As a new chicken-keeper in 2009, I read every book I could find about backyard chickens and I spent countless hours, days, likely months on the BackyardChickens.com member forum under the username ADozenGirlz, trying to gain a level of confidence in caring for my new pets. What I quickly learned on BYC is that there was a great wealth of excellent information online, but even more guy-on-the-street opinions and unreliable recommendations. Such is the internet age, I suppose. It was confusing and frustrating at times, but the more I read, the more I felt able to determine which information was likely reliable and which should be ignored completely. It’s the stuff in between those extremes that plagued me. I am an attorney by profession and my training in research drives me to find facts, so when was unable to find facts on any given chicken-related topic, I found it frustrating. As time passed, the frustration grew and so too did my small, home-based business making custom egg carton labels.
When my pullets began laying eggs in the winter of 2009, I wanted cute, custom egg carton labels to put on their egg cartons and began designing my own. That endeavor quickly evolved into a tiny at-home business, Egg CartonLabels by ADozenGirlz. As all smart business owners know, social media marketing is essential to the success of a business, so I set up Facebook, Twitter and Blogger accounts as marketing tools. I had no vision for my Facebook page or blog, I simply began sharing my chicken-keeping experiences. Facebook was a lot fun, but I didn't get the hang of blogging right away.
My blog-writing methodology evolved slowly and organically. During my BYC total-immersion period, I found that bits and pieces of helpful information were scattered around the Internet, seldom collected in one place, so I began tackling topics on my blog that I felt needed to be fleshed out, the important information distilled and presented in a straightforward, common-sense way to the average backyard chicken keeper. I realized that not everyone had the time or inclination to perform the research or check sources that I had and I wanted others to benefit from my legwork. At first, I focused on subjects I had experience with and felt confident sharing with my readers: bumblefoot, nest box curtains, how eggs are made, the differences between Ameraucanas and Easter Eggers and a few fun topics like how to blow out an egg and decorate it.
The format was well received and the more I shared, the more my Facebook page and blog grew. However, I was still plagued by certain subjects that I felt were out of my depth such as vaccinations, sour crop and worming, for example. When Facebook fans would ask questions that required detailed answers, it was more efficient to link them to answers in an article on my blog than to re-type the same answer repeatedly. When readers began asking questions on topics that were out of my depth, my frustration with the lack of access to credible, science-based information from experts grew. I wanted to be able to help people with their chickens, but did not feel qualified to address certain subjects and there was a shared feeling of helplessness on both ends of the conversation when those questions were left unresolved.
While researching a blog article in March 2012, I stumbled upon a blog authored by a real live chicken veterinarian and I felt as though I had hit the lottery! I wasted no time contacting him and we chatted extensively about his education, background and experience. His blog was barely 8 months old at the time and with two small children, a medical practice caring for chickens and working on his thesis for a masters degree in animal welfare, he was rather busy, yet he agreed to help field questions from me and my Facebook fans as often as he could. Since that time, he has contributed to my blog on topics ranging from worming to crop impaction, vaccinations and legalizing backyard chickens and he has made himself available to me when I have had general questions concerning apple cider vinegar and the risks of diatomaceous earth. In our initial conversation, we discussed the likelihood that if I revealed his identity, traffic to his blog would exceed anything he could possibly handle at that time in his life. So, we agreed that he would consult with me and write guest blog posts for me occasionally, but his identity would remain confidential at least until he finished his masters degree. We have had a great working relationship and I am grateful to him for his generosity with his time and experience over the past year and a half.
Maintaining his privacy has come at a price to me, however. I have been maligned and accused of inventing him. Fresh Eggs Daily and The Chicken Whisperer have been relentless in their accusations and attacks on what has been referred to as my “shadowy anonymous source” who “hides behind a veil of secrecy” and worse, attacking him “real medical professionals don't hide their credentials.” All of this venom and for what? Because I want to help people take better care of their chickens? Mind-boggling. They were hits I was willing to take for the team though and I'm glad I wasn't deterred by their pettiness.
Relentless criticism and unending attacks continue from Lisa Steele of Fresh Eggs Daily, who wrote that "Chickens DON'T belong in suburban backyards for lots of reasons." Really?
Detractors aside, The Chicken Vet has finished his masters degree and has given me the green light to introduce you to him! Please meet, Dr. Mike Petrik, DVM, MSc here and read another insightful blog article he has written for us. I am grateful for his guidance and insights and look forward to our continued collaborations.