Anyone who used to follow my old blog knows that I was a very enthusiastic backyard chicken keeper. When we moved out here to the farm, I brought my chickens and my chicken coop with me, believing that my small flock of four hens would enjoy free ranging around the big meadow behind our house during the day and returning to the coop to be locked up at night (that’s what we had done at the city house – the chickens were loose in our fenced yard during the day and in the coop at night.)
Well, within only a week or two of moving out here to the country, my entire flock was decimated by hawks. It was awful.We were all traumatized. I swore that I wouldn’t have hens again until I had a coop that would allow me to keep the girls locked up tight all the time while still having access to fresh grass and bugs and all the things that chickens love.
After two years of searching, I finally found a local craftsman who makes a type of coop called a “chicken tractor.” It’s a coop with a run attached that can easily be moved to new spots in the grass on a regular basis, allowing the chickens to graze and preventing dead patches of grass.
Our new coop arrived a few weeks ago. We were all very excited when the carpenter delivered it.
Once we had the coop, we went to work assembling our new little flock. We started by acquiring an Olive Egger pullet (“Pullet” means a female teenage chicken). She will lay olive colored eggs when she gets old enough to lay. We named her -you guessed it – Olive. She’s very pretty and the most curious and active of any of our hens. Olive belongs to my 8 year old daughter, G.
Our second hen is an absolutely giant young Cochin hen named Coco. We got her from Sugarloaf Grass Fed Farm in Seymour, Tennessee. I absolutely love this hen. She’s so mellow and laid back and I love how big and heavily feathered she is. If I had room for a lot of chickens I would have multiple Cochins. They’re lovely. In fact, they started something of a chicken craze in the U.S. and England back in the Victorian era. Queen Victoria herself was an enthusiastic fan of the giant, fluffy Cochins. But anyway, we have Coco and we just love her. She belongs to my 11 year old daughter, C who plans to use her for a 4-H project.
I was so impressed with the breeder where we got Loompa and Olive, and I know I like the Ameracauna breed a lot and want multicolored eggs, so we returned to pick up our 4th and final chicken, a very young Ameracauna, blue-egg-laying pullet that we’ve named Hen Solo (yes, a child named her!). She’s white with a few spots, a color known as splash. Many splash Ameracaunas have more spots than Hen Solo does but she won me over at the breeder’s place with her absolutely sweet, friendly personality.
You can see that Olive, Loompa and Hen Solo are all fairly scrawny looking and small at this point. That’s because they’re all still babies, ranging in age from about 10-16 weeks. They’ll all 3 fill out and grow into big, beautiful hens as time goes on.
Chickens are undoubtedly a lot of hassle. You have to keep them fed and watered day and night, no matter what the weather is. You have to clean their coop out regularly and you have to make sure that the coop and run that you have meets their needs and absolutely keeps predators out (But no matter how hard you try, I’ve yet to meet a chicken keeper who has never lost a single hen to a predator like a hawk, raccoon or fox).
But chicken keeping is also a tremendously fulfilling hobby – my favorite hobby. (I’m like Martha Stewart with a much less fancy coop in this regard. Martha loooooves her chickens). You might say I’m a chicken nerd. I love the soft clucking noises chickens make as they scratch and peck in the grass. I love the beauty of the huge variety of types of chickens there are with their rainbow of feather colors. I like caring for them, even when the weather is bad, and I especially love when they deign to nibble cracked corn or sunflower seeds out of my hand.
And of course it’s great fun when they start laying eggs. I’ve designed my flock so that I’ll have a rainbow of egg colors in my basket once my hens start to lay. Even for grown ups, it’s exciting to open the next box and find a fresh egg or two, especially if its green or blue. And the kids absolutely adore gathering eggs.
I’m so happy to have my own little flock of chickens again. I wish that I could have more chickens but the size of my coop dictates that four (and maaaaaybe 5) hens are all I can house comfortably.
For now I’m busy getting my new little flock of hens calmer and better acclimated to me. They’re still a bit shy now. On nice afternoons I sit out by the coop and study (I’m in grad school), taking breaks to watch the chickens and letting them simply get used to my presence. Watching chickens is just really relaxing. Some people call it “chicken TV,” and there’s even a very, very popular website called “Hencam” that consists almost entirely of a 24/7 camera on one chicken-keeper’s coop and run, allowing viewers all over the world to get their own fix of chicken TV.
Yes, I think I definitely qualify as a chicken nerd. But I’m pretty sure there are worse kinds of nerds I could be.