(Alberta Farm Animal Care) – If you have attended one of AFAC’s backyard chicken webinars then you will most likely recognize the name Cassandra Kirkpatrick. While most regard Cassandra as the expert in all backyard chicken-related matters, she wasn’t always as involved as she is today. In fact, Cassandra didn’t even like chickens initially; however, it is safe to say that she loves them now! Currently, Cassandra juggles her time between managing her company Jungle Out There pet services, caring for her chickens and teaching workshops with AFAC.
One aspect we admire about Cassandra is her eagerness to learn and share knowledge with the community. When we asked Cassandra if she would have a couple minutes to sit down and share more about herself and her perspective, her answer was an enthusiastic yes! We are happy she did because conversations with Cassandra always leave you smiling and with a little more insight than you had before.
How did you get your start with urban chickens?
After graduating from the University of Saskatchewan with a Bachelor of Science, majoring in animal science, I found myself working in the commercial poultry industry. In 2011, the town of High River passed a bylaw that allowed residents to keep urban hens. At this same time, I started an urban hen and small flock project with AFAC. It ended up being a good time to try my hand at it by renting three chickens over the summer. It led to me to where I am today with my own coop (Cluckingham Palace 2.0) that my husband built me on our acreage with close to 100 chickens.
If someone is interested in urban chickens but not sure if it’s right for them, can they rent chickens?
Yes! I would really recommend people try it before getting their own. There are a few businesses throughout Alberta that do it. They supply the coop, feed and three to four birds depending on how many you’re allowed. You can have them through spring and summer.
What should those interested in owning chickens consider beforehand?
It’s definitely a big time and financial commitment. You have your chores every day to take care of them: collecting eggs, fresh water, fresh feed and making sure they are warm in winter. There’s the cost to it too. You need a coop suitable for year-round and be able to budget for veterinary care and regular feed expenses. As well, chickens can also live up to 12 years under the right care! So, it’s important to be aware of what you are committing to.
What is the most rewarding part of owning your own chickens?
For me, the feeling of collecting eggs in the morning never gets old. What I really enjoy though is helping people set up their own coop and birds. It’s very fulfilling when I get to see how they put everything they learn into practice. I love educating people on caring for the birds because there’s a lot more to it than you might think.
What is your favourite chicken breed?
I have a very mixed flock with probably 30 or 40 different breeds but I really like the heritage breeds. One of my favourites is the Lavender Orpington, and we have several of them. They are very winter hardy, beautiful colours and are friendly with a nice temperament. I like how easy they are to handle and they lay well (two to three eggs a week).
What has owning chickens taught you about animal care?
I’ve learnt that many different dimensions go into animal care. For example, when we are looking at space, we look beyond the physical area – we are looking at bird behaviours and enrichments. The importance of proper nutrition and housing is also huge. What makes it fun is that we are always learning and bettering how we take care of these animals.
To end on a light note, can you share a memorable chicken moment with us?
There’s been many so it’s hard to narrow it down! When we were living in town there were times when we had chickens escape from the coop and we would be chasing them around the backyard… on Halloween night! However, what stands out is when I had the opportunity to go to schools. I would take my Silkie chicken and dress up in a chicken costume. It’s touching when you get to see these kids, who have never actually seen or touched a chicken in-person, get that experience.