Spring chickens: One year of life with our girls

spring chickens

I have been having a silly week, talking about flaming garlic bread and apartment horror stories, so I am wrapping it up by talking about our chickens, who are now a year old.

Forgive me. Next week I will talk homeschooling and mama self-care and books and parenting and all that good stuff, I promise.

But for now, allow me to get a little fowl.

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A long time ago, I decided I wanted chickens. My mom’s best friend has raised chickens for years, and the kids loved going to her farm to visit them.

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My daughter especially was a natural born chicken wrangler. Introduced to them at such a young age, she had no fear, and would scoop up the crankiest rooster without hesitation.

My little girl dream passed on to my children through some blend of genetics and my talking about it incessantly, and after moving a year and a half ago, we decided to pursue chicken acquisition last spring.

Or rather, I woke up early one morning, and by lunchtime I had decided the only logical course of action was to adopt three chicks from the local feed store.

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Chickens are a gray area in our town — they aren’t illegal, but they aren’t officially endorsed like in so many places.

But no one I spoke with could give me a legal reason not to get them, and so we called the store and placed an order for a Silver Laced Wyandotte, a Golden Comet and what we were told was an Araucana. (We later learned that true Araucanas are rare, so she might be an Easter Egger — we don’t care. She lays pretty green-blue eggs and she looks like a falcon.)

Bringing them home was incredibly exciting, followed by intensely scary, much like bringing home babies except you don’t have to keep a light on babies without setting your basement on fire.

But raising them was indoors was easy.

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Our friends built us an amazing coop, and introducing them to the outside meant many spring afternoons spent kneeling in the grass; watching them turn from fluffy chicks into awkward teen dinosaurs.

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We lost one on Mother’s Day, and the other two immediately went into a holding pattern. They were nervous and didn’t want to go outside their coop, so we went to my mom’s friend and she gave us two new girls to love.

We now have our flock: Pepper, the Silver Laced Wyandotte, Sriracha, the Araucana, Butterscotch, who we think is an Easter Egger, only because she likes to roost in trees and lays pinkish eggs, and Pearl, who is white and gentle and has the biggest comb of all, but is last in the pecking order.

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Pepper

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Sriracha

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Butterscotch

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Pearl

That’s one of the things we learned this year — that pecking order is real. Pepper was in charge until she came down with a somewhat common chicken ailment and we brought her into our pet ICU (the basement bathroom) for almost a month.

When we returned her to the outside, she and Butterscoth had a brief squirmish and Butterscotch in now in charge.

Pepper and Sriracha, the former Michael and Dwight, are now happily somewhere in the middle, and poor Pearl will always be at the bottom, I think, no matter how many hens we have or who else we adopt.

I talk about them as if they have personalities because they do, of course.

They are generally funny and entertaining, even when they are alerting the neighbors to their presence.

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We wonder often if a neighbor will at some point report us. We know folks with chickens who have had to find them new homes because of alleged noise issues, but we also know people who get visits from officers who visit and tell the owners to carry on with their backyard farming.

I try not to worry. For months I worried and it kept me from feeling like the dream was real, so now I just try to enjoy them.

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We bring them yogurt and fruit and vegetable scraps and we poach up their beautiful eggs and we fall more in love every day with the experience.

We are so lucky, really, to have had this year, even if something changes. Even if it all ends tomorrow and they have to go to one of the many friends we have who raise their own girls.

People ask us sometimes if we’ll ever eat our chickens, and we won’t. They are pets.

And as such, they are family. Although I know for many that’s different, and I get that too. I do.

It’s just that when you spend so many days dreaming of what you are going to do when you finally have hens, you rarely consider what they will taste like.

No, instead, you picture yourself doing what we do now, watching them dig for bugs and bits of green; and enjoying the experience of raising chickens, for however long it may last.

 I don’t know how many of you have your own chickens or are thinking of getting some, but I’d love to hear from you! Tell me about your own flock, or send a question or two my way. We don’t know it all by any means, but I’ll try my best to answer! :)

10 thoughts on “Spring chickens: One year of life with our girls

  1. Great article for someone like me! My whole family wants chickens (we do actually live on a non-working farm) but I’m a hold-out. Can you ever leave them? What about a rooster? Do you have one? Are they necessary and mean? Roosters seem very scary, really… Thanks

  2. Hi Ashley! You made my day! I love talking chickens. ;) We have left our girls for overnights and weekends (so far!). We have kind friends who come to check on them and make sure all is well. We are lucky that our coop has a built-in run area, so that’s plenty of room for them to roam for a day or two. We do not have a rooster. In a small backyard flock, they aren’t necessary at all. I know larger farms who have some because they tend to keep the hens in line, but you don’t need roosters to get eggs, you just need them if you want to raise babies ;) We have met a few cranky roosters in our time, but most are pretty harmless. Luckily, experts can “sex” chickens so you can be pretty sure you are getting ladies. Thanks for your questions!!

  3. I’ve spent my whole life in cities, until we moved to the country three years ago. We’ve got about 40 chickens including three roosters. Even the roosters have a pecking order.
    I love them. I love listening to them “talk” to one another. Ours runs all over the place and except for the occasional predator, and wondering where they are hiding eggs, it’s just great. The eggs are wonderful, too.
    We have had meat birds, too and will probably get more this summer. Those we don’t name and we eat them, but the laying hens are safe from the pot. By the time it’s time to put them down, they are too rubbery to want to eat anyway.

    • We always say that when we get rural, if we do get any meat birds, we’ll have to get A LOT and make sure they all look very much alike. ;) I’m still not sure, though. I am a very wimpy farmer!

  4. We currently have 14 layers (we live rurally). And we too just celebrated 1 year of chicken life. Now we have 13, a few were killed by a raccoon, 1 by a hawk, one dum-dum by eating tin foil and one from ???. She had a broken leg and though she was nursed diligently AND was still laying, we believe she just wasn’t allowed near the food because, well, because chickens are SO MEAN. I have butchered one ourselves and have butchered others chickens and ducks. This summer after our new baby shenanigans settle we hope to have a few meat birds. Then there is that rooster everyone around here is talking about…..
    I am not a pet person and don’t have any qualms about eating them, though I expect I am in the minority. I love reading about your chickens, Kara! And crazy weeks, I know all about that.

  5. We love to visit with other peoples’ chickens! We don’t have any nearby right now, and it’s kind of sad. But I don’t think I could handle the poop or the coop cleanup (okay that is another way of saying poop) to be a good chicken-mama in our own space. Or maybe it’s not as messy/stinky/cleanuppy as I am imagining?

    • It depends, I think. I have a friend who uses sand instead of straw and scoops her run once a day like a cat box. Chickens certainly aren’t without funk, but they aren’t too stinky. But that could be my ridiculous pro-chicken bias talking ;)

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