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christine heinrichs

Backyard Poultry expert at home in slo county By Charmaine Coimbra


ested in her cozy Cambria home tucked into a hillside oak grove, Christine Heinrichs is either at her computer blogging about environmental issues, updating one or both of her books, or tending to her backyard chickens—which hatched her specialty, a “professional poultry journalist.” In line with the locavore trend of raising backyard chickens, along with her own chicken raising experience, Voyageur Press said yes to Christine’s proposal to write How to Raise Chickens, now in its updated second printing. “When the first edition came out in 2007, people asked me, ‘Chickens? Why Chickens?’” Christine recalled. “Now places like Lowe’s can’t keep the book stocked and everyone wants to chat about their chickens.” In 2009 the subject of raising all poultry varieties became her second book, How to Raise Poultry. Little did Christine know that when she said yes to her 5-year-old daughter’s request for some chickens in their San Jose backyard, that her journalism degree and curiosity would bring her to the forefront of writing about poultry, and land her smack dab in the sustainable backyard movement. “I bought some chicks and put them in a plastic laundry basket. I had no idea what to do next,” Christine confessed about her late

Sunday, March 23, 2014 4 p.m. · Cuesta College CPAC Canzona will be joined by accordion player Duane Inglish of Café Musique to add a true Gallic flavor to the afternoon.

Tickets: $20 advance $25 at the door · $10 student CRICKET HANDLER & JILL ANDERSON Artistic Directors M A R C H


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1980s adventure. “There was nothing out there, and being a writer, well, I wrote what I learned.” Poultry magazines bought her work, which eventually became the foundation for How to Raise Chickens. Meanwhile, urban homesteading entered our lexicon along with new phrases like sustainable backyards, and a suburban revival of the Victory Garden. For instance, in 2007, a website, boasted 50 members. Now over 200,000 members frequent the website. This is why How to Raise Chickens was fertile for updating. In other words, “When you call your county Planning Department enquiring about local ordinances for backyard chickens, they’ll likely switch you to a chicken expert,” Christine explained. Locally, ordinances vary. For instance, San Luis Obispo Municipal Code (Sec. 6.28) allows up to 25 chickens, so long as they are housed 75 feet from the nearest dwelling. Fewer than five can be 50 feet from the nearest dwelling. But in Paso Robles Ordinance No. 691, hens qualify as small animals, like dogs and cats, and you can have up to a total of six critters with a setback of 20 feet. If you have a 75-foot setback, you can have up to 20. Naturally, a small flock of hens reign supreme in Christine and her husband, Gordon’s Cambria backyard. Cambria, like Los Osos and Cayucos, is covered by the county’s Coastal Land Use Ordinance (Sec. 23.08.046). Up to 20 chickens or other poultry are allowed. They must have a coop or pen. No roosters. When I asked Christine what is the most extravagant backyard chicken coop she’s ever seen, it was Gordon who jumped in and laughingly said, “The one in our backyard.”

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March 2014 Journal Plus

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