Little Chickens

Ethel resting up for the next adventure in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Ethel resting up for the next adventure (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

I grew up in a rural town in Connecticut where we always had animals.  My parents rescued many dogs, but we also had rabbits and homing pigeons.  I adored these various pets over the years, and appreciated the rewards of caring for them every day.  However, some of my most cherished memories were of our pet chickens.  Surprisingly, these delightful feathered critters possess personalities and charm that far outweigh their minute size.

I remember our Rhode Island Red hens, Henrietta and Saidy, as they came running while we tossed bread from the deck, calling “Here chick, chick, chick”. I remember the house my father built for them, where they slept at night and where my sisters and I collected eggs every day.  And I remember a few of the nasty roosters that used to fly at us when we came near the hens, and the broom beat down that ensued.  With such fun memories, is it any wonder that I couldn’t wait to have some chickens once I had my own home?

Harriet & Blondie hanging out in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Harriet & Blondie hanging out (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

When we moved to Sherman years later, the open property was perfect for our horses and dogs to roam, providing a blank palette for all my future gardens as well.  It was also a great spot for a few chickens, offering lots of open land for the girls to peck and scratch in their never ending quest for bugs and worms. And, if you haven’t watched a flock of chickens as they slowly wander about the lawn looking for treats, and witnessed the way they excitedly call to each other once they find the mother lode (a mound of ants, for example), you haven’t experienced the simplest form of family and community.

Downtown Honeybrown munching on some wintergreen in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Downtown Honeybrown munching on some wintergreen (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Not only is chicken watching a relaxing hobby, but it’s educational as well.  I watched one of my roosters, Ranger, raise a flock of chicks that the mother hen neglected.  Ranger didn’t sit on them, but he showed them how to scratch for insects and protected them when a crow dared to land nearby.  I have enjoyed the companionship of a few charming roosters; Dirty Harry, who sat beside me eating the grubs as I picked them from the soil, and Rooster Cogburn, a wild chicken that lived with my horses and chased strangers that wandered into the field.  I have raised chicks, a favorite was the sassy Downtown Honeybrown, a Buff Cochin who would sashay over to me and give me a friendly peck “hello” whenever I came in to feed her.  And I have watched many hens raise their chicks, laughing as they fluffed up to three times their size to keep danger away.

Don't you hear Lucy's wheels turning? in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Don’t you hear Lucy’s wheels turning? (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Instinctively, chickens stay together when they are outside their pen and open to being preyed upon.  And indeed this is one of the biggest threats for chicken owners, whether your pets are free ranging or kept in a secured area.  Once chickens move in, they become easy targets for flying predators such as hawks and eagles, and they are just as easily snatched up by coyotes, foxes, raccoons and wily weasels.  Even if you are outside when your chickens are roaming, they are not safe.  I’ve had hawks swoop down inches from me in an attempt to grab one of my Bantam hens, and a coyote that brazenly strolled onto the lawn to pick up my rooster by his tail feathers.  I have beaten hawks off my hens with a broom, and removed skunks and possums from my chicken house with a rake.  In all those instances, no animal was harmed.  Instead, it was a night raid from a weasel (who fit through a tiny crevice in the shed) that cleaned out my entire hen house a few years ago.

Ozzie & Harriet perched together in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Ozzie & Harriet perched together (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

So, with reinforced fence and coop, I once again attempt to own chickens.  Personally, I prefer bantams, as I like their gentle nature (even the roosters are docile) and the fact that my plants and trees aren’t uprooted when they dig for insects or create areas for dirt baths. My gardens are a favorite spot for the girls, they love the shade, protection, and abundant insect population. Consider yourself warned, however, as a full sized hen can easily do a lot of damage to a perennial garden, especially if it’s not established.  When raising the larger girls, try to cordon off your gardens, or keep the chickens in fenced areas where you can restrict their potential mayhem.

Ethel & Lucy plotting together in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Ethel & Lucy plotting together (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

The bottom line is I love owning chickens and all that that entails.  I enjoy preparing treats like grapes (finely chopped) and watching them scamper about with beaks full of juicy fruit pieces. Raising chickens is relaxing, a great source of stress relief and entertainment, and eggs provide a healthy dose of protein as well. Chickens are great tick and bug eliminators for the yard, and their waste can be composted for future fertilizing.  Presently, only about 3% of U.S. households own chickens.  Perhaps we can increase that number a bit, while enjoying the many benefits along the way~

**Please check with your town regarding restrictions and limitations before bringing chickens home.

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Comments

  1. Wonderful post. Brings back memories of my childhood on a South Texas farm. All the farm animals were our pets and playmates.

    • Thank you for writing, Jean. Many people don’t realize what wonderful pets chickens can be. I’m so glad to have brought back some fond memories for you!

  2. You have some beautiful little birds, makes me think of trying to get chickens for my farm again….

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