It's great news that more and more people are considering having a few backyard chickens! A little flock of fluffy hens is easy to keep and care for, full of personality for relaxing entertainment and getting fresh eggs most days makes them pretty useful too. I love my little flock of Blue Orpington chickens!
My love of pet chickens began a very long time ago... My grandma and grandpa kept chickens long before I was born and some of my earliest memories are of “picking eggs” with them. I can still remember being a bit scared and entirely fascinated going into the barn and hesitantly reaching underneath those warm fluffy hens hoping for an egg-- and hoping not to get pecked by the hen! Chickens were my grandma's favorite animal and my grandpa always grinned and said she could take one from the chicken coop to the table quicker than any woman he knew! While I admit I’m glad not to remember that part about her chickens, I hold tightly to a lot of other great memories of what she taught me about chickens and about life in general that I love to share with others that are willing to ask or listen to my chicken stories!
Soon after we were married with a yard and garden of our own, I could hardly wait to have my own chickens too! My husband, my dad and my father-in-law built the nicest chicken coop (small barn) for them. I happily filled it with a dozen baby chicks: six Barred Rocks and six Rhode Island Reds. He named them Charbroil and BBQ, respectively. The house next door had been a chicken farm back in the day and our neighbor who had grown up there found some old feeders in his barn and generously brought them over for our little brood. My very own first little flock of chickens! They were so much fun and those girls lived for several years much to the amusement of my grandparents and our neighbor who was quick to laugh and ask, “When are you going to put those birds in the freezer?” I’d just smile and tell him my old birds were still happy and laying eggs! The joke in the neighborhood became “Why did the chicken cross the road? To retire at the Weaver’s house!” There were several other chickens in the neighborhood, but they were more traditional in keeping them and I was much too attached to my girls to do that! The last two hens of that first little flock died just before we brought home two baby Nubian Goats (a story for another day!) When we brought home the baby goats, we didn’t have room for more chickens too so we enjoyed the goats for several years, but when they were gone, I was ready for another flock of chickens!
Friends of ours had a large flock full of all varieties of chickens and knowing my love of colorful and unusual breeds, he generously brought us an assortment of beautiful birds! I managed to get quite attached to all of them, especially Silver (in the square picture) who lived to be the oldest and reached the age of at least ten years old (she was full grown when she came and I'm not sure how old she was at the time.) If you look at her picture and see those white feathers under her chin, those were not there when she was young! Who knew that chickens can get white feathers when they get old?! I'm not sure how many years chickens are supposed to live, but I'm pretty sure she had to have had one of the longest (and happiest) of them all! She was so sweet and gentle and is greatly missed.
In the summer of 2019, our little retirement community was down to just five old girls. I've always loved the personalities of our Blue Orpington chickens along with their pretty dark eyes and grey legs and feathers, so this time we ordered all Blue Orpingtons... they can be pretty hard to find but I was so excited to find them at Meyer Hatchery and happily took off work early to drive out and pick up the little fluffy peeps! I don't think I'd ever get tired of hearing that cheerful little sound of baby chickens!
They have grown up now and are just the sweetest and friendliest chickens! Even Levi, our rooster, is easy to get along with and happy to see me! If you live nearby we are happy to offer Blue Orpington Chicken Hatching Eggs for local pickup only.
My husband always enjoys having one or two roosters in our small flock. Since I am the one that takes care of them the majority of the time, I like not having to deal with a cranky, over-protective rooster... Thankfully, the roosters we have had in the past have been quiet and well mannered and were smart enough not to attack the hand that fed them. Truthfully the only rooster that was actually becoming quite a problem ended up a victim of our tragic mink attack several years back. I was grateful he went out heroically protecting his girls, but truth be told, that was one bird I didn’t begrudge the mink!
One of the most common questions people always ask is, "Do you need a rooster for the hens to lay eggs?" And the answer is No. Those hens will lay eggs with or without a rooster around. Now you won’t get those eggs to hatch into baby chicks without him, but I tease my husband that those girls do just fine without a man out there telling them what to do — they come in at dusk and don’t mind sleeping in a bit longer in the morning without someone yelling at them to wake up at the crack of dawn! 😂
I'm quite content not having a rooster around to tell you the truth, but I'll also admit that I’ve enjoyed nearly all of the ones that we’ve had over the years... though not the same way my grandma enjoyed them! We were talking about her chickens a while ago and my mom asked, “Whatever happened to that mean white rooster?” My dad just laughed and said “He was delicious!” She would roll her eyes and laugh at me for keeping my retirement community!
Not surprisingly, there are a lot of other predators living in the woods and fields around us that are happy to see our chicken coop as a restaurant. We've done our best to secure them with a covered outdoor run so they can enjoy being outdoors without fear of the hawks since we have several large red-tail hawks as well as several other predatory birds flying over on a daily basis. We do let the chickens out to forage in the evenings, especially in the summer months, but have found even when I am working nearby in the garden that the hawks can still be pretty persistent checking things out. To prevent raccoons, skunks, mink and other digging predators, our chicken coop foundation has been reinforced with a combination of wire and concrete to prevent anything from digging underneath to get inside while still having a dirt floor inside to make cleaning them so much easier. We also closed in the eaves of the roof with wire to prevent predators from climbing in (another lesson learned the hard way) and while it does unfortunately give field mice a cozy place to nest, it does keep the chickens safe at night. During the day we open the little door to the outdoor run and the front door of the coop to give them a nice breeze and some sunshine, and as long as the chicken coop is closed up at night, it is safe and secure!
So I guess to make a long story shorter, if you're thinking about adding a few chickens to your family, I definitely think you should! A little planning and preparation for your coop design are well invested to prevent tragedies from predators, but all in all they are so enjoyable to watch and require a minimal amount of care compared to most pets. Plus you get some fresh eggs too!