How to “Chickenfy” Your Life (Real Things Thursdays)

I briefly considered writing a “How to Get Started with Chickens” post, but I don’t like writing about something until I’ve actually done it. Once my chickens arrive this May I’ll talk about my personal experiences with it — until then I thought I’d write about some chicken products I’ve encountered while begging for advice from people who have personal relationships with poultry.

Also, I want to remind everyone that the deadline for the next issue of How to Find Great Plants is a week away on January 28th. Be sure to submit the link to your post about a food or ornamental plant. Click here for details. Here is last month’s issue if you want to see what it looks like.

Photo Caption: I like to think this is what my adult cuckoo maran would have looked like in our snow last week. Mine will arrive the first week in May as an adorable, fluffy chick. Credit: Wikipedia

So, as I mentioned in my garden goals post I am getting backyard chickens! OhMyGoshICan’tWait! The cute little fluffballs will be arriving the first week of May — 26 of them in all — but I’m only keeping 4. I joint ordered with a farming friend who has room for the remaining 22. My daughter and boyfriend are already speculating about names (such as “Mrs. Rubicon DestructoBeak 2300” or “The Fair Lady Poultrious BakBak” — they are taking this very seriously).

The breeds we’ll be receiving are araucanas (although I understand it isn’t a show-quality strain), cuckoo marans, and rose comb brown leghorns. Our current plan is to keep 2 araucanas, 1 cuckoo maran, and a rose comb leghorn.

The purpose of the white layer (the rose comb) is to let me create pysanky on wax-free eggs (the supermarket variety are usually waxed). I’ve loved to make them ever since I was a kid — my stepdad’s parents gave me the dyes and tools so I could learn this Ukrainian folk art that uses beeswax to make batik eggs.

Anyway, chickens are my theme for this week’s Real Things Thursdays. I’ve included sources for actual chickens, some chicken supplies, and chicken-related art for those of you who aren’t likely to install a coop in your yard. As usual, this is a casual blog carnival and I’d love it if you’d post links to your chicken posts or insights in the comments. (Or just a regular comment, those are great, too).

When I was looking for reviews on chicken hatcheries I didn’t have much luck. I don’t want to recommend the place my chickens are coming from until I see how well they perform. Therefore, I’ll just include these links to help you make the best educated guess about where to buy your chickens:

I also want to include this innovative chicken waterer sold at The Walden Effect (a fun blog, you should check it out).

Photo Credit: The Walden Effect (Avian Aqua Miser chicken waterer)

I understand that poultry foul (fowl?) their water on a daily basis so I’m thrilled with the idea of this mess-free waterer. I’ve been reading Anna’s posts at The Walden Effect for a while now and I know she wouldn’t recommend it if it wasn’t a great product. I particularly like that you can use their kits to make your own with recycled containers.

Now for the chicken art (all with repurposed objects):

Photo Credit: IntuitiveWhimsy on Etsy (Chicken Wire Lamp)

This handmade lamp uses upcycled wire fencing from actual chicken coops and fabric featuring hens and roosters for the shade. The seller (IntuitiveWhimsy) recommends painting the electrical cord with your wall color to help it blend in.

Photo Credit: lesliejanson on Etsy (Grain Sack Pillow)

I love this chicken pillow made from a recycled, soft fabric feed sack. Seller lesliejanson says it is one-of-a-kind, so you better act fast if you want it.

Photo Credit: purplerozelisa on Etsy (Outdoor Clothespin Bag)

Do you hang your clothes out on a line to dry? These clothespin bags are made from reused, weather-resistant poly-woven bags for chicken feed. Even though the bags are sturdy, they are usually dumped in the landfill as soon as they’re empty. This product’s drainage holes mean that you can leave it outdoors year-round, and seller purplerozelisa says that the neutral design is great for men or women.

That’s it for this week’s Real Things Thursdays. Please, give me your chicken keeping advice in the comments! I’m so excited, I could talk chickens all day.

Or leave a regular comment… I love those, too (and I always follow them to check out what you’ve written lately).

Remember to submit a post for How to Find Great Plants!

Eliza Lord

I'm a Greenville, SC native (the Appalachian foothills) who wears the hats of Greenville Master Gardener & Upstate Master Naturalist. I love to write about food and sustainability.

43 thoughts on “How to “Chickenfy” Your Life (Real Things Thursdays)”

  1. Mark Ligon - January 20, 2011 1:59 pm

    I always enjoy your blog Eliza and could never have imagined there was something I had done the you had not!

    My chicks came from McMurray Hatchery and they arrived in great shape through the good old US Mail. “90% sexing guarantee” netted me 4 roosters out of 25.

    Here’s the short list of chicken lessons.

    1. Roosters are worthless, destructive and loud. The hens hate them too.

    2. Hawks are relentless and kill in broad daylight. The are the hardest predator to beat, I think.

    3. There’s really no need buy feed between April and October. Fresh water is a must, of course.

    4. You must hold and pet your chickens daily. You will discover that they have their own Zen.

    5. Examine your environment. Chickens will eat pretty much anything, even if it’s toxic. And even if it doesn’t kill them, you end up eating it too.

    6. Keep them a comfortable distance from your house and fence a small yard to contain them, even if you are “free range”

    Chickens are awesome!

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 20, 2011 7:52 pm

      Thanks, this is very helpful! I can’t be free-range since they are city chickens… maybe the chicken tractor enclosure will be enough to discourage hawks. I’m concerned about so many roosters from a sexed batch of chicks! I hope that doesn’t happen every time.
      .-= Sustainahillbilly´s last blog ..How to “Chickenfy” Your Life Real Things Thursdays =-.

  2. Elephant's Eye - January 20, 2011 2:32 pm

    Poly-woven bags dumped in the landfill as soon as they are emptied? How the other half live! Here those bags are collected and reused, and reused, and reused. For builder’s sand especially. Until the bags fall apart from too much work and too much sun.

    Enjoy your chickens. Looking forward to seeing the first egg art.
    .-= Elephant’s Eye´s last blog ..Sunbirds- malachite and collared =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 20, 2011 7:53 pm

      I’m glad they aren’t thrown away everywhere. They are such well-made bags it truly is a shame more people don’t find new uses for them.

  3. Carolflowerhill
    Twitter: flora
    - January 20, 2011 2:44 pm

    Eliza, I envy your getting chickens . . . well except not now as i would have to break through ice and have a huge electric bill to keep them over the winter. I like the watering device and what a clever use of chicken wire!
    .-= Carolflowerhill´s last blog ..Birds in Review Part Vlll Parenting Baltimore Orioles and Fledglings =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 20, 2011 7:54 pm

      With all the wonderful songbird posts you’ve been doing lately it is amazing to me that your yard is icy! What a fantastic collection of photos you have saved up from previous seasons!

  4. Greenearth
    Twitter: anewgreenearth
    - January 20, 2011 3:59 pm

    How exciting to be getting chickens. My friends have them and just love them. Am looking in to chickens for myself so will be interested to hear of your experiences.
    .-= Greenearth´s last blog ..Queensland Floods and Food Security =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 20, 2011 7:55 pm

      I hope you get some, too! I think it is a shame more people don’t get backyard eggs (plus you’ll never have to worry about contaminated food recalls)!

  5. ali - January 20, 2011 4:13 pm

    My goodness I’d give a lot for that chicken feed bag pillow! What a fabulous idea, my chicken feed comes in big boring plastic hessian. Your chosen chickens look like such a lovely breed, and it’s wonderful you are so enthusiastic about your chickens. Can’t beat them I think :)
    .-= ali´s last blog ..26 Days of Planting- N is for Nut =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 20, 2011 7:59 pm

      I wish grain still came in fabric bags… nearly all of it is packed in plastic these days. The fabric sacks seem so much easier to find new uses for. Thanks for the chicken well-wishes!
      .-= Sustainahillbilly´s last blog ..How to “Chickenfy” Your Life Real Things Thursdays =-.

  6. Mark Willis
    Twitter: marksvegplot
    - January 20, 2011 4:15 pm

    I have just discovered (with your help) a new word – “upcycled”. Wonderfully imprecise! But I love it.
    .-= Mark Willis´s last blog ..Crafty! =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 20, 2011 7:59 pm

      Haha! Yeah, I was surprised it had such an enormous Wikipedia entry.

  7. ali - January 20, 2011 4:20 pm

    ps, I submitted my peanut plant to your Find Great Plants :)
    .-= ali´s last blog ..26 Days of Planting- N is for Nut =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 20, 2011 8:00 pm


  8. Anna - January 20, 2011 6:48 pm

    Thanks for plugging the Avian Aqua Miser! I would give you some general advice on chickens, but I don’t know where to start. There are so many fun things to try and experiment with — tractors, pastures, perennial food plants for chickens, etc.

    Here’s one tidbit you may have already picked up from reading our blog — supposedly, an everbearing mulberry will feed a flock of 12 for three months in the summer. Our nine month old tree is too small to tell you whether that’s true or not yet, but it might be worth considering as you start your flock.
    .-= Anna´s last blog ..mark- January thaw =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 20, 2011 8:01 pm

      I don’t seem to have near as much land as you — I’m on a lot in the city. I’d love the mulberry (and my daughter would be right there competing with the chickens for the fruits) but I may not be able to squeeze it in among the other trees we’ve planned for.

      I’ll keep an eye on your blog for more ideas!

  9. Carolyn @ Carolyn's Shade Gardens - January 20, 2011 7:01 pm

    Eliza, I have been trying to convince my friend in suburban Boston who keeps chickens, does extensive seed starting and vegetable growing, has a large ornamental garden, owns a restaurant, is a gourmet cook, rides, has a cow, makes cheese, etc. to start a blog. I am going to send her a link to your post in my continuing campaign.
    .-= Carolyn @ Carolyn’s Shade Gardens´s last blog ..New Native Shade Perennials for 2011 =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 20, 2011 8:02 pm

      Haha! I hope you succeed because that sounds like a fat pile of things I’d like to read about.
      .-= Sustainahillbilly´s last blog ..How to “Chickenfy” Your Life Real Things Thursdays =-.

  10. Curbstone Valley Farm - January 20, 2011 8:54 pm

    Yay! Chickens! You do of course realize that there’s no turning back once you start? We started with two, then six, then…I’ve lost count 😉 Not all roosters are worthless. We adore Frodo. If you find yourself with a rooster though, and intend to keep it…I’d recommend keeping it separated from your girls after about 12-14 weeks of age. You’ll see why in tomorrow’s Fowl Friday post. Only advice I have, for city chicks, is a fortress of a coop for roosting at night. Raccoons are dexterous little bandits, and can do everything short of picking locks!
    .-= Curbstone Valley Farm´s last blog ..Scion Exchange =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 21, 2011 8:26 am

      I’m fine with no turning back! I think I may remain limited in how many I can have since I’m limited on space in the city. Also, there is a noise ordinance so I can’t have roosters.

      I was just thinking last night about what kind of coop will prevent the raccoons and opossums from getting in. I’m fine with both in my yard as long as they don’t mangle my girls.

      Looking forward to your chicken post!

  11. Lisa Miqueli - January 20, 2011 9:06 pm

    Thank you so much for including my clothespin bags! I love the other two items you featured too :) I have a few hens and a rooster and love them dearly…they have great personalities!

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 21, 2011 8:27 am

      You’re welcome, thanks for finding a great use for those poly weave bags!

  12. Diana - January 21, 2011 2:54 am

    The pillow looks really cool. I was inspired by your seed inventory from your previous post that made me think of my my own seed inventory as well. Thanks!
    .-= Diana´s last blog ..Kebun Malay-Kadazan Girls Seed Inventory =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 21, 2011 8:39 am

      I like your seed inventory post! I’m planning to write something for your seed blog carnival next week, too!
      .-= Sustainahillbilly´s last blog ..How to “Chickenfy” Your Life Real Things Thursdays =-.

  13. Esther Montgomery - January 21, 2011 10:38 am

    It’s interesting that you are choosing different breeds. I hope they get on well together.


    P.S. I am forever telling my helpful family not to leave clothes-pegs outdoors or the hinges will rust.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 25, 2011 5:50 pm

      I read that it helps if they are around the same size, so I tried to select breeds that weren’t too variable in weight. Good info on the clothespins — maybe it works better with the all-wooden kind.
      .-= Sustainahillbilly´s last blog ..How to Save Tomato Seeds and Oddball Varieties =-.

  14. Nathan Strange - January 21, 2011 12:30 pm

    I love the Avian Aqua Miser! That thing is fantastic. I did have one meat-bird that never did figure out how to use it, but all the others (15 total) figured out how to use it in under a minute.

    Chickens are amazing. I have six hens that I raised from chicks (they’re now six months old), raised and processed 10 meat chickens (15 more coming in February), and just adopted two hens and a rooster. And I live on a 1/5th acre lot in the city! Fortunately, we are allowed a certain number and I have very cool neighbors.

    Anyway, congrats and good luck! You won’t regret it! Oh, and that pillow is *fabulous*!
    .-= Nathan Strange´s last blog ..Snowed in Tomato pickles Farmcar Oyster mushrooms Sewing =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 25, 2011 5:53 pm

      It’s great to hear another personal review of the Avian Aqua Miser, thanks! I’m hoping I turn out to have awesome chicken neighbors, too. :)

  15. dona
    Twitter: donaLaTerrazza
    - January 21, 2011 3:55 pm

    Are you going to raise some chickens? Will you be able to kill them after?
    .-= dona´s last blog ..Grande Mina! =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 25, 2011 5:59 pm

      They are egg laying chickens so we won’t need to kill them. We’re very excited about it!
      .-= Sustainahillbilly´s last blog ..How to Save Tomato Seeds and Oddball Varieties =-.

  16. Donna - January 21, 2011 8:43 pm

    So happy you are getting chickens, so wish I could. There are chickens at the farm for my chicken loving pleasure, but I want the little slug eaters for my garden. Plus, they are so darn cute to have around.
    .-= Donna´s last blog ..Process of Design – The Base Plan =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 25, 2011 6:00 pm

      Sounds like you are lucky to get to enjoy two growing places (and I understand that chickens don’t restrict themselves to slug munching when they get loose in the garden).

  17. Catherine/ A Gardener in Progress - January 21, 2011 10:21 pm

    How exciting that you will be getting chickens. We thought long and hard about it last year but decided we just don’t have the space. One day though… I’ll look forward to seeing your baby chicks when you get them. I take my girls to the feed store in spring so we can get a cute baby chick fix every year.
    .-= Catherine/ A Gardener in Progress´s last blog ..Numb hands- warm heart =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 25, 2011 6:04 pm

      I saw them in the feed store once and was completely enamored, but I think they didn’t have any of the varieties that I wanted. I am sending positive thoughts to your “someday” chicken space. :)

  18. Casa Mariposa - January 21, 2011 10:25 pm

    We must think alike because I had planned on writing my next post about the best/toughest plants in my garden!! I’ll send it to you this week and then post it the 28th. :o)
    .-= Casa Mariposa´s last blog ..I hope you dont mind- but =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 25, 2011 6:07 pm

      Excellent! I’m glad you’re participating. :)
      .-= Sustainahillbilly´s last blog ..How to Save Tomato Seeds and Oddball Varieties =-.

  19. Elaine - January 22, 2011 2:35 am

    First of all, I have to say that I LOVE pysanky eggs! My mom and I made them when I was a child. My grandmother (my dad’s mom) was from Lithuania and even though pysanky eggs are associated with Ukraine, they make them in Lithuania as well. I have a kit that I bought a few years ago, but never got around to using. I hope to get some made this year. I think it is so wonderful that you chose a chicken just so you can make these eggs! I LOVE the chicken wire lamp and you know I really love Etsy and love that it is a place where artisans can showcase and sell their work. Your How to Find Great Plants series sounds really interesting and I am going to go back and read your previous issues.
    .-= Elaine´s last blog ..French Friday with Dorie- Michel Rostangs Double Chocolate Mousse Cake =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 26, 2011 8:22 am

      Wonderful! I have heard that pysanky are pretty popular in the region around the Ukraine — I’m glad it is a tradition for you as well. Making them is so much fun and the melting beeswax cakes become the most delicious, nostalgic smell.
      .-= Sustainahillbilly´s last blog ..How to Save Tomato Seeds and Oddball Varieties =-.

  20. Alistair - January 23, 2011 10:24 am

    Chickens, takes me back to my childhood when my grandparents kept them. They had a large area of their garden fenced off with chicken wire and a shed where the chickens would shelter and lay eggs. The one large cockerel was mental and would attack when entering the coup. He eventually couldn’t take it any longer and did the dastardly deed. Chicken was a delicacy in the 1950s only seen at the table on Christmas day. My brother and I persuaded grandma to cook the bird, in spite of being told that cockerels were too tough to eat. It was incredibly tough but we dared not complain and forced it down our throats.
    .-= Alistair´s last blog ..Lily Tiger Woods =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 26, 2011 8:31 am

      That’s a funny story. Maybe he would have made a better soup! Fortunately we won’t have any grumpy roosters (or if we do get any, I won’t be allowed to keep them — I’ve been told that sometimes they make mistakes and send you males when you ordered all hens).

      I wish chicken was still a delicacy. There’s sense in not eating meat 3 meals a day, and in appreciating what you eat.

  21. Stephanie Suesan Smith
    Twitter: lambdakennels1
    - January 25, 2011 9:52 am

    I have gotten chickens from Ideal Poultry for years and have never had a problem. Be sure your coop is as tight as it can be, and cover the chicken run with chicken wire or the cloth made for that purpose or the hawks and raccoons will kill the chickens. It takes about 8 or 9 months for the hens to get big enough to lay eggs. Most chicken feed is medicated, so be sure to ask for un-medicated feed. Game bird feed works well, as it has no medication in it. You can buy organic feed, but it is very expensive. Good luck.
    .-= Stephanie Suesan Smith´s last blog ..Earth-Kind Landscape Roses =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 26, 2011 8:36 am

      Thanks for the advice! I admit I am paranoid about our coop being raided by raccoons and opossums. I hope our first time carpentry skills build a strong enough enclosure to keep them out. Very helpful tips about the feed, too!
      .-= Sustainahillbilly´s last blog ..How to Save Tomato Seeds and Oddball Varieties =-.

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