I want to finally introduce my peeps! We’re still not ready for another dog, and Mr. SewOldSchool and I wanted a pet (or five!) for the kids. I researched frogs, rats (I’m sorry, I just can’t!), cats (I’m super allergic!), and fish. None of those options seemed the perfect fit for our family.
After driving around our neighborhood and seeing coops popping up here and there, I researched chickens. There had to be some kind of draw.
Not being a “bird person,” in particular, I continued to do my research.
I’ve had dogs all my life. Dogs are cute and have personalities. But they don’t lay eggs, and they don’t eat bugs, and they don’t provide wonderful fertilizer — so wonderful, in fact, that my compost pile is currently growing HUGE squash plants in FULL SHADE?! — like chickens do.
But let me back up. Those last statements were made three months into my maiden voyage of chicken-keeping.
We’ve got to go back to the beginning, to the days when I convinced Matt that we should go for it.
First things first. You can’t keep chickens without a coop.
So Matt constructed this beautiful coop for our new ladies; using a charming, old hand-me-down window and door from our gracious neighbor:
And another view so you can see the clean-out door:
And one more view, showing the man door to the run:
What a wonderful view from the kitchen window!
Truth be told, like many new chicken-keepers, the coop wasn’t ready when I just had. to. have. the. chicks! LOL
Since chickens are flock-oriented, we decided that five would be a nice number. We ended up ordering two Light Brahmas, one Black Jersey Giant, and two Easter Eggers. (The Brahmas and Giants, based on my research, are meant to be super-friendly – which has proven to be true – and the Easter Eggers will lay blue or green eggs, which is a nice addition to the home-grown egg basket.)
So while the kids and I cuddled our new babies, poor Matt was outside building. (I did go out and bring him water and snacks every now and then; don’t worry!)
And here’s how they looked when we first got them, back in April:
And some close-ups as they got a little older:
Aren’t they just the cutest little things?! I can see now how A.S. and A.W. spent so many hours every day playing with them. Of course, A.S. named hers Sleeping (Beauty), Anna, and (Briar) Rose. A.W. swore that his were tough-guy roosters (thank goodness he was wrong and they are all hens!) and named them accordingly — Batman and Spiderman. (Yeah, try keeping your pronouns in check when you’re talking about a hen named Batman.)
The beginning was a little crazy. We had five little tiny babies staying in a kiddie pool in A.S.’s room. (This was okay as she’s been sleeping in her little bro’s dinosaur bed that Matt and I made earlier this year.)
Remember this one?
Anyway, all was well until they started growing and flying and jumping all over her room! And, yes, we did have wire across the top so they didn’t jump out, but we would let them out when we were in the room with them so they could stretch their wings.
I knew as a parent how crazy it was to have them loose in the house, but I couldn’t help myself from thinking how awesome it was for the kids to have birds flying and roosting on furniture all over in the bedroom. Oh, my stars, the laughter this would generate out of those two little bodies! Now that’s a memory they will probably never forget — and neither will I now that I’m writing it down! Ha!
Fast forward to the time that our chicks became pullets (in chicken talk, this is kind of like teenage years). They were so ready to be put out in the coop. The weather was warm, and they were flying – and pooping – all over my daughter’s room.
The first night they were out in the coop, I was amazed how sad I was to not hear their chirping in the morning when I woke up. I really missed them the first couple nights.
But they needed to become chickens. And chickens live outside and eat grass and bugs and peck at everything under the sun.
I had done way too much research on predators and decided that they would be confined birds (please keep reading, as I have smartened up and changed my ways!) so that I could keep them as safe as possible.
I realize what I’m about to confess might — no, it probably most definitely will — put me in the category of the Crazy Poultry Ladies Club, but I saw as they grew how each of our hens had her own personality and likes and dislikes. They are far more than working animals for us (besides, they don’t even lay eggs yet!). They are companions. They are outdoor entertainment. They are actually (some of them) very sweet.
Around the time that I started realizing that I really loved having them around, I saw a movie that got me in gear.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Toddler A.W. picked out this movie at the library. He just had to have it. Listen, I know I’m probably going to sound really corny admitting that this animated movie had me analyzing the way I care for my animals and how they feel, but it really did.
After seeing the joy and feeling all of the emotions of all of the characters in that little kids’ cartoon movie, I made a choice much different than my original choice.
I’d rather have our girls have a wonderful life doing what they want to do, even if it puts them at risk for losing their lives to a hawk, a raccoon, a fox, a dog, and/or any other predator we have in our area.
They have been free-ranging (with supervision) every single day since I’ve seen that movie. I’ve sort-of, kind-of trained them to go from their coop to the garden across the yard where they have lots of hiding spots, shade, and veggies to eat.
When I weed the garden, they keep me company. When the kids eat their snacks outside, the hens with the bad manners (Anna, I wish you’d stop it already!) jump up and try to take a peck out of their crackers or sandwiches. When Matt rides bikes with the kids while I make dinner, I watch out the window as they run across the driveway to scurry out of the way. When I find the nuisance Japanese Beetles on my plants, I pick up Anna or Batman and use them like vacuums for non-chemical pest control. When I lock them in the coop at night, I always say “Goodnight, Girls!” And you know what? They always chirp back!
Just look at these growing-up faces! I do believe we have the best flock around!
We’re so happy to have them, and we hope they’re just as happy to have us.
Lastly, as a completely unrelated side note, since I was so pout-y about not getting any sewing time lately…
I’ve finally completed a sewing project! And guess who it’s for? Yes! Me!
Check out my self-drafted belly dancing pants that my handsome Singer 15 helped me craft with fabric from my scrap bin: