Let There Be Chickens
August 05, 2007
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle pushed me over the edge. For years I had thought of getting chickens, but after reading Barbara Kingsolver's inspiring book on her family's year of sustainable living, I knew it was chickens or bust. So, as of today, we have some chickens. Plus we have a visiting dog, so we're practically farming here in suburbia.
So far, so good with the chickens, who have been here for all of an afternoon and part of an evening. They are little. Two are three weeks old, the other two five weeks. The older chickens are assertive, leading Junior to name one Bossy. (The others are Petunia, Loretta, and Fuzzy.)
They have a compact coop and run, which I bought online and on which I didn't expend too many cuss words putting together. Called an Eglu, this kind of coop was first sold in England in urban areas for folks who only want a few chickens. The chickens themselves came from a rural town not too far from here. They were very quiet during the ride home. I didn't hear a peep.
I got the chicks for the egg supply, but it will be awhile before they are up to that sort of endeavor. Meanwhile, we are very amused just looking at them. Today they all took a dust bath, and Junior and I laughed and laughed. (I'm glad I'd done a little reading, and thus knew that they were not desperately ill.) Then Junior got into the run with them and spent the majority of the afternoon squished up in there. While I cannot say that the chickens are in love with Junior, they put up with this better than I'd imagined. Bossy even tried to eat one of his freckles.
I'll take pictures soon, and promise to return to book talk tomorrow.
Way to go! Now, plant yourself some spaghetti, and you'll be in business...
In the month or two since we got our chickens, I've been amazed at how much I enjoy them. Feeding them and releasing them into the backyard has become as important a part of my morning ritual as brewing two strong mugs of coffee. I love how they follow me around -- and, if they've been hiding beneath our beautyberry bush, emerge semi-airborne and all a-flap in a manner that brings to mind the phrase "Abokalypse Now."
You've got twice as many, so enjoy them twice as much!
Posted by: Chris Barton | August 06, 2007 at 07:20 AM
I'm so excited for you!!! You really did need a chicken or two.
Posted by: wisteria | August 06, 2007 at 07:38 AM
Oh, thanks, y'all. They really are fun.
Posted by: Susan T. | August 06, 2007 at 08:51 AM
My sister had chickens until the neighbors complained and pulled out a township ordinance forbidding them. She loved keeping them and rabbits and a huge garden. Now they've moved to a farm out in the country and they have chickens, pigs and I think goats. Watch yourself! LOL
I wish I could come by for some eggs.
Posted by: cloudscome | August 06, 2007 at 09:02 AM
Cloudscome, if all four turn out to be hens, we are going to be awash in eggs. I wish you could come by!
Junior is sitting in with them again as I type this. I'm loving the entertainment factor.
Posted by: Susan T. | August 06, 2007 at 09:35 AM
Yes, do keep us updated. That sounds fun.
Posted by: Jules | August 06, 2007 at 10:35 AM
Jules, yes, yardbirds! Yay. Finally we got some.
Posted by: Susan T. | August 06, 2007 at 05:28 PM
I am so living vicariously through your experience. I have daydreams of chickens and fresh eggs, but I'm not sure I could pull it off in my yard and on my schedule. I will be watching carefully for details.... :)
Posted by: adrienne | August 06, 2007 at 05:58 PM
Adrienne, I bet you could. So far the work has not been much at all. That could change in the winter, though. I'll keep you posted.
Posted by: Susan T. | August 06, 2007 at 06:50 PM
Hurrah for chickens! Now, before you plant a spaghetti tree, you might want to consider the sage advice of Tom Glazer.
Posted by: Alkelda the Gleeful | August 07, 2007 at 12:55 AM
Chris Barton beat me to the "plant some spaghetti" quip. Man, he's fast!
I'm SOOOooo jealous! And please, don't worry so much about the book posts -- let us (who don't have chickens) live vicariously through your (and Junior's) experiences! Can't wait for the pictures!
Posted by: Mary Lee | August 07, 2007 at 07:14 AM
I think it was on your site where I first was inspired to read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I have one chapter left and am loving it. I also have thought about chickens and went as far as to order a catalog. Not sure what my neighbors in the suburban Boston area would think. I also will be interested in following your fowl adventures!
Posted by: Holly Doe | August 07, 2007 at 08:18 AM
Alkelda, thank goodness the chicken seller didn't flinch when I told her about my blog and its name. I blurted out something like, "but these won't be ingredients."
Mary Lee, look for some photography soon. And thanks for the encouragement!
Holly, these chickens are quiet. (Knock on wood.) They're supposed to be all pullets (females). the roosters are the loud ones when they mature. So, we'll see if Loretta needs a name change to, uh, George (Jones), or Johnny (Cash). I'm glad you liked Animal, Vegetable, Miracle; I've been re-reading the chicken portions.
Jr.'s dad, a born-and-bred city boy, says that Loretta and Fuzzy look like pigeons...
Posted by: Susan T. | August 07, 2007 at 10:29 AM
Ooooh, woman after my own heart! I just got "Animal, Vegetable, Mineral" as a gift, and I can't wait to read it. Alas, I'm still plowing my way through "Omnivore's Dilemma." My only hope of ever having chickens is on my apartment balcony and I can't see the super going for that! So for now I'll live vicariously through you - thanks for the great stories!
(Pinot and Prose)
Posted by: Laura | August 07, 2007 at 10:39 AM
We had chickens growing up, and my parents just got four or five Rhodie Reds -- they've grown big this summer, striding around pecking at things as if they own the place. You will NEVER have to throw away a carrot end, an onion skin (well, watch it on those, unless you want your omelettes pre-flavored), wilty lettuce or anything veg waste ever again. Welcome to the eating machines. And, after you rake after them - lovely composting material.
Our egg production slowed in the winter, and the eggs got smaller (and pointier), but because California is somewhat temperate, it never stopped altogether. Still - you simply adjust.
I'm starting Animal, Vegetable, Miracle next week, and I envy you your chickens. Have fun, have fun, have FUN!
Posted by: TadMack | August 07, 2007 at 12:07 PM
Good for you! What fun! I felt the same way when I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle...wanted to go right ahead and order some chickens...but we live in a condo so it's not an option. I'll enjoy hearing all about your experiences instead.
Posted by: Robin | August 07, 2007 at 12:25 PM
Laura, welcome! And, everybody, go see Laura's brand-new blog, Pinot and Prose. (Click on her name at the comment.) I kept having such pangs of jealousy over various offline and online friends getting chickens, that I needed my own!
Oh, yay, TadMack. That's what I want: little composters. I looked at some Rhode Island Red crosses at a feed store, but they were five months old or so and had not been handled much. They're cool birds, though. My aunt and uncle had chickens--and a pet pigeon--in the back yard, and I loved them.
Hey, Robin! Amazon just delivered a slew of chicken books to my door. We are learning as we go. This morning two of the chickens roosted on Junior's arm. They may be in love with him after all.
Posted by: Susan T. | August 07, 2007 at 03:05 PM
Oh, I LOVED having chickens... loved tossing the dinner scraps into the yard and seeing them run for them (leftover rice and pasta were also popular with our girls); loved watching them; loved the eggs; loved how beautiful they were...
...but the pit bull up the street and the hawks from the park and I'm pretty sure the big raccoon family killed every one. So much tragedy.
So, here's my advice: covered run, secure door, raised feeder (as high as they can reach), and don't leave them unattended in the yard ever. Most of our attacks happened in broad daylight. Snif. I miss my chickies.
Posted by: your neighborhood librarian | August 07, 2007 at 05:19 PM
Chickens sound like great fun. I hope some of them are the kind with the real fancy feathers. Or the feathery feet. Hey, I've looked at a chicken book or two in my library.
Posted by: MotherReader | August 07, 2007 at 07:45 PM
The life of a chicken is a perilous one. I can tell that from everything I read, from the books to the web site Backyard Chickens. I am so sorry about your chickens' demise, YNL. Even after having ours only 3 days, we would be heartbroken. They are starting to come out of the coop when we call, "Here, chickie."
Secure door--check (it's the Fort Knox of coops)
Raised feeder--nope, will fix tomorrow. Thank you for the advice. (This is an anti-rodent measure, yes?)
Mo'Reader, I'm impressed. Two chickens are Plymouth Rocks, who will one day look very classic black and white but right now look dinosaur-ish and awkward. The other--younger, cuter--chicks are Orpingtons. They'll be either black or dark grey (I think), and will grow into big chickens.
Posted by: Susan T. | August 07, 2007 at 07:50 PM
Go, chickens! I covet your Eglu, by the way. I'd love to hear how you like it once your birds have had a while to settle in.
Posted by: kcb | August 08, 2007 at 09:15 PM
KCB, Wanda and Neutron were two of my inspirations!
I'm liking the Eglu. To me, the design is well thought out. It certainly appears to be predator-proof. I still put the chicks inside the little hutch and shut the door at night. Once they grow into their full size, I may let them free-range during the day. I don't know. They're pretty big breeds--Orpingtons and Barred Rocks. The smallest one of the four, Loretta, is fast, a real roadrunner. Watch--she's probably the rooster.
I do worry about our big nor'easter storms, though. I will have to ask around and see what others do.
Posted by: Susan T. | August 08, 2007 at 11:03 PM
Just popping in to say that I CAN'T WAIT for the photos!!
Posted by: Kelly | August 09, 2007 at 10:42 AM
Hey, Kelly. I hope to get some good shots by Saturday.
Posted by: Susan T. | August 09, 2007 at 11:16 AM
Oooohhh, you got the EGLU... aaahh, yeah, wow, you'll be good. I wanted one of those things so badly but they weren't avail in the US back then.
Just make sure the edges of the run are tacked hard to the ground. And yes hanging the feeder high is anti-rodent. Rats will kill chickens up to 6 weeks old. God, why am I such downer?
Our girls roosted on our deck rail near the house all through the winter and seemed more or less comfortable. I think they just wanted to be out of the wind. We had big girls like yours, they'll be fine.
Posted by: your neighborhood librarian | August 10, 2007 at 01:54 PM
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle has inspired us too! We're not raising chickens but growing veggies, making wheat bread pizza, and buying from a local diary. Hope your chicken experience is as satisfying as it is for the Kingsolver family.
Posted by: Anne-Marie | August 11, 2007 at 11:19 PM
YNL, I know you miss your chickens. They really are fun. You could try again with an Eglu? I ordered ours through My Pet Chicken.
Anne-Marie, that is so cool. I've tried to grow tomatoes, but they stopped ripening. Something went wrong. I really want to have a better veggie garden, but we would have to put up some major fencing to deter the woodchucks, rabbits, and deer. (And we're not even in the country!)
Posted by: Susan T. | August 12, 2007 at 10:25 AM