Are you tired of chicken pictures yet?
I just can’t resist. What’s cuter than kids and chickens!?
Our flock of eight is 4 months old now, which is hard to believe (the chickens are a week older than our master bedroom addition project). A pullet is a female chicken that’s less than a year old; we call ours “teenagers” right now. They typically start laying at around 6 months. And if you can believe it, we won’t know until close to then for sure that they’re all females, so we use the term “pullet” in faith.
We’ve had some friends say they were certain they had all girls until they suddenly started hearing a distinct “cock-a-doodle-doo,” and had to go searching to find its source.
But we couldn’t resist naming them all, and Amelie continues to pray against roosters.
Everyone in the family got to name one, and Amie got to name three because, after all, she’s their mother. So here’s the line-up and the breeds, we’ve got two of each:
Wyandotte (pronounced Wine-dot). They’re the strikingly pretty black and white chickens Amie is holding in the photo, and are our largest and feistiest birds. They’re a bit aggressive for my taste, but Amie is very devoted, despite receiving several nasty scratches. She named them Eleanor and Scarlett. They’re strong women.
Black Star. These are black-and-copper-colored. Noah named one Goose almost immediately after we got the chicks and it stuck. I called the other Penny.
Minorca. The Minorcas are all-black. Gabe chose the name Flowie (short for “Flower”), and Amie named the other, our smallest bird, Lola. Flowie and Lola are the speediest girls of the bunch.
Maran: These two ladies are black and white speckled. Judah’s is called Bellatrix, which you understand if you know Harry Potter (and I suppose reveals what he really thinks about chickens as pets), and David named his bird Annie, after his two favorite authors, Annie Proulx and Annie Dillard.
We’ll keep you posted about which breeds turn out to be the best layers. In the meantime, we love their funny little personalities, and Amelie is definitely the only only of us who can keep all the names straight.
Thus far, owning chickens has proved to as delightful as it sounds. We read that they’re the easiest pets to care for, and have found it to be true. Amie takes care of all their food and water, and David changes the straw in their coop once a week. We can compost both straw and poop.
Feed for eight chickens costs about $30 a month. I’m not sure how much the straw costs exactly, but it’s quite inexpensive. Don’t ask how much materials and time for the coop cost. Think of it more as a work of art.
Now, like I mentioned, chickens do produce a lot of poop. Though their coop is larger than standard for eight chickens, for awhile we let them free range in our backyard all day. However, we soon became a bit overwhelmed with clean-up (I feel like they deliberately poop on our patio and picnic table), so now we let them out for a couple hours a day. It’s sure hard to resist their longing clucks when we walk outside in the morning. They just love to be free to roam (kind of like our children).
They walk saucily through the garden beds whenever they can get away with it, but haven’t tried to eat anything. Our favorite is when they roost on the playhouse ladder.
We haven’t had trouble with predators yet. Our backyard is securely enclosed, and since we’re in the middle of our neighborhood, rather than bordering the woods, we haven’t seen raccoons. We do have a hawks that like to circle over our yard from time to time, so we keep an eye on them. It’s pretty amazing how chickens instinctively seek cover and are able to blend in with their surroundings, but so many friends have lost chickens to other animals that we don’t want to get lazy.
The larger the chickens grow, the more difficult it is for Gabe and Noah to catch and hold them, which makes me so happy that we got them as newborns. Holding chickens often supposedly makes them more mild-mannered, although this has not exactly proven to be the case with Scarlett and Eleanor. Come to think of it, maybe it has. How much worse would they behave if they were left to their own devices!? So the kids still play with them lots.
And it’s about the most charming thing in the world to be pulling weeds or reading a book in the pavilion and have a little flock of chickens rooting around for bugs in the pine straw. There’s something about having a happy animal nearby that just makes life better.
Yes, four months in, we’re very happy chicken owners.
If you’ve got kids and are thinking of getting chickens, as several of our friends are, I’d definitely wait until the kids are old enough to help with the chores. It will make your life easier, and as with any pets, it’s a great way for them to learn responsibility.
We’ve decided we aren’t indoor pet people, but now I’m wondering . . . should we get a rabbit??