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January 23, 2011

Lucky Penny


Chicken Corner has heard from the South Los Angeles Animal Shelter that Penny, the little red hen, has a new home -- at the Gentle Barn, in Santa Clarita. It's an animal sanctuary and education center -- not to mention employer. Penny's new job will be to live well and to help secure the relationship of at-risk children with their best humane selves. She'll be doing yoga, clucking, pecking, and trying to find out what's going on everywhere, nosy, nosy, nosy. She will share her home with horses, cats, dogs, pigs, and cows. Penny lived in a cage at South L.A. shelter from December 7 until last week.

If you were hoping Penny would be yours, Tomika Johnson at South Los Angeles Animal Shelter emailed me that the West Los Angeles Animal Shelter has hens who need homes.

Speaking of sanctuary for chickens, a reader from Mount Washington, Lynda Akin, sent me a story about Derwin, a rooster rescued by Herve Chapman, the owner of Highland Park's Verdugo Pets, who has temporarily closed shop while he is being treated for leukemia.

Lynda wrote that a Mt. Washington friend of hers (who was also her landlord) has daughters, now in their late 20s, who used to ride horses:

One of the girls brought home [from the stable] a baby chick that had been handled and that the mother then rejected. It grew into a very fine, very noisy, aggressive rooster. When the time came for him to stop annoying the neighbors (after many, many complaints) it was the nice man at Verdugo Pets (where they bought their feed) who took him in, promising he would keep him or find him a home. Derwin stayed with him for years it seems...and I have to think the man took in others as well.

By definition, a sanctuary is a sanctuary. But some cost more to keep going.

January 21, 2011

Conference with the Buddha


This is Rainbow the Chicken in my back yard in Echo Park, above.

Below, "Three in a Tree," Rainbow, Cutie Patootie, and Sparkle.


And, in other chicken news...

...Christine Peters posted on the Echo Park Animal Alliance's list serv news of a friendly little red hen, who has been at the South Los Angeles animal shelter since December 7. Tomika Johnson, the shelter's New Hope and Bottle Baby Coordinator, wrote the following appeal on Wednesday, Jan. 19:

Poor Penny (A1173538) has been @ the SLA Shelter since December 7th.
She was running around a neighborhood when a gentleman trapped her and called our officers to come and pick her up. Penny, being the social animal that she is, gets very excited when a human enters the room and clucks and talks for attention.
Penny has been with us over a month, please don't let her spend another week incarcerated.

And here's Penny:


To talk to or about Penny:

Cell: 323-270-4047/
Fax: 213-847-0554/
Shelter Phone: 213-485-0117, or 0119/
Work Schedule: Tues thru Sat: 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Update: Verdugo Pets

Chicken Corner has received the following update on Herve Chapman and Verdugo Pets from a reader, Lynda Akin of Mount Washington. Akin forwarded an article by David Fonseca of Highland Park-Mt. Washington Patch, who wrote that Verdugo Pets has not closed permanently. The owner, Herve Chapman, is being treated for leukemia and plans to reopen. The chickens, doves, finches, and other pets have been sold:

Steel bars line the front doors of the Verdugo Pet Shop at 5022 York Blvd. and the clucking of chickens can no longer be heard inside.
The beloved pet shop--known in the neighborhood for selling chickens and other avian house pets--is indefinitely closed while its owner, Harvey Chapman, undergoes treatment for leukemia, said family friend Alex Reyes.
"He's sick right now; he's in the hospital, that's why the shop's closed," Reyes said. An emergency sale was held on Saturday, Jan. 8, in order to give all the pets inside the shop a home while Chapman undergoes treatment and recovery, Reyes said.
"The only animals in there now are a few cats," he said. "They're there to make sure rats don't come in and eat up all the chicken feed."
Reyes, who has been helping to look after the shop, said Chapman has every intention of reopening after he recovers from chemotherapy.
All the money raised through the sale of the pets will go toward Chapman's medical expenses. In the meantime, there's talk of another fundraiser to help Chapman cover his medical bills, but nothing set in stone, Reyes said.
Reyes said he visited Chapman in the hospital last week and that his friend looks like he is on the road to recovery. "He's not all better, but he's showing improvement," Reyes said.

Chapman opened the shop 35 years ago. On a block with the weird and incomparible Zepellin guitar shop and the pretty hip Cafe de Leche, and a vintage clothing shop among other storefront operations, Verdugo Pets has held its own against time and shifting demographics.

January 15, 2011

Verdugo Pets wasn't open Friday

On Christmas Eve I ran out of mash for my three chicks, bantam hens named Rainbow, Sparkle, and Cutie Patootie. Verdugo Pet Shop, where I buy a very inexpensive custom poultry mix was open for business. The shop, on York in Highland Park, has been opened for 35 years.

But yesterday it was closed. I pulled up in front at about 3:30 p.m., with my daughter and her friend, and the metal gates were pulled shut. A note was taped to the front door. It said that Hervey Chapman, the proprietor, is very ill and would the longtime customers of this unusual shop consider buying one of the animals or the products he sells. There was a list posted of all the animals.

It's not your regular pet store. Most of the critters are birds - lots of chickens for sale and doves, including tiny little diamond-back doves about the size of a sparrow. Sometimes there are quail. There are finches, lovebirds, and sometimes there are three or four rabbits and maybe one pregnant guinea pig. In the back there are some fish that I never look at. There is also lots of dust and some cobwebs. There is the odor you might expect from a place that houses so many birds. I always enjoy going to the shop because Chapman takes the time to talk chicken, warning me against letting mildew form in their coop, telling me my chickens are spoiled. Spoiled! I am buying too much food for them. Despite the fact that his feed is inexpensive, he offers suggestions on ways to minimize wasted feed (i.e., feed them less and make them hunt for what they've scattered).

After I got home on Friday, I looked up Verdugo Pet online. Yelp had four reviews; three of the reviewers were offended that the shop wasn't just like PETCO. No gleaming aisles, no underpaid workers in blue shirts - Cobwebs! Odor! No prices on anything! And the proprietor in the back when one of the offended parties entered the shop! And, to cap it all off, only a couple of bunnies! (Where are the puppy-mill puppies, for chrissakes?)

Jeez. Get a life. Or get over the big-box mentality. Or better yet, get some chickens.

In the meantime, Chicken Corner's most sincere hopes for a full recovery for Mr. Chapman.

January 11, 2011

What's stranger than an Indian Laurel fig?

laurel.jpgSometimes plants are stranger than fiction. The following was posted Tuesday night on an Echo-Elysisan neighborhood list serv by Michael O'Brien, a city planner and neighborhood presence who keeps area residents updated on botanical happenings in EP.

At 601 East Edgeware, on the northwest corner of East Edgeware and Bellevue, you will see a tall Canary Island Date Palm. Up in the canopy, you will see something green with branches. That's a Ficus microcarpa, the Indian Laurel Fig. Yes, that street tree in front of the Walgreens is growing in the palm tree. How did it get there? Well, a little bird ate the fig, then pooped it out in the crown of the palm, where it sprouted. This is how figs usually grow in nature--they start from a seed up in a tree, and then the fig sends down aerial roots, which slowly surround and kill out the parent tree. Thus, "strangler fig." There is no danger of this happening here, because the climate is too dry. As it happens, each fig tree is pollinated by its own individual wasp species, and the wasp that pollinates Indian Laurel Fig first showed up in L.A. about 15 years ago. The first seedling identified was in--yes, IN--the wall of the Music Center downtown. Indian Laurel Figs still sprout IN the Music Center from time to time.
Curiouser and curiouser--the wasp finds a fig, then enters through a tiny hole in the tip, and it deposits its eggs inside the fig, while at the same time fertilizing the flowers. Yes, the tiny little fig flowers are INSIDE a fig. The new little wasps have to be fast in developing, since there are even tinier little worms inside the fig that prey on the baby wasps, and they have to leave the fig before they get munched. No, the figs that you eat do not have all that going on--they are parthenogenetic--that is, they can develop without being fertilized.

Fig trees that grow inside the walls of the Music Center. Now there's a specialized existence.

January 8, 2011

Breakfast at Out of the Closet


My Audrey Hepburn Moment: Saturday morning, Lemoyne and Sunset in Echo Park. Chicken Corner paused to admire the changing of the guard.

January 6, 2011

Tree vandals attack the neighborhood


Interesting. On the right we see a Gold Medallion (Cassia leptophylla), and on the left the same kind of tree. A few days ago they were roughly the same size. And for that reason, I didn't think to take a picture of them. Now one looks pretty -- an asset to the community, providing shade, beauty, and oxygen -- and one has been butchered. No one knows for sure who did the cutting, or who hired whom to do the deed, which is illegal. The tree is on public property; it belongs to the people of Los Angeles. The city is responsible for pruning.

But Michael O'Brien posted on the Echo-Elysian neighborhood list that the "pruning" was...

...not done by the City because they have no money to do pruning now, they would have done the entire block, and they NEVER butcher trees like that. ... It's a good example of everything that should NOT be done when it comes to pruning a tree. It's unclear why that particular tree gets picked on over again, but there it is.

Chicken Corner hears it is not uncommon for small-business owners to trim trees that block their storefront signs. So now we have wandered into one of those ethical thickets. For many small-biz folks -- dry cleaners in particular -- street signage is the core of their marketing plan. (Then a tree gets in the way.) But for the community at large it seems rather unfair that the street be ugly just so some business owner, who may or may not live in the vicinity, can make a profit without changing the way he or she does business. A green urban landscape does not have to be the purview of rich neighborhoods only.

Which leads us to a clearing in the woods! Making their shops visible in some way other than the old-fashioned "see my big sign out front." Get your Groupon! Hand out flyers! Advertise in local media. I'd bet a small ad might cost less than the fee paid to the tree vandals.

Perhaps this is not what happened to the dry cleaner whose sign is now more clearly visible. Perhaps they loved the tree and cried when they came to work and saw what had happened when they weren't looking. Like so many of the rest of us did.

January 5, 2011

Birdland notes

Chicken Corner received the following from Benjamin Cole, a reader who lives down by the banks of the river:

Enjoyed your piece on the birds. I jog almost daily with my dog on the LA River. Used to have abundant bird life, now not so much. Still, see great blues, egrets, ducks, coots, cormorants. Peregrine falcons, other hawks etc. The bird life declined about the same time you mentioned decline in Echo Park. I do not know if it was a decline in carp (they were fished by people mostly), disease, or even coyotes that caused the bird life fall-off. At times at night I could hear coyote yips and squawking birds. I live about 100 years from the river.
Seems like with a little effort, we could have plenty of bird life in Los Angeles. Oh, I saw a V of Canadian Geese flying through Echo Park about three weeks back, at low altitude, and have seen geese on the river too.

Chicken Corner agrees heartily we would reap enormous benefits from every bit of effort we expend to protect/improve our urban wild spaces. Sort of like paying down your mortgage.

As for Canada Geese flying over the river, last night at dusk, my daughter and I saw three separate formations of Canadas flying in V formation, eastward over the Los Feliz Boulevard bridge. Then we saw a solo Canada goose flying westward over the river. My daughter was concerned and disturbed about the lone flyer. Perhaps he or she was looking for Echo Park.

January 3, 2011

Counting coots

Birders of Echo Park unite: January 2, 2011.

American widgeons make v-wedges in the water as they steam toward the bird watchers: Count us, count us! The real bird nerds.

There they were at 8 a.m. Sunday morning, a small flock of bird nerds, 19 in all, I think, gathered near the boat house at Echo Park Lake, preparing for the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count at the lake. Binoculars in hand, bird guides. When yours truly arrived a number of lesser scaups and northern shovelers (wild ducks) already were counted, as well as mallards of course. It was cold -- for SoCal -- and the rain was coming, within three hours it turned out. Led by neighborhood activist Judy Raskin, we set off clockwise, scanning the trees, phone poles, the water, and the island for any of 41 different types of birds at the park -- or across the street. Asked about boundaries, Raskin said, "If you can see it count it." An exception was the domestic ducks -- the white ones. They didn't count. But what about the mixed breeds, or hybrids, the tawny, pewter, or black-and-white ducks that are half wild mallard and half domestic? They don't count either. But the pigeons, or rock doves, were counted in neat little five-cross rows. It's all about categories, and Raskin explained to me, there is no category for the odd ducks. Not with the National Audubon Society. I'm sure there are good ornithological arguments for this.

Okay, so we all have our agenda. Which included a few American coots, who escorted the group, paddling alongside in the lake as the flock of bird counters slowly moved along the trail. Some domestic ducks followed, too. The coots were noisier, squawking and honking.

One of the more experienced birders in the group could tell by song how many and which birds were hidden in a certain pepper tree.

It took just over two hours to do a full oval around the lake. Along the way we saw 110 coots; 2 belted kingfishers; 2 pied bill grebes; 5 black-crowned night herons; 12 bushtits; 22 ringneck ducks; at least 30 ruddy ducks; 25 American widgeons; at least one great blue heron; 2 California towhees; a good number of yellow-rumped warblers -- the most numerous of three types of warbler with yellow in their name (I think the other two were "yellow warbler" and "yellow-throat warbler," of which only one was recorded). Of course, there was only one Ross' goose, the one who has lived at the park for five years. He was counted. In all, there were 42 species noted -- one more than the 41 for which we were looking. Two western bluebirds were the chart-busters. According to Judy Raskin, 42 species is an all-time high for Echo Park Lake.

Then the flock of bird nerds dispersed, some to get breakfast, some to warm their cold fingers, a smaller number to brand new Vista Hermosa park to do the bird count there. Chicken Corner returned to her roost, to look up in bird books the pictures of birds whose names she heard called out but wasn't quick enough to spot.

I expect the information we collected will be particularly pertinent after the lake is drained and the habitat upended for who knows how many months. When the new lake is unveiled, the numbers will take on a life of their own.

Sunday's project was the 11th annual Christmas bird count at Echo Park Lake. Click here for last year's count.

Odd duck: It's not an optical illusion -- the male mallard-looking duck (probably a hybrid) in the foreground really is three or four times larger than the wild one in middle ground.

An American widgeon, who came close.

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