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How to Miss 21 Chickens (Even if They Were Living in Your Kitchen)

It’s chicken-mania at Appalachian Feet lately. We started with 27 chickens in early May with the goal of keeping 6 for our personal backyard flock. Yesterday, we said goodbye to 21 of them (they are destined for good, free-range farm homes with people we know).

We’re glad to know these laying hens will be treated well, but that doesn’t make us miss them any less. Considering I’ve been herding nearly 30 chickens out of the kitchen every morning and back into it at night (yes, that does smell as bad as you think it does) you’d think I’d just feel relieved.

Photo Caption: All 27 chickens have been living indoors at night, in the "dining room" extension of the kitchen. Not an ideal situation, but better than having them be eaten by the silver fox we saw in the yard last week.

Okay, I am relieved. I will not miss escapees pooping on the floor or the incredible racket when they wake up in the morning and think I haven’t let them outside as early as I ought. Talk about mayhem!

Photo Caption: Two "Easter Eggers" that lay blue, green, or pink eggs and two Cuckoo Marans that lay dark brown eggs.

I will however, miss our morning routine. When I took the bird netting off the top of the pen they would promptly hop out and march through the back door like a group of kids exiting the school bus. Also charming (before we realized a bird netting lid was a necessity) was opening the fridge and having a chicken fly clear across the kitchen so that it could perch on our arm. (Yeah, we kept that chicken).

Photo Caption: The chickens feel comfortable eating all the strawberry fruits, the leaves of the plants, and digging up the protective mulch. They need some gardening classes...

I won’t miss how quickly they discovered the joys of decimating the garden. In only 2 days they managed to make my thriving herb and edible flower beds look like they had mange. More incentive to finish all our fencing…

Photo Caption: They only became brave enough to visit the main garden yesterday (usually they stick near the underside of the deck).

They fanned out into the vegetable garden yesterday and had a blast digging up the raised beds and putting beak-shaped dents in the foliage. They’re like tiny plant piranhas.

Photo Caption: This lavender Easter Egger chick is one of the friendliest. She frequently jumped into our laps and relished being petted.

I can’t be mad. Just look at that face! She thinks I planted the garden just for her. It’s my fault we’ve taken weeks longer than we anticipated getting our coop and fencing ready (isn’t that how it always works)?

Photo Caption: I had never heard of lavender-hued chickens until three of them showed up in our batch of Easter Eggers. That's the bottom half of our nearly finished coop in the background.

Here she is again. We kept 2 of the 3 “lavender” colored chickens (who were equally as friendly). I guess this one was more of an underdog because of her comical charcoal face. Also, in her first couple weeks of life she confused human hand veins with potential worms and quickly earned the nickname of “mean chicken.” She grew out of the hand-pecking habit and proved herself to be extremely sociable.

Photo Caption: My daughter is the chicken Pied Piper.

But really, all of our chickens are so well socialized that our bar of how sweet they are depends on how often they jump in our lap. Here they are following my daughter around the yard. (To her right is the rock-walled herb beds that they enjoyed eating for lunch).

Photo Caption: This friendly little Cuckoo Maran had more white coloring than the others.

The Cuckoo Marans gained the reputation of being the least friendly because they squawked loudly whenever they were picked up. There were a couple, like the small one pictured above (and the one we kept) that didn’t mind being held. It’s not as big a deal to me as it is to my daughter, although I admit it’s much easier to catch a chicken that doesn’t dread being grabbed.

Photo Caption: We were worried about hawks so I took to propping unused window screens on top of sawhorses and leaving large objects scattered around open areas the chickens liked to frequent.

Our pullets seemed a little careless about checking for predators (though they’ll be safe from the common cold since they scatter for cover every time someone sneezes). I’m not sure if that’s a product of how tame they are, but we tried to discourage hawks by making our yard look like a redneck paradise. I guess I need to take photos and submit it to The Yard Art Game. Most likely a very hungry hawk is going to attempt a nosedive no matter what debris is in the way — but I hoped they’d prefer the squirrels in the open field next door.

Photo Caption: My friend's son is set on keeping this Golden Polish if it turns out to be a hen.

The Golden Polish freebie that I wrote about in a previous post alleviated my fears that our chickens would eat the bees. I watched as it walked up to the hive and taste tested a couple… and then cartoonishly ran around the yard trying to rid itself of irritated guards. After that, the hive gained some respect and a wide berth.

Photo Caption: In spite of how conspicuous the Golden Polish chicken usually is, this picture is almost like an "I Spy" image.

No worries, it soon learned that earwigs and roly polies were much easier pickings from the compost pile. I use the word “pile” loosely after the chickens foraged in it yesterday. We’re going to have to pitchfork it all back into place.

Speaking of the favorite foods of chickens… can someone tell me why I can give them an all-you-can-eat buffet of grain in their chicken feeder, but if it happens to be in the palm of my hand it is a delicacy worth fighting over?

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We sprinkled oatmeal on the ground when it was time to gather them up into pet carriers and sent them on their way to Pecandale Farmstead. I hear that their backseat transport involved some extra special aromas since rolling down the window required getting soaked with rain. However, they happily settled in to their new home.

Our permanent flock of 6 chickens have been lazy all day. It could be the heat, but maybe they are missing their friends as much as we are.

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12 comments to How to Miss 21 Chickens (Even if They Were Living in Your Kitchen)

  • We had similar chicken-mania here last spring. It’s amazing how much room they take up as they grow. I agree, gardening with chickens is challenging…they don’t quite have the same taste for garden design that we do ;) I have read of cases where some chickens will become quite smart, and realizing that drones can’t sting, they’ll only eat the drones, and leave the worker bees alone! Glad yours seems to have developed a healthy respect for the hive though.
    Curbstone Valley Farm´s last blog post ..Harvesting Garlic

  • I never realized chickens pecked at the plants. I thought they went around eating slugs. Once I started reading blogs with chickens as topics, I learned chickens are not so much a garden’s best friend. I still like them and wish I had a couple, but they would be reported in the city and removed. My one neighbor had a pig and that is what happened to his pet.
    Donna´s last blog post ..Bearded- The NFG Magazine Pgs 3 to 15

  • Kathleen Perr

    I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your “chicken tales.” You bring back fond memories. When I was ten I got six chicken eggs, converted an old bird cage into an incubator using aluminum foil, a light bulb and a thermometer. Three of the six hatched and they were my babies. They imprinted on me and every night tried to nest on my shoulders under my long hair. Sadly, I couldn’t keep them, but they were lucky chickens. They became permanent residents of the Fort Sam Houston Army base Quadrangle in San Antonio, Tx. The enclosure had peacocks, deer and other assorted not-too-wild-life. So that’s my “chicken tale.”

  • I love your chickens!! The image of having chickens in my kitchen, along with my five dumb dogs, is pretty funny. I’ve never heard of a chicken that would jump in to a lap! your lavender chicken is quite a cutie. :)

  • Mark Willis
    Twitter: marksvegplot

    Chicken-keeping obviously has its ups and downs! You write about the situation very calmly (and amusingly). You must be a really mellow person to cope with the situation so well.
    Mark Willis´s last blog post ..Peas in our time

  • “It’s my fault we’ve taken weeks longer than we anticipated getting our coop and fencing ready (isn’t that how it always works)?”

    Yes, that’s precisely how it always works. :-) Our plans to have four new pastures built by the end of April changed to three by the end of May….

    “Speaking of the favorite foods of chickens… can someone tell me why I can give them an all-you-can-eat buffet of grain in their chicken feeder, but if it happens to be in the palm of my hand it is a delicacy worth fighting over?”

    Probably the same reason our dog will eat okra tops, watermelon rinds, and even twigs tossed into her mouth, while on her own she turns up her nose at all but plucking the most ripe strawberries and raspberries from the garden. :-)

    I love this post and photos, by the way!
    Anna´s last blog post ..Anna- Summer pruning in Mirkwood

  • I am planning to keep some chickens in the future… your experience will be a good reference for me when I really get to start doing it…
    Lrong´s last blog post ..Nanking cherry- onions- geranium- loquats for Theanne

  • Chicks have a way of moving right in, huh? The lavender chick is so unusual and I hope you keep sharing photos as she grows! Right now, we have 27 chicks in our basement (a new layer flock), 31 broilers in a tractor cage, 5 laying hens in the coop and run, plus one “free” chick that came with our broilers. I didn’t know what our “free” chick was until seeing your photos. Now I know it’s a Cuckoo Maran. It’s 4 weeks old and quite self-assured. We had removed it from the broilers because she was pecking at them and added a small cage next to our older layers. She wanted no part of isolation and somehow got out of her cage and in with our older laying hens. Yesterday, they all stayed apprehensive of each other. Today, they’re a flock of 6. lol

    Oh, this one also squawks like crazy when held, too. And those eyes seem so wild……I hope she’s not gonna be psychotic!

    Our last “free” chick was a Golden Polish and you can see a pic and read about it here: http://woodridge.wordpress.com/2009/07/24/in-the-chicken-yard/

    Have fun with your flock!!
    LynnS´s last blog post ..Garlic Scape Jelly

  • ali

    Oh how wonderful – they are just gorgeous, I’ve no doubt that you will indeed miss them. I love the polish one, what a fabulous looking chicken!
    ali´s last blog post ..A Tuberous Obsession

  • Mac_fromAustralia

    What a gorgeous post. I love the video. One of my earliest memories is of the batch of chicks my parents’ hens had when I was a very small girl, running around in the bottom half of our garden amongst the fruit trees. They don’t have suburban blocks that size here any more :-(

  • [...] post (how to look at animals on the internet?) should definitely include some baby chicks (which we raised in our kitchen… [...]

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