Thursday, June 4, 2009

10 Things I Didn't Know About Chickens

...Until I raised four of my own in our suburban backyard (and this is pre-egglaying, so there is more to learn). In no particular order...

1. They put themselves to bed at night. Come dusk, they hop up into the coop and tuck in. Our four pile up on each other in a corner of the coop, though I keep adjusting their roost to see if I can entice them on to it. We shall see.

2. They are totally fun to just watch. A running chicken is really one of the funniest things ever. And no, I don't have to chase them, they run all the time as they poke around our yard. They sit in funny poses, they take dust baths, they do a little chicken dance to scratch at the dirt. Totally entertaining. Anyone who has chickens knows what I mean, and anyone who doesn't will think I've gone off the deep end. Which maybe I have.

3. They cost almost nothing to keep. I bought a fifty pound bag of chicken feed for less than $25. That will eventually get turned into eggs (the freshest there is!), and is already turning into awesome compost. My cats cannot boast such economy.

4. Along the compost theme, the nitrogen/carbon ratio of chicken poo to wood shavings we get from the coop, which we clean less than once a week, is ideal and breaks down very quickly. And it doesn't stink. I can smell it, but it's not unpleasant. (Poor cats. Can you see a theme here?)

5. They are really soft. Chickens look all tough and nearly reptilian, but their feathers are very soft. So are their legs. Who knew?

6. They make sweet crooning noises when they come over to say hi. Which they do whenever I sit in one place. One of our chickens is more imprinted on us, and therefore more friendly, but they all come over and croon. It's probably a plea for treats, but it's a very sweet sound. I also love the way they look at me: part curiosity, part affection, part wariness. All chicken.

7. They are fascinated with my cats. And not afraid of them at all. In fact, my boy cat is afraid of them. He is twice their size (but they're catching up to him). They are actually fascinated with just about everything, though somewhat easily spooked. They are chickens, after all.

8. I thought all chickens loved earthworms. Not ours. But they can catch a small green spider in the blink of an eye, and apparently they eat mosquitoes, too.

9. They eat dandelion seeds. Since I don't use any weed killer, this is a nice bonus. I have four chickens and a thousand dandelions, so you can guess who is winning, but it's a start. They also love pansies. Sigh.

10. They are really quiet. Apparently when they lay an egg they like to announce it, but for now the loudest squawk is quieter than a crow or a jay. Can't say the same for my neighbors' barky dogs. And no, we do not have a rooster, which you do not need to get eggs, so we do not bother the neighbors.

Can you tell I'm hooked? If you're considering chickens, I have three words of advice: Go for it! You'll love them!


Rebecca said...

Hi,I am considering backyard chickens. Do you still love them? How big is your yard and how messy do you find them? Thanks so much


Clea Danaan said...

Rebecca - I still love them! My yard is fairly large for a suburban yard, about 1000 sq feet maybe? Not sure exactly. We have lots of bushes and shady areas for them to poke around in. The chicken poo bothers my husband more than me, mostly because he worries about guests stepping in it. It's only a problem on the patio around our door and under the outdoor eating area. But it usually cleans up with a broom or a hose with no problem. I'd rather deal with chicken poo than dog poo frankly.

Hope this helps!