Thursday, June 14, 2012

City Chicks

Invariably when we mention to anyone that we have chickens in our back yard, we're asked, "oh, so you live out in the country?" No, people. We're in the burbs and there's nothing weird about having hens up in here.

Both of us had grandparents who raised chickens when we were children. Not all of these were country folk either so we had the opportunity to experience backyard chickens as a normal part of home life. Reflecting on her time spent picking eggs at Chicken Granny's house, MomNextDoor decided last year that the time had come. She drew up a rough sketch of what the perfect hen house for our back yard might look like and the gentlemen of the house set to work. With about $250 and a lot of muscle, their masterpiece was completed in a weekend.

We headed over to North Haven Gardens to pick out a couple of young hens. Farmer Dan from Bageniece Farms was there with a selection of his finest. Talk about a knowledgeable, nice guy - Dan can answer any chicken question you throw at him, he's super supportive if you have any questions once you get home and he didn't even mind that a lady came to spend the day observing and taking notes to learn more about keeping chickens. Keep an eye on NHG calendar - Dan teaches lots of workshops as well.

We wanted hens than would be good layers and that would also be friendly with the kids. At Dan's suggestion, we chose a Barred Rock and a Buff Orpington.

The Buff is named Taco - trust us, you don't really want to know why. Her sister is named Paco. Because it rhymes with Taco and because it's a silly Pixies reference.

Our city ordinances only permit us to have two hens so our house is modest in size. It's designed to have great circulation but also to keep the girls safe and comfy inside through all seasons. We do have a small fenced-in run area for the ladies to stretch their legs but when we're home they have free run of the yard. This means they spend a great portion of each week munching on sunflower seeds the birds spilled from the birdfeeder, scratching up worms from the flowerbed and napping in the cool shade under the boxwoods. Then when the sun begins to set, they simply head inside and hop up on their roost for bedtime.

They started laying when they were close to 6 months old. We generally get about a dozen eggs a week, which is plenty for us. They have the most beautiful golden yolks and mild, buttery flavor. They're actually one of the kids' favorite after school snacks. We have teenagers so they're big enough to fend for themselves. They often come home in the afternoon, let the girls out into the yard, pick the day's eggs and bring them straight inside to wash and cook.

Of course you just can't beat a poached egg for weekend brunch. One our all-time favorites.

Are they expensive to keep? No, they're cheaper than the cats. Are they messy? A little, but less than a dog - especially easy since the poopy junk gets dumped into the compost bin right next to the hen house. Are they loud? No, we have hens only so they're WAY quieter than our neighbor's barking-ass dog. Do they get along with other pets? We wouldn't let them play with dogs if we had any but they hang out with our cats just fine - one of them even accidentally had a sleepover with them in the hen house one night. Are they friendly? Yes, they come running like puppies when we step outside and call them.

Any other questions?

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