Then There Were Four: Chickens, Eggs, and the Start of a Farm

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backyard chickens

I was planning on posting a favorite soup recipe today.

I know it’s July and 105º, but I still love a big bowl of comfort.

I just couldn’t post it.

At least not yet.

As I sat, compiling the pictures and the recipe for the post titled, “Poor Man’s Chicken Noodle Soup”, I watched four new hens outside my window.

I know, I’m a total chicken newbie, but somehow I just couldn’t do it. It just didn’t seem considerate. So, I’ll wait a couple days just out of respect for my new girls roaming my backyard.

But who really needs chicken noodle soup?  Even if it is extremely frugal and the best chicken noodle soup ever. Okay, I might be slightly biased.

Who needs it when you have big news like this to share.

We got chickens.

Four chickens to be exact. Four hens. At least we hope they are all hens.

chickens baby

First, let me say Dustin and I are in no way farmers. We live smack in the middle of a busy city, in an average size home, with a nice size backyard (full of beautiful weeds), surrounded by city-loving neighbors.

I had considered the idea of backyard chickens in the past. It has become trendy these days to have chickens. In fact, I have a number of friends with backyard chickens. I really had no need for chickens. I had a constant source for good pastured chicken eggs from a local farm and enjoyed paying for my eggs versus the upkeep of daily chicken tending. Then, I got the word.

My local farm was devastated by a pack of wild dogs and lost a huge number of chickens. No chickens equals no eggs.

I panicked wondering where I was going to buy eggs! The thought of returning to store-bought eggs scared me! Trust me, once you are spoiled by fresh farm eggs from pastured chickens it’s hard impossible to ever go back!

A week later I got word a friend was looking to part with her laying hens due to space issues. Chickens equal eggs. I jumped on the offer. I think the chickens were meant to be. Within a week another friend called asking if I would like her coop for free.

Within two weeks, we had a coop and four chickens. Two laying hens and two baby chicks.

backyard chickens

As a good friend reminded me it takes six animals to make a farm (or as a close family member calls it a “zoo”). Two dogs plus four chickens means we are officially a farm. A backyard farm in the middle of a huge city.

The neighbors are still warming up to the idea. I think my chocolate chip cookies and the promise of fresh eggs might have helped with some convincing. Now, if I can just keep the chickens from flying over the fence into their yards.

backyard chickens

Wing clipping is next on the list.

With a new found chicken responsibility, I’ve had to face a few new realities. Realities about my food and where it comes from. I’m discovering a new respect for the food we consume. Particularly in regard to animals. Over the past few days I’ve been thinking about the whole backyard chicken thing and the reality of food:

  • It takes work: I think it’s very easy to loose a connection to food and its source when shopping in a grocery store.  When eggs are perfectly clean and packaged in egg cartons stamped with colorful designs it’s easy to forget the amount of work it took to enjoy so much nourishment. The cleaning of coops, the feeding of chickens, the early morning rising, the restocking of fresh hay. So much for one small little egg. I have a new appreciation for my food. A newly-awakened desire to be a good steward with the food I consume.
  • The Circle of Life: Are you singing the song and picturing a little lion cub being raised by a baboon now? I’m sorry. But it’s true. I’ve been thinking about this. It’s crazy the things you start thinking and singing while cleaning a chicken coop and poop. A chicken can live far into her teen years, however,  only lay eggs during her peak years, which are very early. So, what happens? What happens when our ladies quit their egg laying? We could keep them as pets, but I truly believe as great-grandma would, it’s part of the circle of life. They will most likely become soup chickens. Consumed with gratitude and respect for the many years of eggs they provided and the nourishment they will later bring. I know, it’s a hard reality, but one a new little farmer must think about. It’s the ugly side (or really a beautiful picture) of farming.
  • Kids: The reality of chickens or any animal brings on new responsibilities and extra time and attention. I have watched my kiddos joyfully take on caring for our new ladies. Though they are both young (3 and 1) they enjoy waking in the morning to scatter feed, opening the coop, “helping” mom clean out the poop, and saving a few table scraps for the hens to enjoy. This means we don’t make it out every morning to a 9 am play-date, however, the valuable lessons they are learning in being apart of the food we consume will stick with them for a lifetime. The fresh dirt under their toes, the chasing chickens through the yard, the slowing down without rushing off to a new extracurricular activity, and the hunt to find a newly laid egg will be memories and lessons they hold for a lifetime.

backyard chickens

And now the big question.

Names?

I’m still not sure we should have named our hens since we eventually plan to use them for supper, however, we did it. Newbie farming mistake number one.

backyard chickens

Zorro (the adult black hen), Pollito (the adult redish-brown hen), Snow White (the white chick), and Charlie Brown (the brown chick).

Life’s been busy this week. A new little farm in our backyard with four new hens, lots of poop, and lots to learn. All of which derailed chicken soup.

Update: Since this post, we’ve added four more hens to our backyard homestead for a total of eight.

Learn more about keeping backyard hens in my favorite resource  “Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens…Naturally”

 

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10 Comments

  • Great blog and I agree we need to be reminded how much work goes into growing, raising, nourishing the food we need to sustain ourselves.

  • This is amazing! I’ve always wanted to do this. I think we know each other because we both went to UWSP…I think that is the connection? I found your blog because another former alum posted a link to it, I think. Either way, I love this! Are you still in WI? I really admire everything you are doing!! Can’t wait to hear about how this goes. How did you get started? How did you build a coop, or know how to take care of chickens? Is it pretty easy? I want to have a farm but have never even worked or lived on one so I have no idea what I’m doing.

    • Thanks. I have never been to UWSP :). Glad you found Live Simply! Our coop was given to us, however, contributing writer Candice built hers and will be sharing about it soon. She built it in a week for very little cost.

      • Well that is interesting! We must have mutual friends/friend circles somehow 🙂 I look forward to that post!

  • Congratulations. As a new “farmer” you may want to add a compost pile. I put weeds from the yard, non-meat scraps, non-colored newspaper and now chicken poop!!! I was lamenting having less scraps for the compost pile, because I give them to the chickens now. Then I realized the chicken poop added instead was even better. The compost added to my garden this year has tripled the output… Enjoy, they are work, but fun and productive

  • I think it’s wonderful you’ve decided to have chickens. Its a good experience, especially for the children. I hope it goes well. I had chickens once, it was a romantic idea. I was a city dweller who moved to the country thinking it would be wonderful having all those fresh eggs. I was wrong. It was a horrible experience and I’ll never do it again. Not only are chickens smelly and dirty, they eat their own eggs and I’m not even going to mention the rooster. I did not find it to be very economical. I once read a book about small farming and in it he talked about his experience with chickens. He said, “looking into the eyes of a chicken is like looking into the eyes of stupidity.” That should have been my first clue.

    • Sorry to hear your experience wasn’t a good well. Luckily, we aren’t allowed a rooster in the city we live in. So far all is clean and we are loving the eggs.

  • Good luck with your chickens! I just found your site today and am loving it! We were given chickens by a friend and they both turned out to be roosters. We now have 4 hens and love it. They aren’t much work once you get used to it and its a great lesson for children. We are just beginning our homesteading and more natural eating. I have already learned a lot for you. Thank you! I look forward to reading more.

    • Thank you so much. We are really enjoying them. Two lay daily for us and the other three (we just adopted a 5th one) are too young to lay just yet. The kids are loving them! Glad you found Live Simply.

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