Did ya miss me? Last week I had to abandon my blog, because I was overwhelmed with the logistics of shipping out an order of over 500 pounds of notebooks and jotters! I’ll share more details about that later this fall. Now I’m back to blogging with a backyard chicken update.
My parents and I finished up the coop back in June, and I think it coordinates with the house perfectly. Here you can see the coop door peeking through the carport. I planted a climbing hydrangea to the right of the door. Hopefully in a few years it will fill out nicely!
We built an open-air coop and run combo, because it doesn’t get very cold here in the winter, but it is hot and humid in the summer. My mom took photos while we built the coop, and my dad wrote a detailed description of how we built it here on his website. Check it out if you’re thinking of building one, or if you want to see more detailed photos of my coop.
I’ve been a chicken keeper for almost three months now, and so far caring for them has been enjoyable and easy. I’ll have to post an update after a year or so to let you know if my opinion has changed at all.
Here are Margo, Roberta, and Millie at 2 weeks old when I first took them out to see their coop. They were terrified of the ground and wouldn’t get off my hand. The girls lived in our bathtub under a heat lamp until they were about 7 weeks old. At that point they had most of their feathers, so they could stay warm enough outside on their own. Sometimes we still miss our bathroom entertainment.
It’s crazy how much the chicks changed in just a few months. Here’s Margo at 2 weeks old—barely a handful.
Now at almost 3 months old she’s two handfuls!
I sing a little chicken song I made up (to the tune of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”) when I go outside, and the chickens all run to the coop door to see me. I’m amazed by each bird’s distinct personality. They even have different food preferences.
Roberta (a Barnevelder) is the most independent of my three hens. She’d rather be finding bugs than hanging around to see what the human is up to, but if I bring fruit she’ll be my best friend. She’s a great flier compared to the other two. The first few weeks living in the coop she was afraid of the dark, and if I went out to there at dusk she would fly up onto my shoulder, burrow into my hair, and try to sleep there for the night. Getting a sleeping chicken untangled from your hair is just as hard as you’d think!
Margo (a Speckled Sussex) would follow me around the yard like a dog if I’d let her. She’s my right hand bird, and she has been the most inquisitive since she hatched. She’s always hungry, so to her I’m just a big treat dispenser, but I’ll take it. She has terrible aim with her pecking, so I really have to watch myself when I hand her something delicious to munch. Once she gets a beakful of my skin in her mouth, she’ll pull on it for a while before figuring out she missed the worm. Ouch.
I can always find Margo, because her favorite spot to stand is right on top of my foot. You know, just so she doesn’t miss out on any tasty morsels. If I don’t offer her anything edible after a while, she will happily attempt to eat my pants, shirt, or whatever else she can reach. It’s unsettling when you squat down to reach something and feel a pointy chicken beak exploring your butt crack!
Millie (a Blue Orpington) loves digging holes. Sometimes she digs them so deep that I can’t even see her, I can only see dirt shooting through the air as she kicks it up behind her. Millie has the most luxurious, fluffy feathers. She feels (and looks) like a cloud. She was a snuggler when the girls were living inside. Once I took the lid off the brooder and asked, “Who wants to cuddle me?” Millie clumsily flew out, landed in my lap, puffed up her feathers, and went to sleep. Now she’s less interested in being loved on, but she’s the first to jump up onto my knee if I sit down with a jar of mealworms.
Watching the chickens interact is hilarious. I just have to throw a big juicy slug to them, and they will run around for an hour squawking and stealing it from one another. Even in the quieter moments it’s obvious how much they enjoy each other’s company. I definitely wouldn’t call them intelligent, but there’s a lot more going on in those little bird brains than I thought there would be.
After getting to know these birds I can hardly bring myself to eat chicken anymore. I may give it up entirely. Eggs are another story! I can’t wait to compare store-bought eggs to freshly-laid-in-my-backyard eggs. My chickens should be old enough lay in another 3 months or so, but they may not start until spring. Even if they never lay a single egg I’ll be happy. They’ve been great pets.