Friday, September 15, 2006

A short chicken and Coop story

Don't you imagine it must be nice to keep a few chickens in your back yard? Crowing at dawn and to announce visitors? I know having chickens is no big deal for some of you living in more rural areas, but for most people living in my part of NJ, it's something of a novelty nowadays. Growing up I didn't know anyone who had chickens and I still don't have any neighbors with a coop in the yard. The closest thing to outdoor farm animals in my area are hutch bunnies. ;-(

So when my oldest brother Kevin moved to the country (or what passes for *country* in these parts) and joked about it, we got him a baker's dozen of baby chicks for Easter one year. I don't think he's forgiven me yet.

Giving animals as gifts is never a good idea. Giving chickens is really, really silly.

It's been seven or eight years since that first batch of chickens and Kevin and his wife have recently built a fancy new coop to house their growing population, so I guess they must have found something to enjoy about them. There have been quite a few problems with predators though, as those of you with chickens know is inevitable. There have been raccoon issues and opossum problems, and of course there have been hawks who visit the flock.

Kevin sent me an email a few weeks ago with pics of this photogenic hawk, wanting to know what type it was. He had some great shots of it to help with ID, but this one was my favorite.

I'm not certain how many chickens have been lost through the years to hawk attacks, but from the stories he tells the problem is more often a raccoon or a neighbor's dog. I was really surprised to hear that dogs would be a problem to chickens, but it happened. A few winters ago before my brother rebuilt the chicken coop he had hawks that were getting inside the coop to attack the chickens - imagine that! I guess late winter is a lean time for predators and they are desperate for food.

The original chickens we gave them were Bantams, who make little tiny eggs, but I'm not sure what variety he has now. He collects the eggs and lately has been using them to make a Pennsylvania Dutch Specialty - pickled beet eggs - yum! A recipe is available here. I love to visit when there are baby chicks, who will follow you around peeping. My brother lets them *forage* for bugs in his vegetable garden and feeds them raspberries from his bushes. He also turns over logs and rocks to help them find crickets to eat, but that's another story! He used to have one really nasty little rooster that liked to attack people, so you had to carry a stick out in the garden, just in case he cornered you. I think they must be begging for breakfast in this last pic, just outside the back steps. Wouldn't that be a nice sight first thing in the morning?


Susan Gets Native said...

I have wanted chickens for ages, and Geoff actually didn't choke, all the times I have brought it up. I would be worried sick about them, though, with all the hot raptor action we have around here.

Michelle said...

I love that last picture of them lined up at the steps :)

The pre-school Morgan went to was a mini farm and they had chickens all over. I loved to visit. Don't know about the crowing in the morning though.....

Dave said...

Too many owls in our neighborhood for chickens, but I would love to have some to raise.

silverlight said...

Oh, yes, dogs do go after chickens. And once they start. They very well cannot be broken. of the habit. Many people have had to kill the dog to save the chickens.
Maybe make the chicken yard in such a way so as to put chicen wire over. And put board skirting around the outside.
(I grew up in a rural area. Almost everyone had chickens for meat and eggs.) My older brother had a few chickens. But, not to worry. They died of old age and were decently buried.

NatureWoman said...

I love your chicken pictures! My Mom has talked about getting chickens so many times. I should bring it up to her again, hmmmm.

Sandy said...

I grew up with bantam chicken in the yard, although my dad called them banty chickens, for some reason.
Your chicken shot is great!
Hawks must have been a problem in rural Oklahoma, but those long black chicken snakes are what I was remember most.

madcap said...

Oh, I loooong for chickens in my backyard! Next year, for sure!

I love that last photo.

Hasty Brook said...

I clicked on the top chicken picture to enlarge it- the chicken looks like it's going to attack right out of the screen!

bunnygirl said...

My grandfather had chickens, and there were always fresh eggs for breakfast! Ever since Dad inherited his parents' old property a few years ago, I've pestered him to fix up the hen house and re-stock it. But he's not interested and he always has an excuse.

If I ever get the property, though, I'm gonna have me some chickens! :-)

Duane Keys said...

We moved out to the country (here in the Ozarks) recently I'm learning all about chickens. I've got some experience now though having built a rather nice chicken coop, imho.

Susan said...

I had always wanted chickens! But those pesky homeowner association rules (and my husband) kept me from going through with it. Last year I was wandering through Barnes & Noble and came across this book:
Hen and the Art of Chicken Maintenance: Reflections on Raising Chickens by Martin Gurdon
The author, just like me, had always wanted a few chickens & the book told of his chicken-raising adventures. It was a very funny book, but by the time I was done reading it, I decided that I would hold off on the chicken-thing for now and stick with finches. Someday!

LauraHinNJ said...

Susan: You'd worry like with any pet. And my brother would tell you they are a lot of work.

Michelle: I like that pic too - looks very homey doesn't it? I think you must get used to the crowing until it's just background noise. My niece in the earlier pic went to a *farm camp* this summer - sounded like a lot of fun - and much more interesting than soccer camp.

Dave: From what my brother says it's near impossible to protect them from hawks and owls. I'd love to hear what other people do.

Silverlight: My brother has tried a few different things to keep predators out - seems really hard to do if something is hungry enough. And I think I'd rather eat a chicken that was raised on bugs and berries than one that grew up in a tiny cage in some factory. Couldn't see eating any of my brothers chickens, nor could he, although he does like to name them after chicken dishes.

Naturewoman: My brother took these pics - I had a hard time deciding which to post.

Sandy: We call them banties too. I wonder if my brother has had a problem with snakes? Goodness, is there anything that doesn't try to eat chickens?

Madcap: I knew you'd say that! They'll be just the right finishing touch at your new place.

Lynne: Yep - that pic is fun and it's not the vicious attack rooster that I mentioned!

Bunnygirl: Fresh eggs are nice - but the eggs from these are so tiny! Your dad must not want all the work and worry - too bad - I think they must be fun to have around.

Duane: Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Would love to see pics of your coop!

Susan: I'm surprised by the number of chicken books out there! I'll look for the one you mentioned - Kevin might enjoy it! I'd guess neighbors could object to chickens in your yard - luckily for my brother he was there before all the city people moved in around him.