Friday, April 25, 2014

Penny and her hens

I've mentioned it a few times but I haven't given a complete update about our other new additions to the family - chickens!!

It's been a goal of mine for the last couple years to start keeping chickens. Why? Eggs are the obvious answer. We love our eggs in this family; during pregnancy and breastfeeding I can easily go through a dozen per week by myself. Add in Penny, who shares a love of scrambled eggs or omelletes with me, and then Adam typically gets an egg in his lunch most days and joins in on the egg fun on the weekends too. Not to mention that all that extra protein wouldn't hurt to help Penny grow some hair... I'll have to put together an awesome collage of her hair over the last 2 years.

However, I'm not crazy enough to get baby chicks when I have a newborn to care for too. After a few weeks of patiently searching craigslist I found someone looking to sell his 5 hens that were about a year old. It was the perfect age because they were already laying eggs and I didn't have to take special care of them like you do for babies. It was pretty much lock-n-key; pick up chickens, put them in the pen, feed them - get eggs. In fact I got my first egg within 2 hours of bringing them home and the guy said that they hadn't laid all their new home must have been very agreeable to them!

But I was pleasantly surprised with Penny's reaction to the chickens. I was expecting her to either be ambivalent or scared of them. Imagine my surprise when I see her run up to the coop with excitement and just gazing in awe of these truly weird and funny creatures. I expected ornery, crabby birds who took a while to warm up and begrudgingly gave me eggs. I was going to be ok with it, because really what I wanted was eggs. Of course we always planned on being responsible chicken owners and care for them, but I didn't anticipate enjoying them on a personal level.

Buff Orpington (yellow) // 2 Black Stars (black) // 2 Rhode Island Reds (brown)
All of these ladies are docile and easy going, with the exception of one. Even after almost 3 months of ownership we have only named one of them...and that's because she's a different color from the rest ;) Because of her different color Penny deemed the blonde Buff Orpington as the "baby," and thus the name stuck. But I quickly learned that Baby is anything but the wee one in the flock - she is very clearly The Queen, the ruler of the roost. She's the least submissive and the hardest to catch. I've only been able to catch her a handful of times to pet her, which is sad because Baby is the one that Penny wants to pet the most! But we're able to compromise and I taught Penny that the black ones are easier to pet, so she runs after them saying "Peps! {pets} Black!"

On average we get 4-5 eggs per day, which has been awesome! I can go through them almost as fast as the girls can lay. I've also started an "egg-stra" notice list for when I have more eggs than I can handle to either give away or sell. 

Some curious chickens checking out Penny's finger painting
I'm surprised at how easy keeping chickens can be but it's also not always smooth sailing. Within the first month one of the girls was cracking the eggs and eating them (a sign of calcium deficiency, which I fixed quickly!), then a couple "rubber eggs" (which were just plain weird!) and finally Baby went through a 4 day bought of broodiness. A broody hen is only good when you are trying to hatch babies, which I am not. Broodiness means that a hen is in the mode where she sits on her eggs and waits for them to hatch (which is about 21 days). Because I don't have a rooster, none of those eggs were fertilized and never going to hatch. A broody hen doesn't lay eggs when she's trying to hatch and they also eat and drink less. So it was a little bit of a process to "break" her of her broody spell and get her back out with her sisters. 

Overall it's been a fun little project to expose Penny to and I daresay I'm 'egg-cited' to introduce the care of the chickens as age appropriate chores as she and Ruby grow up. For now she just gets to run around in the yard and play with them, or feed them from her hand. The next step would be collecting the eggs.

Do you keep backyard chickens? What breed are your ladies?  How have your children reacted to them?


  1. Aren't chickens the coolest? We have 6 hens. I also have 5 ducks for eggs (I'm allergic to chicken eggs). They have been pretty interesting. Not as friendly as the chickens.

  2. Fun! My sister has 4 chickens (in the city). It's a smaller breed, I can't remember the name. She sells any extra eggs to friends and neighbors. Raising chickens would be a fun job for kids when they're old enough.

  3. So cute how they play with them. I raised chickens when I was younger and got a eye disease Histoplasmosis. It is mostly a North Eastern state disease but it is something to think about being around them.



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