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Fall 2011

Pets with Perks

Adventures in chicken ownership

by Kris Hughes

Roughly six months ago I embarked on a new journey, chicken ownership. Little did I realize what a roller coaster ride this would become. I had contemplated getting some for years because the land I live on came with a sizable coop that was in need of some repair and all the feeders one might need.

This year I decided to make the jump into chicken ownership. I read lots of things on the internet and asked a lot of questions. I got advice and opinions that were hugely varied. From " What are you thinking? Those things smell AWFUL!" to " Watch out Chickens are like potato chips, you always want just one more."

I was feeling a bit ambivalent about the whole chicken ownership thing. I just wanted nice fresh eggs from chickens that actually knew what sunshine looked like. So my adventure began on a Thursday morning with a heat lamp, a bag of chick starter and six of the cutest little fluff balls I had ever seen. Let me tell you something, baby chicks are LOUD when they are not happy. Like when they have just been popped into a tiny little cardboard box and taken for a ride. Yeah, not happy chicks = lots of loud peeping. Second lesson about baby chicks: sometimes when they fall asleep they just flop over on their side and you think they are dead. I don't know how many times I walked in to check on them and thought, "Oh no! It's dead!" only to run to the cage and have the darn thing pop up and look at me like "What? Can't a little bird get some rest around here?"

There were a lot of these little lessons such as:
Baby Chicks only poop on you if your clothes are clean and you need to leave the house in three minutes.

Baby chicks love shiny objects and will peck at them incessantly. (think rings, watches, eyeballs...)

Baby chicks can kick shavings approximately 30 yards in every direction from their cage.

Watching baby chicks is utterly fascinating and you will get very little done for the first seven weeks.

I also learned that if you purchase baby chicks the chicken coop that has sat on your property for fifty years and withstood all that mother nature can take will fall down forcing you to build another. So in the hottest part of the summer (when it was never less than 104 degrees outside) me and my poor father set out to build a coop so my homeless chickens might have a place in which to lay their eggs when they got old enough. All in all, it turned out pretty well. The chickens like it, neither me or my dad died of heat stroke and we still have all of our fingers and toes. We lovingly dubbed the new coop as "Chicken Jail" Nice, huh?

Somewhere along this time I discovered I was very attached to my chickens, they all had names and very distinct personalities. Scarlet, Henny Penny, Ruby Poo, Lily, Pickles and Mammy Pammy.

I worried about their safety and checked on them several times a day. I fed them scraps and they followed me everywhere. I talked about them all the time and I am pretty sure my friends and family were more that a little sick of hearing daily chicken updates.

There was only one thing missing from our happy little family... eggs. I waited and I watched, I talked to them and begged for just one little egg. Finally, one day in early August I came out to not one, but three tiny little pullet eggs! I called everyone I knew, I posted it on Facebook, (you would have thought it was me laying those eggs instead of the chickens.)

Fresh eggs are wonderful. They have dark creamy yolks and the whites are all plump and not watery at all. They bake up wonderfully in cakes and make the best quiches and omelets you've ever had. These are the real thing folks. Laid by chickens who get to walk around and eat bugs and weeds all day long just like chickens are supposed to. Happy chickens lay happy eggs.

I have to say that chicken ownership has a lot of great selling points. Chickens make fun pets if you have the room and facilities for them. You get fresh eggs every day and all your friends love it when you give them some. Now, when people ask me why on earth I own chickens my response is "My pets lay me breakfast. Do yours?" Seriously I wouldn't trade those little bug eaters for the world. Now if you will excuse me I am going to check on my chickens...

Next issue: Look for an egg recipe!


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