About Us - Updated


This link will take you to a news report from 2009 on our three year effort to legalize chicken keeping in the city of Ypsilanti.


A LITTLE HISTORY - The Thomason family has been farming in the same part of Richland Parish Louisiana for almost two-hundred years, but our 1/10th acre urban eco-micro farm is located in historic downtown Ypsilanti, Michigan. It is easily reached from I-94 or US-23. We are just a few miles east of Ann Arbor and thirty miles west of Detroit. We raise Mini-Nubian-Nigerian-Dwarf goats , Hubbard ISA Brown French hens, and Lionhead Dwarf rabbits.

We grow organic vegetables for our own use and sell our surplus through the Ypsilanti Downtown Farmers Market along with artisinal cheeses made by Aubrey Thomason

We plan to add mushrooms to our growing mix this year and will post more about that exciting development as it happens.

OTHER BLOGS - To read more about families coping with substance abuse click on this link http://hopeforourfamilies.blogspot.com

To read more of Peter's articles and essays on urban farming, Christian thought, home economics, coffins, and other topics click on this link http://notmyplans.blogspot.com

Stay tuned for more information and visit often!

Poultry in Motion - Why are There Chickens in the City?

August 2007 - When people ask me, and they frequently do, why we have chickens living in our Ypsilanti City yard, I usually answer, "for the eggs."

But the truth is, the main reason we have them is that it pleases my wife. And, if my wife is happy, most of the time, I am too.

What I’m referring to is the inestimable value of pleasure that philosopher-farmer Wendell Berry speaks of in, "Economy and Pleasure," an essay that should be required reading for anyone who refuses to accept the idea that a monetary bottom line is the only "real" bottom line.

There are many things about having chickens in the city that please us: gathering dew-laden forage for them early in the morning; neighbor children stopping by to feed them broccoli leaves or bugs from our garden; the cooing sounds they make when you stop for a few moments to watch them; the way they like to fly up and to sit on your shoulders when you go into the coop; the smile on our grandson Sam’s face when he sees the "chichens;" our grand-daughter Judah riding on the hood of a tractor in the Heritage Festival Parade pulling a mobile coop-float with all twelve hens inside; and of course, there are the eggs.

For several years we tried to sell our house, move to the country and start a farm but, the times and the market were against us and we finally accepted that, at least for the time being, we were going to have to stay where we were. Not that we had a problem with being here, we just felt a need to reconnect with our agrarian roots.

The thought that we were not going to be able to do that was depressing but we did our best to let go of it and to focus on growing as much of our food as we could on our one-tenth of an acre city lot.

Then one day it just got to her and she said, "I don’t ask for much. I don’t want jewelry or fancy cars, I just want to have some chickens."

My wife’s distress about this weighed on me for weeks until it finally occurred to me one day to check the city’s animal control ordinance. Though it did not specifically prohibit chickens - it allows keeping "common cage birds" and other pets – a call to the city attorney for clarification confirmed that, according to the city’s corporate and legal interpretation, they were not allowed.

This just made me more determined than ever so I decided to try to amend the ordinance by first getting the support of two city council members and then making a presentation to the public meeting of the whole council.

The members I approached had grown up in the city and remembered the days when chickens and goats were allowed to live in backyards. They supported my request for an amendment to the council but, when the mayor was dismissive of any real discussion on the subject, one of them backed down and helped "her honor" derail the prescribed process into a bureaucratic dead end.

I had not even been given the opportunity to present the details of the proposed amendment. It made me angry that a perfectly legitimate request by a tax-paying citizen could be summarily rejected on the basis of an elected official’s personal bias – she had made it known from the time I made my first presentation that she had no interest in allowing it to happen.

When I came home from the meeting the night of the vote, my wife asked how things had gone.

I answered, "we have chickens in the city!"

To which she, elated, replied, "You mean we can have chickens?"

"No," I answered tersely. "What I mean is that we already have them. They are roosting down in the city council chambers."

Later, I apologized to her for insulting the birds.

The Michigan Right to Farm Act of 1981 is little known among city dwellers because it doesn’t impact us much. That is, unless you happen to live on the outskirts of a town that has been developed through the acquisition of nearby farms.

Where farms are still operational and close enough to subdivisions to be smelled or heard, those agricultural activities are protected, and rightly so because we need them, as long as they follow GAAMPS – an acronym for Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practices.

We need local farms, especially small family owned farms, for a whole variety of reasons which cannot just be described in economic terms.

Using the law to support having chickens in our backyard did not occur to me until I was being interviewed by Michigan Radio several months later and the interviewer suggested I look into the case of a suburban Michigan woman who had successfully used it in defense of her flock of goats. It is a surprisingly strong law, and, to my knowledge, all attempts to modify it have fallen flat.

Two recent Michigan Court of Appeals rulings - one involved a riding stable and the other a nursery - have upheld it to the extent that it trumps even local zoning requirements and ordinances.

The catch for backyard chicken keepers – or urban micro farmers like us - is that the law appears to be designed to protect those engaged in agricultural activities for commercial purposes.

We don’t have a problem with that because, as produce growers – we sell to a local food cooperative – we fit the IRS and the USDA description of farmers.

We file a Schedule F with our Federal 1040 and we also follow GAAMPS. I can imagine that the protections would be extended to subsistence farmers as well.

So, there it is. Why are there chickens in the city? It’s really all about the pursuit of happiness.

Peter Thomason is a part-time urban farmer and a carpenter. He has lived in the Ypsilanti area for 32 years with his wife Rebecca and nine of their ten children.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Urban Farming Notebook - March 29, 2010 - Poultry in Motion & Laughing Tree Farm Bakery

Poultry in Motion delivered 2 dozen assorted 10 day old layers to Laughing Tree Farm & Bakery near Hart, Michigan this weekend. We also helped them to build a new chicken coop which will soon be used by the chicks who are currently being housed in a brooder in the barn.

Hilde & Charlie (aka Laughing Tree Farm & Bakery)are quickly approaching the completion of the commercial bakery they have been working on for the last year. It is very exciting to watch the oven come together and to talk with them about the recipes they have been developing over the years for various types of sourdough breads. Hilde always seems to be working on a fresh batch of bread or is experimenting with some new variation or ingredient!

Look for the bakery to be online within the next few months!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Urban Farming Notebook - March 20, 2010 - Poultry in Motion

We had a great workshop on raising urban poultry here this morning. The peeps arrived in time yesterday - by mail - and the people who had placed their orders had the pick of the chicks.

I always get a kick out of picking up the box of chicks from the Post Office. The workers there are amused by hearing the peeps in the box.

Here is a copy of what the handout looked like.

A-maizin’ Chickens
Project Grow - Urban Chicken Keeping Workshop
March 20, 2010 10 AM ~ 12 PM
Instructor – Peter Thomason
Ypsilanti, Michigan
peterthomason@comcast.net 734-678-5584 mobile

Introductions, Overview, Questions

1. Caring for Baby Chicks – 1 to 4 weeks
• Heat, light, high-protein food, water, TLC, baby grit, ordering chicks

2. Young Pullets - 4 weeks to 21 weeks
• Heat, light, high-protein food, water, TLC, grit, food scraps, hay
• Feathering in

3. Pullets / Layers – 21 to 78 weeks
• Layer crumble, grit, scratch grains, dirt, bugs, TLC, food scraps, hay
• Basic biology
• Egg production

4. Seasonal Issues / Needs –
• moulting, protein requirements, diet, light, heat and cold
• egg eating, feather picking

5. Social Issues / Needs –
• space, roosting, pecking order, violence in the hennery
• MASH unit

6. Safety and Security –
• coops, enclosures
• predators
• laying boxes

7. Manure -
• Nutrient rich, high in Nitrogen
• Manure tea
• Mitigating odor
• When to clean the coop

8. The Chicken Life Cycle -
• Life expectancy 4 – 7 years depending on breed
• Egg laying drops off dramatically after first moult
• Natural causes of death

9. Additional Information –
• Websites: City Farmer, Urban Chickens, Backyard Chickens, Thomason Family Farm, etc.

Possible Breeds included in Starter Pack:
Isa-Brown, Rhode Island Reds, California Grey Leghorn, Barred Rock, Araucana, Buff Orpingtons, Black Sex-Links, Black Australorps, Golden Laced Wyandottes, Silver Laced Wyandotte, Light Brahmas

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Urban Farming Notebook - March 16, 2010 - Local Economics

Here is a great example of how local economics can be promoted in a community. Sorry, don't know why the link is not live, you will have to copy and paste!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Urban Farming Notebook - Spring Chicks March 10, 2010

There are still a few spots left in the class I am giving on March 20th on raising urban chickens. Follow this link to register http://projectgrowgardens.org/classes.htm

If you are interested in ordering a small flock of chicks let me know and I can arrange for you to pick them up here. Since hatcheries have a minimum order size of 15 - 25 this should help you out. I will place a large order and you can get the number you want from me along with feed, litter, and a water dispenser.

If you take the class, I will be going over all of the details with you.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Urban Farming Notebook - March 2, 2010 - E.F. Schumacher

I watched "Coming Home" the other night, a new movie by Chris Bedford about the E.F, Schumacher Society and local economics. It is well done and very interesting.


What many people do not know about Schumacher is, that late in life he became Catholic. He attributed his decision in part to the influence of 20th Century Catholic Social teaching (beginning with Rerum Noverum published in the 1890s)about the rights of workers.