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2013 June 26
by Rachel Turiel

There comes a day when your baby chickens are no longer bitty sleepy things scuttling around your house and tiring themselves out with their very aliveness. Nor are they the gawky tweens with patchy-feathered necks loitering nervously at the compost pile. No, suddenly they are the vaguely dinosaur-ish thugs that need chasing out of the vegetable beds and nightly saving from skunks and raccoons.

I love raising chickens. I love how they have individual personalities (debatable actually, but Col reports that Shadow likes when he wears his blue sweatshirt). And I like their comical “henish group-think,” like how when one hen nabs a grasshopper, the six others race around vaguely chasing her until she gulps its wiggling body; or how all that’s needed to start a party is one watermelon rind. I like that they tolerate Col and Rose toting them around the yard while keeping a longing eye on their grazing sisters. I love that they fit into our small homestead. I absolutely love the eggs, but also: the manure, leaf-shredding and insect-eating. I love that they add a richness of life to our lives.

A gallery of chickens:

Obligatory inter-species shot.

hh - spring14

A horse and her rider, obviously.

A family skype session.

Agility training.

hh - spring18

Six swaddled chickens in the top bunk. 


Attachment parenting is so tiring.

garden tips3

 Homeschooling with a friend.


Just plain odd.

hh - spring8

 Chicken zipline. Dear me.

hh - spring4

Best t-shirt EVER. Get 10% off yours (and all other orders) here.

A boy and his buddy. This shirt also 10% off at Handsome in Pink!

Tandem riding.

Skype session II 

Rozzy Osbourne

How fast they grow…now show me the eggs.

Chicken posts I have loved:

Drama in the hen house (in which a big-hair hen turns out to be a rooster and I lose by meddling in the affairs of chickens)

The non-mentioning of the chicken named Sunflower (In which we eat our hen and I don’t want to talk about it)

ps: Any chicken-raising questions? Feel free to ask.


22 Responses leave one →
  1. andrea permalink
    June 24, 2013

    This post came at the exact right time for me. Just spent yesterday walking around the yard looking for a good spot for a coup. Lots of questions.

    Out back or near the house? How much fencing? Lights? Is it too late this year already? Raccoons, dogs, larger birds? Can they roam the garden or will they destroy it? How much time will I spend cleaning that coop? What about no coop, just nesting boxes? What about the 70+ inches of rainfall we get each year? Chicken mud wrestling! With tiny wet tee shirts, of course.

    • June 24, 2013

      Not sure how much space you have, Andrea, but I would place the coop where it won’t be a terribly annoying winter slog to unlock their door in the AM, and lock them up again at night. It’s not too late to start this year, but they take about 6 months to reach egg-laying maturity. Their egg laying is light-dependent, so they will stop or really slow down from late December through early Febrauary. Placing lights in their coop will fool them into laying year round. We don’t do this, but one certainly could with no ill effects that I know of.

      They will destroy your garden. I let mine roam the grassy/weedy peripheries of my garden but with a sharp eye towards potential destruction. The younger and more delicate your plants are, the more likely they can be ripped asunder by a scratching chicken. The coop is where they sleep at night, giving them protection from nocturnal predators. Given your rain situation, you may want to construct a sort of covered patio for them to be outside, on the earth, but sheltered from the rain. It doesn’t have to be big.

      In addition to thir coop, they need space to roam and scratch and peck. We let them into our yard under supervision, so they can get eat weeds, munch a few insects and be chickens. When we’re not around, they’re in their “run” which is about 400 sf and has some nice shade. Coop cleaning is no biggie, just ask your husband to do it. Kidding! You’ll be so excited to put that poopy straw/leaves in your compost, you’ll be laughing all the way to the manure bank. We clean ours out about once/month.

      Whew, is that everything?

      Not sure where you’ll find the tiny chicken tees? New business opportunity!

      • Andrea permalink
        June 25, 2013

        YOU ARE AWESOME! thank you for all the advice, and inspiration :) we have half an acre! lots of choices. we have many new homestead projects on this summers list. so we may have to fence, build, clear, prepare this summer then bring the ladies in the fall, or next spring for a fresh start.

        i was thinking of staging two chicken areas. like, the back yard country cottage for long summer days and being, ya know, chickens. and a down town studio appartment for rainy winters and protection close to the humans. kidding aside, hubby would clean that coop! lucky for me he is hot and studly and great at projects and cleaning and such :)

        also, regarding tiny chicken fashion… the obvious choice to head that company is your Rose.

        • Rachel Turiel permalink*
          June 25, 2013

          Yes! That can be Rose’s homeschool project for the next year. I’ll provide sequins!

          Taking a season to plan is a great idea. Also, chickens seem to be great at clearing areas of vegetation. They have stripped the life out of the hops vine that is on their side of the fence and eaten every blade of grass formerly in their run. However, living in a region where it actually rains regularly could nullify that as I hear rain helps plants grow.

  2. June 24, 2013

    I love having chickens. They are infinitely entertaining. We share our flock with a neighbor and every kid on this street feels attached to those chickens. It’s adorable to watch them walk around together.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      June 24, 2013

      That is super cool, Becky. Lucky neighborhood.

  3. Jennifer permalink
    June 24, 2013

    Just curious how you guys (and the chickens) deal with the cold, winter, snow thing. Don’t you usually have 1-2′ of snow on the ground all winter in Durango?

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      June 24, 2013

      I wish we had 1-2′ of snow on the ground all winter. We’re in a little drought cycle here which feels a lot like climate change but annnnnyway…cold and snow:

      The chickens do not like the snow. It offends their little feet and general sensibilities. But, they seem to get somewhat used to it. We have a teeny “covered porch” just outside their coop where they can feel their feet on the earth without being in the snow. Also, they’re good at finding the first melted-out spots to emerge after a stretch of sunny days.

      Basically, winter sucks for a chicken, but you can buy the hardier breeds and they will do fine. Every year it will get to -10F for a night or two and our chickens always survive. I like to give them occasional special treats in the winter (like fresh greens/fruit/popcorn/cooked oatmeal) to help pass the time.

  4. June 24, 2013

    We just got 20 chickens 2 weeks ago. First-timers, so we dove-in head first with 10 meat chickens and 10 layers. Right now, they’re in two separate boxes in the garage. This morning I found a layer hanging with the rangers (meat chickens). What do YOU do for housing before they’re ready for a coop, or permanent headquarters? And do you trim their wing feathers so they can’t fly over fences? And how high does a fence need to be for their “run”? (Our run will border our garden, like a mote, so it’s really important that they can’t get over the top while we’re gone for the day.) And do you prefer straw over wood shavings for litter (and thus compost)?

    Lastly, for the commenter above, we get a shit-ton of snow and it stays from late November to early April, yet people here seem to keep chickens just fine. That said, we’ll soon find out for ourselves how much they like the snow!

    • Andrea permalink
      June 25, 2013

      yes rachel, how high do they fly/jump??

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      June 25, 2013

      Congratulations! I bet your girls are loving that.

      We kept our girls in a metal trough in our bathroom until they were ready to be outside, which is based on temperature and feather growth. By 6 weeks we brought them outside during the day in a sort of a chicken tractor: wood frame, open to the bottom, mesh on top, hinged door. By 8 weeks old, in late May, they went outside permanently. (whew).

      I do clip their wings once I notice them flying out of their enclosure. There’s probably tons of good youtube videos on how to do this. It’s not as awful as it sounds. Our fence is about 7 feet tall but they can fly up to a peach tree inside their enclosure and then easily out from there if they want to. Generally, they’re all so invested in sticking together that they don’t want to be the one to fly out and leave their sisters, but if you notice a rebel, then wing-clipping is imporatnt.

      We use straw during the summer, but my favorite is dried leaves, because they’re free and plentiful. In the fall people put out bags of dried leaves to be picked up by the city and we swoop in and get them first. The chickens shred the leaves, add their poop, and the whole mix is perfect as mulch for the garden come spring, or as an add-in to your compost. I don’t use wood chips.

  5. June 26, 2013

    aw love the chickens!!!

    Also just an update, a while ago I messaged you asking about potty training. Both and you and Kathleen Hennessy were so helpful and encouraging. I just wanted to say not long after (maybe because I relaxed about it) he just started to do it and is now going to pre-school in pants yay! We still have a a little way to go but i’m glad I didn’t give into pressure and force him when he wasn’t ready. Thank you again. xxxxx

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      June 26, 2013

      Sian, so glad he did it when he was ready and you got to experience relaxing about the timeline of it. I am thinking this may be one of the cardinal rules when it comes to children, right? Relax about the timeline. (Something I am always working on).

  6. Ring permalink
    June 26, 2013

    OK, so from reading the Sunflower story I know you don’t like to talk about it, but how do you bear to…..liberate them from their earthly existence? I love the whole idea of raising chickens, for the eggs and for the lovely composting materials, but just don’t think I could off something I’ve raised and named, much less eat it. Asking the husband to do it is not an option — he won’t even remove the love offerings our 4 outdoor cats like to bring us from time to time.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      June 26, 2013

      I don’t mind talking about the killing of chickens, I think it’s more talking about this-chicken-we-once-knew *while* eating her was an appetite suppressant.

      Maybe you could find someone else to do the slaughtering/butchering for you in exchange for some of the meat (although a 3-year old laying hen isn’t the most coveted meat, but put it in the pressure cooker and…delish!).

      Watching this video was key for us, I mean Dan, because I’d have to be extremely hungry to be able to do the actual killing.

  7. June 26, 2013

    The chicken zipline… Oh, my!
    These birds are well loved and having some awesome adventures!

  8. June 26, 2013

    8 little peeps are on their way to us in about two weeks…… which means they’re being incubated right now!! So excited ;) I wanted to share a favorite chicken photo of mine from a very long time ago…. I know it’s not a chick…. but still, so cute!

  9. Sara permalink
    June 26, 2013

    I’ve been thinking chickens for a while, though I’m not quite ready to jump in. Love this for the questions that I may not have thought to ask.

  10. Heathet permalink
    June 26, 2013

    I can only think one thing looking at all the sweet child/chick photos. And that is POOP! Poop in the shirt, poop in the hair, poop in your house. Am I wrong?? Or do my chickens just poop more than the average bird?

    As for eating, one of my girls had a favorite hen once, named Mrs. Bickey. Now the others have an easy way to be mean. “Mom’s making Mrs. Bickey stew today.”

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      June 26, 2013

      Oh there’s poop. Tremendous outpourings of poop you haven’t known since infants lived, poopingly, in your house.

  11. Carly permalink
    June 27, 2013

    When I saw the picture of the swaddled chicks I had to laugh! At least once a day my daughter grabs all the dish cloths out of the drawer and shortly afterwsrd I find a row of stuffed kitty cats swaddled in exactly the same fashion on the couch, or on my bed, or on the floor in the middle of the hallway… I love seeing other examples of the same impulses of childhood to collect, care for and order things.

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