
poultry projects in a variety of settings, from urban to rural.

Visitors to the tour sites will see how scavenged materials can be transformed into a low-cost coop; or how a fashionable coop can enhance your landscape. Visitors will have the chance to see how chicken coops integrate into larger projects, such as organic gardens, sustainability and permaculture efforts, and school projects.

The tour hosts will be able to answer questions on chicken care, compliance with city ordinances,
coop design, and more. If you are thinking about keeping chickens in your own backyard, you'll get some great ideas for your own successful project.

The Funky Chicken Coop Tour will include coops all over the Austin area. A map of participating
coops will be available for download prior to the tour from Tour sites will be open from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

April 11, 2009
10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.



Judith Haller
Member, Funky Chicken Coop Tour Planning Committee

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Do you have fire ants?

Well...boogers! I was halfway done with my post and Mozilla crashed and my entry disappeared. Oh well, I guess I'll have to start my witty banter again.

It rained. In Austin, it rained. It even rained at my house in Manor which NEVER happens even when it rains in Austin, Round Rock, Pflugerville, etc. etc. I think that Manor has some weird Bermuda Triangle thing with weather so it never rains all just goes around us.

Anyway, along with my plants gurgling with relief from being watered (I've been promoting natural selection in my yard....whatever survives without a lot of watering gets to, well, survive) I've noticed some fire ant activity. The mountain laurel is blooming, the fire ants are becoming active...all we need is for bluebonnets to crop up and it will officially be spring in Central Texas.

So what are your option for managing fire ants?
1. Broadcast bait over your yard.
Fire ant baits are a defatted corn cob grit coated in soybean oil that has the active ingredient- what kills the fire ants- dissolved in it. Most baits are put out at a very small rate (1-1.5 pounds per acre) and should be broadcast using a hand held spreader. Of course, people often feel like they haven't put out enough bait when they apply it properly, so they wind up putting out more bait until it looks like it snowed. Please be sure to read the product label to apply bait at the proper rate and with the proper equipment.

2. Broadcast a contact insecticide over your entire yard.
These products typically come in a granular form that needs to be watered into the soil once it's been applied. Many people get these products confused with baits, so again, read the product label for proper application instructions. With these products, the chemical is watered into the soil and the fire ants come into contact with the active ingredient when they excavate the soil to make tunnels and the mound.

3. Treat mound individually with the method of your choosing.
There are numerous products labelled for treating fire ant mounds. There are also numerous "home remedies" for treating fire ants. While some of these might actually work (like boiling water), many do not. Some home remedies may cause the fire ants to abandon the mound, but usually a new mound pops up 1-2 feet away. So, if you choose to treat individual mounds, choose your method wisely. Also, understand that treating fire ant mounds individually can be more time consuming, more costly and place more chemicals into the environment than broadcast baiting.

4. Two step- broadcast bait and follow up with individual mound treatments for mounds in sensitive areas.
Since many fire ant baits take anywhere from 2-6 weeks to see results, you may want to utilize the strategy of broadcasting a bait followed by individual mound treatments. Instead of treating all fire ant mounds, you can target mounds that are in sensitive areas (near animal kennels or where children play) or that need to be taken care of quickly.

For more information on these treatment methods you can read the publication Fire Ant Control The Two-Step Method and Other Approaches.