Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Fab Four: Our Backyard Chickens

Exactly (or should that be "eggsactly"? haha!) one year ago, our chickens were born. We picked them up at a local feed store a couple days later, and immediately felt like we must be the strangest people in our neighborhood. I mean, who keeps chickens as pets?

Turns out, a lot of people do. Including at least four other families in our neighborhood that we know of. One woman even has some pretty fancy breeds. Ours are more common. Here they are in pecking order:

Violet, our Barred Plymouth Rock. She's the Alpha Chicken, and likes to remind everyone else - including me - that she is definitely in charge.

Buttercup ...

... and Daphne, our Buff Orpingtons (affectionately nicknamed "the Buffys")

Veronica, our Americauna. She lays green eggs!

We decided to become chicken owners for a number of reasons:

They're useful; we compost their manure to use in the garden, they keep the bug population in check, and of course there's the egg benefit.
My husband built their "aviary" right next to the garden.

You can even tell who laid which egg, each one comes up with a distinctive size and shell color/pattern.

In the summertime we get an egg from each of them about every day and a half: well over a dozen per week.

And they're pretty kid-friendly - we chose breeds based on their temperaments, and we handled them a lot when they were chicks so that they'd be used to people.


Violet, about a week and a half.

The Buffys, perched on my husband's shoulder (Violet still does this!), about two weeks.

Their first foray out into the big wide world of our backyard, about six weeks.

Feeding them and gathering their eggs are easy jobs for our kids to help with, which they love.

Also, my husband loves birds and wanted some as pets, but with two cats in the house, large-ish outdoor birds were really our only choice. Of course, many people keep chickens for food other than just eggs, but we're vegetarians so these girls are strictly pets.

There are drawbacks, of course: we had to build a low fence around our vegetable garden to protect our seeds and seedlings from getting scratched and pecked at, and I'll have to move my hostas out of the back yard because their tasty-looking leaves are getting fringed at the edges. When you let them free-range like we do, it's a bit like having dogs and we have messes to clean up that we didn't have before. But in all, we've really enjoyed having them. Each one has her own distinctive personality, and it's hilarious to watch them run around.

If you want more information on backyard chickens, there are plenty of resources out there. A couple of our favorites are backyardchickens.com, mypetchicken.com, and the book "Chickens in Your Backyard" by Rick and Gail Luttmann. And feel free to comment or email with any questions, too!


  1. I LOVE that you have chickens as pets.

  2. How Fun!! I wish we could, but we are not zoned for it and are 50sq ft. short on the exception clause!
    Have you read the book Coop by Michael Perry? It's fantastic, and having a love of poultry, I think you would really like it!

  3. props to your husband on the coop! it looks fantastic! we just got our first chicks (coop still in progress)!

  4. Thanks! I should have mentioned that the coop in that photo wasn't done yet - it's got a real roof over the run instead of the tarp now, and a few little cosmetic things here and there to finish. But yeah! He'd never really built anything like that before, so it was a real adventure and he did a great job!