As urban and rural communities alike trade restaurants for coops and crowds for flocks, AFAC is excited to announce new sessions for its 2021 backyard chicken webinar series featuring hen expert Cassandra Kirkpatrick. Running from spring to fall, workshops cover a wide range of material that includes: coop design, breeds and flock behaviour, home care versus vet care and more. Registrants can expect to learn about bylaws and costs as well as obtain the certification needed to own backyard chickens in some municipalities.
The renewed interest in small flocks inspired programs that provide individuals with the tools and knowledge to care for their hens and provide the highest standards of animal welfare.
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.
Virtual Workshops on Backyard Chicken/Small Flock Care a Huge Success!
2020 has forced all of us to adapt our lives and shift the way in which we communicate information. In recent years we have seen increasing interest from individuals and communities on keeping their own chickens. Since the pandemic the level of interest has soared with families having more time at home and a heightened awareness of food security, with a desire to have their own source of eggs. Many hatcheries in North America reported record breaking numbers of orders this year, and chicken keepers have reported difficulties sourcing adult birds due to this increased demand.
AFAC has been delivering Urban Chicken/Small Flock care resources since 2016. Our focus has always been to ensure that individuals keeping backyard chickens or small flocks are well equipped to care for these birds and have access to accurate resources and expertise when needed. Workshops have been delivered in-person with a hands-on training component. Due to health regulations, we discussed how we could transition from in-person workshops to a virtual format that would still accommodate various learning styles. By March, we had already received numerous inquiries about a virtual workshop as more and more people were looking to keep chickens.
In April we hosted our very first 3-part virtual series on keeping backyard chickens! Cassandra Kirkpatrick was the facilitator with Kaylee Sheets as our technology guru. This series presented the same information as the in-person workshops including time and financial commitment, building a coop, biosecurity and diseases, chicken behaviour, etc. Links were provided to useful resources including the PDF manual developed in 2016 for the project. Training videos and demonstrations were given throughout the presentations, and each evening concluded with a 30 minute Q&A session where participants were encouraged to interact with the facilitator and other participants. It was a huge success with over 50 attendees from all over Canada! Feedback was very positive with participants commenting on the informative sessions and how much they enjoyed the videos and Cassandra’s live from-the-coop demonstrations.
With the positive reaction to the first series, we hosted a second introductory level series in June and started a monthly ongoing “Questions from the Coop” session. The end of June/beginning of July saw us host a virtual workshop specific to the counties of Leduc and Wetaskiwin which was tailored to their region to cover bylaws, climate, predator risk, etc. We also heard from participants who attended our introductory level workshops that they would like more advanced chicken keeping information, so we hosted an Advanced Chicken Care webinar series in July that covered topics such as monitoring bird health, advanced coop design, biosecurity, etc. Dr. Margaret Fisher with River City Chickens, who has previously helped us with this project, joined as a guest speaker to talk about different diseases and vet care.
We are so excited about how well the workshops were received this summer, and will be continuing with the momentum this fall as we host another introductory level series, another Advanced Chicken Care webinar series on four different topics, and continuing our “Questions from the Coop” monthly sessions. Let’s get cracking!
How the first Virtual Backyard Chicken Series was born
Early in April, there was a lot of thought given to what resources AFAC could provide to an Alberta that was now at home for the foreseeable future. With the interest growing in food sources and back-to-basics, as well as the resounding success of the virtual Livestock Care Conference, the idea of a virtual Urban Hen program was born. Cassandra Kirkpatrick, the facilitator of AFAC’s Urban Hen workshops since 2017, was quickly on board! With her enthusiastic support and hosting skills, the Virtual Backyard Chicken webinar series was brought to life over three weeknights in May.
This series covered flock health, handling, cost, by-laws, breeds, coop design, diseases, and more. This three-hour workshop, split into one hour sessions, covered the basics and the necessities when owning and raising backyard chickens. With a dedicated Q&A period after each session, each of the 52 registrants had a chance to ask their questions about their particular backyard flock venture.
Once the series came to an end, the registrants were given an opportunity to take a quiz and receive a certificate of completion. These certificates allowed them to meet potential permit requirements for their municipality and get started on their chicken adventures!
Within days of the series end, AFAC started to receive requests for yet another introductory series, as well as inquiries for more advanced content such as disease control and in-depth biosecurity. With that in mind, AFAC is proud to present the following:
Advanced Chicken Care Series will be running the month of July starting July 8th. These workshops will run once a week for four weeks covering a variety of in-depth topics. Take our Poll to help choose the four topics covered! This series is meant for those who have taken a workshop in backyard or small flock care or have prior experience. Registration to open soon!
And finally, AFAC is proud to bring a monthly feature, “Questions from the Coop”. On the third Tuesday evening of each month, a different poultry expert will join AFAC for a free Q&A session that will be open to anyone who has questions about their coop, feed and nutrition, bird health, or any other topic. The first session is on June 16th, watch our Facebook or Twitter accounts for the link to join!