It’s been hard to sit and write lately because there are so many pressing things going on. I work very full days, I volunteer once or twice a month, I grow and cook food, and I have a house and yard to keep up by myself.
But as busy as my outside-of-work commitments make me, I really love them. One “hobby” that I’ve really missed over the past several months is keeping chickens. Last fall I decided to take a break from having a home flock. It was nice having time to reassess my coop and run set up, and to make some much-needed changes to it. It was also a good winter to take a break from tending a flock; I don’t know how I would have been able to tend to the hens in their Eglu coops when the blizzard rolled through this year. But I missed the amusing antics of chickens in the yard, not to mention the high quality eggs.
Here I’ll confess something that may shock the more frugal folks who occasionally read this blog: when I buy eggs, I typically pay nearly $7 a dozen. Really. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to get some eggs for less than that at the farmers market, but I haven’t been making it to the markets very often this year due to my other commitments (work, volunteering, etc.). So when I have to buy eggs at a store, I buy them at Whole Foods where I can get a brand called Vital Farms. These are the closest thing to backyard eggs I’ve found at a major grocery store and I will gladly pay the extra money for many reasons.
I first became interested in keeping hens because of their usefulness to my first big hobby: gardening. They eat weeds and bugs, and they produce excellent fertilizer for the garden in return. Oh, and they give you tasty eggs. Win/win/win! But to me there are also ethical reasons for not buying standard store eggs. The hens that lay those cheap eggs are treated horribly, and the eggs themselves are bland and tasteless. Once I got my first hens, I also found out how fun they are. They have distinct personalities and are amusing and calming to watch.
So that’s what I was doing tonight after I stopped working, and just before the sun set: relaxing by watching my new flock of little hens. I opened up their coop door to let them roam the big yard and watched them busily scratch, peck, stretch their wings, and explore, all while making soothing peeps and clucks.
Below are the oldest of the little hens.
Honey is about five weeks old and is my favorite. She was an “impulse buy” because I hadn’t planned on getting six chickens, but she was cute and lonely sitting by herself at the store. She was obviously hand raised as a pet because she likes to sit on my arm and be held. Technically I didn’t buy her, and the store owner gave her to me since she knew I’d provide Honey a good home. But she still was a big impulse acquisition and so far I’m glad I gave in.
Emma is in the foreground and Jane is in the background. Both are a breed originally from England called Speckled Sussex, so they’re named after Jane Austen characters. They’re about eight weeks old now. Emma is the bossiest and I think she has established herself as top of the pecking order for now. She isn’t really red; that’s just the way the light was striking her feathers at the time.
Here’s another photo of Jane. It’s very hard to take photos of chickens since they are almost constantly moving. This was a rare time when she was standing still for a few seconds.
In addition to these lovely young hens, I have three more chicks that are about one week old living in a brooder set up in my basement. No photos of them yet, but I’m sure to get some soon.
For now the pullets are outside in my one remaining Eglu coop, which is plenty large enough for such small chickens. By winter I’ll have everyone snug in the new coop, which is nearly ready for them. All that remains to do is installing the raccoon-proof locks (slide bolts with padlocks! Yes, those ‘coons are smart little beasts!)