Monday, May 17, 2010

Chasing Chickens

My family thinks I’m, well, how do I put this, a little nuts, and they might be right. I’ve been chasing chickens. Not literally, of course, but I am sort of obsessed with chickens.

In Medford, we had our first flock about eight years ago. My husband built a wonderful hen house and chicken run on the side of our property, and we got eight chicks from the local co-op. We started them in a large Rubbermaid bin in the guest room, but the smell soon got the best of us. Who knew a few baby chicks could be so stinky?

After spending time in a large box in the garage, they were moved to the coop. Soon after, there was “the chicken incident”, which involved the need to “put down” one of the chickens and a decision about whether or not to take the said chicken to the vet and pay him to do the deed. Having already spent too much on the coop, let’s just say that “the chicken incident” ended with a large kitchen knife and a deceased chicken. ‘Nuff said.

Down to seven chickens.

At about four months old, one of the chickens started crowing. My then 13 year old daughter and her middle-school friends named him Russell. Living in town, we couldn’t keep a rooster and found him a home with a friend in the country.

And then there were six.

After awhile, one of the hens was getting “henpecked”. This happens sometimes in a flock of hens. The chickens all gang up on one chicken and will literally peck her to death. When we noticed the henpecking starting, we isolated the poor thing until she could heal. After trying unsuccessfully to let her join the flock, she was moved out to the country with Russell the rooster.

The remaining chickens stayed with us until we listed the house for sale the following year, and then they also joined their former flockmates in the country.

We moved into a house on a larger piece of property and started the whole chicken thing again. This time, we cobbled together a small coop with free materials scavenged through Freecycle and Craigslist. We raised four hens from chicks, and had a great little laying flock.

The Great Recession, as it is being called, resulted in job loss and relocation to another state. We re-homed our chickens with a friend, packed our stuff, loaded the four of us, our dog and four cats into two cars and moved to Bellingham. We lived in a disaster-of-a-rental-house for awhile then bought our current house last November.

I really wasn’t planning to have chickens again, but I started noticing them in a few other yards around the neighborhood. I don’t know why, but I just enjoy watching them. They can be so comical. And I find listening to their soft cooing and clucking and watching them to be so relaxing. The day-to-day stresses of life seem to drift away as I watch the hens scratch and peck, coo and cluck.

And there are the fresh eggs. We got one year old hens this time, so they’re in full lay.

I just finished reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Fred read it as well, and we began evaluating some of our food choices. We enjoyed reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, and I would highly recommend both books.

We were already purchasing some of our produce at the Farmer’s Market and growing some at home. Now we are looking at the other things we eat and the choices we make. For us, homegrown eggs are the right choice.

I have a confession: I sometimes throw away food. It bothers me to do so, but sometimes it’s necessary. Fruits and vegies don’t always get used up fast enough. Bread goes stale. I really hate throwing away food, and now I don’t have to.

Chickens are wonderful recyclers. They love bits of stale bread, carrot peelings, melon rinds, old tortillas, whatever. They devour these “treats” and turn them into eggs. Chickens are good at tilling soil too.

We removed some of the sod in our backyard recently to add flower beds and trees. Having no place to easily dispose of the sod, it was dumped in a pile in the corner of the yard. The chickens have been given this area of the yard, for now, and they’ve been busily tilling down the sod mountain as they scratch and peck while eating the grass and looking for bugs.

By summer, the area will be flat again, well tilled (and fertilized), and the chickens can be moved to another part of the yard that needs sod removal. They do all this work, eat food we would otherwise discard, and they provide delicious, fresh eggs. Who wouldn’t want chickens?


  1. I would love to have chickens, but I live in Stepford, (oops! I mean South Orange County, CA) and I'm pretty sure my neighborhood association forbids them.

  2. Hello sweet Cindy - stopping in for a visit via The Inspired Room. Thank you for sharing your photos of those sweet chickens! You're not crazy. I think it's absolutely great that you have such fresh produce and can make extra money on the side selling the eggs. I've always secretly wished I lived on a farm so that I could experience things like that.