Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Ann Arbor is going to the birds. 

Ann Arbor City Council recently approved an ordnance that allows for the keeping of hens inside the city limits. The permit limits homeowners to four, and they must all be hens. Simply put, hens don’t crow. 

(Left( Beautiful Araucans, also known as Easter Egg Chickens. They lay eggs that vary from light brown to blue.)

.Lauren Fetzer, 23, admits- she has been bitten by the chicken bug.  “I am a bona-fide chicken farmer,” she says holding a large, mostly white hen named Mrs. Lakenvelder.

“I never thought I would enjoy this, but we really do enjoy our girls.”

There have only been 11 permits for chickens inside the city limits since June 2008. Given the growing trend towards keeping chickens as backyard pets, it seems likely that Ann Arbor will host more Chicken Farmers as spring approaches. 

Ann Arbor joins several other cities across the US that allows for the keeping of chickens. From New York City, to LA, the movement towards chicken farming has gained momentum in the past several years, with web sites devoted to the keeping of back yard hens gaining members every day.

 K.T. La Bubadie says her site,  gets 500 hits a day, and boasts over 55,000 hits their first year. They have even expanded to a BYC store- with shirts that have sayings such as “chillin’ with my peeps” or “My pet made me breakfast.”

Why has this movement caught on? Some call it the Martha Steward Phenomenon.  Some suspec

t the Martha Stamp has contributed to the interest in keeping chickens. She dedicated a show to keeping chickens, introducing a few of her favorite hens.

Others say it’s the movement back to using food that is organic, and locally grown. 

"All around, we benefit- and I like the fact that our kids will see where their food comes from." says Fetner. The chicks that the Fetner's ordered last year are now the ones that are producing the eggs in their small flock. On average, she collects 2 to 3 eggs a day, more then enough for her family and neighbors.

Helana Scappaticci of Plymouth says her eggs taste better then the ones she gets at the store. “They are fresher, taste so much better and are much better for you,” Scappaticci says.

“I send my son out to get eggs and we make them right then,” says Scappaticci. “They taste so good.”

Scappaticci and Fetzer agree that knowing what their chickens eat and how they live make them feel better about eating the eggs their chickens produce. 

“We feed the hens organic food,” Fetzer says. “I know my hens are organic and their eggs have no added hormones or anything. Plus, they eat my kitchen leftovers.”

According to Fetzer, Mrs. Lakenvelders favorite food is blueberries.

While chicken keeping is new to Ann Arborites, Michigan has more then it’s fair share of chicken keepers. At La Bubadies online chicken forum at , the Michigan thread has over 12000 comments.

Even the by-product of chickens, their manure, has its benefits. According to La Bubadie, their manure provides a great nitrogen-rich addition to any compost heap.  

It appears that many chicken farmers enjoy the entertainment their chickens provide. Nick Strayer, 15, has had chickens since he was 8. Each chicken has a name and he has no problem telling you who is nice and who is not so friendly. 

Most will eat from his hand, and sit on his shoulder while he does chores. According to Strayer, they are quite entertaining. (See photo right)

“I just enjoy watching them, they always are doing something,” says Strayer. 

Strayer who lives in Chelsea, Mich. has a mix of bantams and large chickens. “I think the bantams are funny and really active,” says Strayer. “But I want larger chickens next time.” 

Chickens are no match to predators; fox, opossums, racoons and dogs all consider chicken a good meal. “I lost 10 one weekend from a ‘possum. It was really bad,” says Strayer. 

Keeping chickens safe is the most important thing for urban chicken farmers to consider. While fox are not often seen in Ann Arbor,  dogs, opossums and racoons are. A safe coop must be built. 

Examples of Chicken Coops from simple to elaborate

Many sources of coops can be found on the internet. The site has several local people who build coops. Coops range from simple to complex. No matter what they look like, as long as they protect the hens from predators, bad weather and cold breezes, they work.

Other then a good coop, feed with added calcium is needed as well as a source of clean water. In Southeastern Michigan, a heated waterer is needed in the winter. 

Tractor Supply in Whitmore Lake has supplies for chickens. They just got chicks in this past weekend. They are for sale, 6 at a time. “They are straight run, however.” says the store manager. 

“We’ll be out of chicks by this weekend I think,” she says. Straight run means that you take your chances- you can get males or females. This poses problems for Ann Arborites, who must only house hens.

Pullets, female chickens are in demand and often much harder to get then straight run chickens. Pullets range in price from about $2 to over $5 for a day old chick, whereas their male counterparts are often half that price. 

Kimberely Emmert raises chicks to sell. About an hour north of Ann Arbor in Linden, she hatches out several batches of chickens each spring. Every chick is sold by the first weekend she advertises and people still want more. “I just love my chickens,” says Emmert. “I guess everyone else does, too.”

Fetner and a few friends ordered their chicks from McMurrys Hatchery, one of the most popular hatcheries, and a source of "Mail order chickens".

As of April 20th, McMurrys had no pullets available. The first date pullets will be available is mid June. This does not surprise too many. According to Thomas Kriese who host Urban Chickens and has a Facebook page dedicated to keeping chickens, there is a shortage this year. 

There is one other problem with mail order chicks-the number that must be shipped in order to ensure a survival rate.

McMurrys ship a minimum of 25 chicks per order to ensure survival. Chicks are only a day old when shipped, and very fragile.

Tammy Fisher, a teacher in Ann Arbor has ordered chicks for her class to raise. For her last batch a few years ago, she had a bit of a surprise when the chicks arrived.

"On ordering the chicks the hatchery told us to expect 20 percent to die. So, we ordered the minimum 25. Since it was really cold that February, they sent us 32- thinking attrition might be greater then 20 percent," says Fisher.

"I guess we are good chicken farmers- only two died. So, we ended up with 30 chicks that needed homes." Fisher says she had quite a few chicks turned chickens living in her garage before she found homes for the rest. 

It is possible to buy hens that are already laying. Kids will often sell their chickens after the 4-H fair is finished in July. You can even find them on Craigslist. 

The A2citychicken , a web site dedicated to chicken farmers in the Arbor Area can direct you to many local sources for chickens that are already laying, coops and advice for keeping hens in the Ann Arbor area. 

If you want to learn more about urban chicken keeping, you might want to check out Keep Chickens- a comprehensive guide to keeping chickens in urban settings. 

Want to keep hens in Ann Arbor? Click here for a permit!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Strange as I head towards the end (and the beginning)

I feel less competent.

I did well enough this semester (better then last for sure...) but the startling thing is that I feel much further away from having the ability to transform into being a PA. It does worry me that so many have not gotten in- I know of at least...4 that I can name, and more that I have heard of, that just have not made the final cut at either school.

Looking at Nova- while that feels hard, it may be the correct thing to do. I am also applying to at least 5 schools- certainly would hope to get into Wayne, then Mercy, then out of state. I think Art would be fine with NOVA, but Maine, not so much. :-) "too cold!"

Been having serious missing my XC riding- want to be running XC on someone- want to go prelim- intermediate and feel okay at it. I miss being a part of that world. Maybe I will again, maybe I won't. I thought just doing the horses as a hobby or past time might be okay. I guess it's not. when I move to Tryon, I can certainly begin again. But boy, I am not sure I will ever have the courage....

Had a brief Marc run this past monday- as usual, intense, amazing and...well, it's such an interesting thing- its all on his terms, which is really frustrating. But, I still enjoy the time, still find the entire thing amazing.

Otherwise, things are okay- I am taking 10 credits- Yeah, um....nuts.

More later!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

What we missed in ME (*for med ethics blog)

What we missed in ME
First, this class was amazing. I was challenged and provoked- my thinking, admittedly fixed, was shaken, and beliefs that I have had were changed- my thinking needed the shake up.Consistent thought. sometimes tough to realize you are not being consistent in your thoughts. It actually makes you slightly crazy to realize that you have been inconsistent!I think the one thing I would have liked to discuss is the development of drugs. We touched on it in a few areas, but not as a way to save money in the system.I know were going to talk about it in the last lecture- insofar as using people for research. Certainly better then animals, but questionable.Yes, drugs are really good here in the US- and the FDA has done a good job (I do think so- despite some of the major mishaps, I can only imagine there were hundreds of more possible) screening. In other countries, I am not sure if the screening is as thorough as it is here. The issue for me seems to be in the cost it takes for someone to get a drug out on the market.I know there are several things that have happened- no more drug give-aways, no more wooden pens ;-)- a kind of medical payola that added to the overall costs. But...why does it have to be so costly? and why do they advertise as much as they do? It seems as if this should stop.But I am not sure. Because I don't really know. So, my thoughts are it's expensive enough to develop a drug- and we need to cut that expense down. Advertising should not be allowed. I believe that drugs should hit the market in a way that those that are really sick can benefit by using the drugs- and be part of a clinical trial sooner then later. Somewhat like a limited release. But have this not be such an expensive process- at least I think it might not have to be.I also think discussing hospice in greater detail would have been good.

Could He have been saved?

Thomas Rayborn Hill III had no indication of how serious his condition was when he felt weak on March 10 during a basketball game at the REC IM at Eastern Michigan University.
According to those present at the REC IM that evening, Hill fell several times and reported feeling short of breath. Hill eventualy collapsed and was transported to St. Josephs hospital in Ypsilanti, MI where he was pronounced dead.

Could he have been saved?

The short, sad, answer is probably not. While autopsy results have not been released on Hall, sudden deaths are often caused by Hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy (HOCM) . In many cases, first indication of the disease is sudden cardiac death.

While HOCM is seen in all age groups, the saddest cases are seen in young athletes. The American Heart Association reports that 36% of sudden deaths are due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The AHA estimates that 50% of HOCM cases have no known cause. The other 50% seem to be inherited.

HOCM often has no warnings signs. If there are, they can mistaken for being tired, or worse yet, lazy. The primary warning signal is a heart arrhythmia- not seen, and often not felt by those afflicted.

Signs that should not be ignored: sudden weakness, shortness of breath, or dizziness. Most important for coaches,trainers and participants-any time an athlete faints, HOCM should be suspected and quick medical treatment initiated.

Once a patient has suffered cardiac arrest, there is a very small window of opportunity to provide life saving treatment. The only way to correct an arrhythmia is through defibrillation- an electric shock provided by a machine.

Once someone's heart has begun a fatal arrhythmia or heart attack, the window of survival is quite narrow. According the the American Heart Association brain death occurs within six to ten minutes. The availability of a Automatic External Defibrillation (AED) is essential.

AED’s are available to the public-but at a cost. An AED is often in excess of $1500. In the average gym, six or more are necessary for each area of the gym.

Of course, someone has to know how to use them. Classes are taught by Red Cross- and often part of a simple CPR class. Despite training being available, there needs to be someone present and willing to use the AED.

What could have been done?

“He needed to stop when he first felt something, and defiantly after he collapsed the first time, “ says Sara Wilchowsky, an exercise physiologist at Eastern Michigan University. “ “If he did not know enough stop himself, someone needed to get him to stop. It’s the only thing that could have saved him .”

There are ways to find out if you have HOCM. The AHA has come up with a 12 question list for screening student athletes. If any of the questions are answered “yes”, athlete should be further evaluated for cardiac issues.

Wilchowsky believes that every student athlete should have at the minimum an ECG-a electrical record of their heart beats, before beginning a sports program. This test can sometimes pick up subtle changes that indicate a heart issue.

“But, really, the best way to test for HOCM is with an echocardiogram,” says Wilchowsky.

Screening for student athletes

A echocardiogram is an ultrasound of the heart. Totally non-invasive and painless, it can pick up the thickening of the heart wall that indicates HOCM. The results are immediate. However, most insurances do not cover the test for sports physicals.

Like Wilcowsky, many sports physicians also believe this should be part of an initial screening for student athletes.

This past March, Chelsea Community Hospital offered cardiac screenings free of charge for student athletes. According to an article in the Ann Arbor News, these were provided as a service to the community.

These screenings provided an ECG as well as a simple cardiac echo. If any red flags appeared, they could return to their regular MD and undergo further screening.

In the A2 News article, Dr. Steven Yarows, chief of medicine at Chelsea Community Hospital said it was like “looking for a needle in a hay stack.”

Yarows, the father of two, felt it important enough to get his children echos before they began a sports program. 

The physician goes on to say in the Ann Arbor article “Why not do it for everyone else?"

According the the American Heart Association, 850 persons a day die from SCD. In a March 2007 study, about 1-20,000 deaths occur in student athletes of high school age a year..

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Feeling the effects of the new meds

Ugh- so they change my meds which should make things better and I feel worse! Hot and unable to concentrate. I have only 2 real weeks left of school, which is nice, but good god there is a lot to do, Is this miserable or what? I pretty much hate estrogen right now. Honestly.

So many things are going on its amazing. My dad and Ross have both been in the hospital, which weighed heavy on me, I guess more then I thought. I also have Jazz coming into town, which will broadcast all my failures- while its nice to have a daughter that is so amazing, it does sometimes make me feel a bit like a lump.I know she says the same about me, but really we both have two very different strength systems, if that is such a thing. Nick is going to NOLA, which is great- I hope the trip is good and eye-opening for him. Art is still doing his thing- I am glad for him on that. VERY proud of him. There have been some rough patches, but overall, I think things will be fine,

So, my personal list of To-Do's- Paper for Med Ethics, Paper/project for PR (GAG), Nutrition thing for (yeah, I know) nutrition. Major article for Feature writing, plus the one I never did- she is letting me turn it in late- nice, yet, do I care after this past several weeks? Then, I so fucked up a micro exam today- like REALLY fucked it up. I am going to email him and ask if I can do anything about it. Ugh. I so thought I was doing okay. Guess not, huh? That makes me feel just horrible. I think part of my lack of energy has to do with that...oh, and I have had a headache for the past day.

Okay- well, so thats it. Just wanted to write this so i can look back and say- see, it turned out okay- really!