Backyard Chickens & Bees

May 19, 2015

chicken_patternFeel like your mornings are a bit mundane? Nothing to really pull you out of bed in the morning?

How about rising to the cluck, cluck of your own backyard chickens? Envision the adventure—the steely nerves!—of having your own backyard beehive and harvesting your own honey?

These and many other questions will be answered by John Lyons during “Backyard Chickens and Bees” on May 23rd at the L.A. Arboretum.

Hybrid, pure bred, heritage or Bantam? American, Asiatic, or Mediterranean class?

Countryfarm Lifestyles states that American class Rhode Island Reds are “excellent” egg-layers, while Javas and American Dominiques are “America’s oldest breeds of chickens.”

Asiatic birds like Brahmas, Cochins, and Langshams are large, solid, and quiet birds (which we consider to be qualities in their favor), but they’re usually raised for meat, “though Brahmas are “excellent broilers and also lay a large number of large, brown eggs.”

Countryfarm regards the Mediterranean class Leghorns to be best “layers” at the moment and if only eggs are desired, they recommend considering Leghorns, Spanish, Minorcas, Anconas, and Andulusians.

Which chickens are broody? Which breed will raise its chicks? What’s the “laying season”? Which hens lay eggs during winter or over the summer? What’s a typical lifespan? Which breed is hardy versus pretty to look at?




Pat Stone of Mother Earth News writes:

The fact that honeybees practically take care of themselves is really only a small part of their appeal. Even the golden sweetener they provide (which, like every other homegrown product, is worlds better than its over-sanitized store counterpart) isn’t what makes them irresistible to me. The plain truth is I can no longer imagine my life without those creatures and the fascination and respect they engender.




A honeybee colony is a mysterious and independent creation. Bees haven’t been bred and rebred into docile egg machines or walking meat racks. They are as wild today as when they were first imported into this country. As a consequence, working with bees is a challenge (and lesson) in cooperation, not domination … a rare human-to-nature experience these days.

Stone speaks of people being “stricken with the obsession known as bee fever.”

What about getting stung? Does one have to wear a full body suit? How does one buy a bee? Are there different kinds from which to choose? What’s a smoker and why is it needed? How do I get the honey out? What exactly is beeswax?

If you’ve caught the fever, or felt a stirring…


Backyard Chickens and Bees
Saturday, May 23rd, 10 a.m.-noon
L.A. Arboretum, 301 N. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia 91007
Cost: $25, members; $30, non-members
To register, call 1.626.821.4623
Or pay at the class


John Lyons comes from Galway, Ireland and grew up on a farm with an acre of garden. Wherever he has landed over the years—London, New York—he’s had a garden of some sort, small plot, rooftop. He’s been local since 1998 and has The Woven Garden, which specializes in installing urban orchards and vineyards, surrounded by a native garden to provide natural pollination. The whole idea of The Woven Garden is to weave these disparate elements.

Lyons has chickens and cares for bees in his own backyard. During the first hour of Saturday’s lecture at the Arboretum, Lyons will cover chickens, including how to feed them, possible diseases, caring for babies, and from where to source them. The second hour will be all bees, and Lyons will be bringing props and an actual beehive. This is an introductory class about raising chickens and caring for bees, primarily to see if this is truly a step someone might wish to make, and if so, to offer a picture of what lies ahead.






Photo, top right:

Rhode Island Red hen on street by Just Chaos (Rhode Island Red hen) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Exposed beehive by CheepShot (Exposed Bee Hive) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo of honeybee extracting from a flower, bottom, by John Severns = Severnjc (Photo by John Severns.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons





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