Tag Archives: city chickens

The Littles

It’s about time for an update on our flock integration! We have taken to calling our segregated flock “The Bigs” and “The Littles,” and it just stuck. While they aren’t best of friends yet, I am happy to report we have made major progress. Go Team Littles!

The Littles

The Bigs

The Littles again – are you seeing the theme here?

When we last left off, Katniss & Primrose were being bullied by Pepper and, more tragically, were really bad at being chickens. Perching and scratching and basic chicken life-skills seemed to be daunting to them. We were told our Lavender Orpington pullets had been free-ranged on 10 acres. In retrospect, what breeder of expensive chickens lets them run so free? I’m pretty certain they never spent a day outside until they met us, and I was convinced they were permanently stunted.

The little hidey-holes I built them (Pepper demonstrates above) proved to be the solution we needed. Instead of getting cornered in the run when being bullied, they miraculously became adept at jumping on top of the boxes where Pepper leaves them alone (mostly). They still spend a lot of time hanging out on top of those boxes, but little-tiny bit by little-tiny bit, Pepper is less interested in bullying them and they get braver.

After the Littles moved outside, Pepper spent the first few long days we were away at work in solitary confinement inside the coop. We would arrive home to a happy little flock of three. Lenora and The Littles would be together, eating and acting like regular chickens. And as soon as Pepper was freed, she would chase Katniss & Prim up onto their box. Sad, but soon they were more confident and Pepper no longer needed to be separated. Baby steps.

They have started hitting important milestones like going up the ladder and going down the ladder. I can’t tell you how much we love chickens we don’t have to put to bed or wake up in the morning. However, they have been putting themselves to bed in the nesting boxes, which has caused some confusion for all parties.

Pepper laid an egg in the hidey-hole because her favorite nesting box was occupied. Pepper has never laid an egg anywhere but the nesting boxes before.

Other new chicken-like behaviors: running, jumping, scratching, eating scratch from a human hand, and just today I found them dust-bathing. Now, if only they could start spending time as a foursome before our flock grows again.

I leave you with my favorite chicken shot from recent days:

Levi & Lenora


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Flock Integration: Can’t we all just get along?

Poor little Katniss and Primrose. They’re beautiful, certainly, but sometimes that’s not enough. They seem to be inadequate at being chickens. They aren’t comfortable with basic chicken skills like “scratching and pecking at the same time” and “perching on a stick.” There are certain chicken behaviors that I believe(d) to be inherent to “chicken-ness” but these two are continually teaching me that in fact not all chickens have survival instincts.

But we’re fed up with having chickens in our house and I started to have nightmares about them starting to lay while they still lived in the brooder, so they got booted out to the coop. We’ve been nervous about flock integration. The “pecking order” is a very real thing, in that chickens actually peck each other to establish a social hierarchy, sometimes injuring or killing each other. It turns out that our concerns were not unfounded.

Lenora, queen of the roost, could not care less about the little chickens. She’s got a really busy calendar and so much to do. She can’t be bothered with some little newbies and simply ignores them 99% of the time.

But Pepper is another story. My theory is that Pepper is second in the pecking order, and she has more to lose with the integration of new birds. She definitely doesn’t want to play second fiddle to younger, smaller, dumber birds. Or maybe she just can’t respect them in their inferior chicken-ness. I’m no chicken sociologist, but either way, this is the face of our bully bird.

She chases them and tries to peck them; they cry desperately and run. No one has drawn blood yet, so we’ve been trying to stay out of it and let them work it out themselves. It’s painful to watch, though. I want them to cuddle up and sing Kumbaya, you know? Until we get there, we’ve been free-ranging a lot to distract Pepper, and Krista built some hideouts for the Littles to escape to.

Unfortunately the Littles don’t seem to be smart enough to hide inside the boxes yet, but they learned to stand on top when Pepper gets aggressive — which is progress! Two days ago they flapped and squawked and tried to fly through the fence when she came at them. Keep your fingers crossed for some peace in the hen house soon.


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weekend chickens

We’ve had some actual, bona fide sunshine here in Olympia this week. Fingers crossed it keeps up. This, of course, means chicken photos.

Leave it to Levi to accidentally behead or precious squirrel. At least no real animals were hurt.


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2012 Homies

We’ve missed you, faithful readers! Sorry for the unannounced blog hiatus. A few people were worried by our silence and I feel bad about that. I have been out of town for work and while I was gone Jess and Levi were under the weather. We are still here!

We are super excited to have our little blog nominated for Apartment Therapy’s 2012 Homies in the Healthy Cooking Blog category. We don’t expect to win, but if you enjoy our blog please head over there, we’d love to have your vote! Even if you don’t go to vote, the Homies are a great chance to find wonderful blogs you might not have on your list yet. You do need an account to vote, but I can’t think of a better site for it.

And for those of you who were missing the chicken updates, I have a special moment between Levi & Lenora for you.

xo Krista

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Ba-Gock: Introducing Chickens to Our Backyard

Aren’t we just full of big projects? Many people already know Krista & I have been “planning” to add a backyard flock to our house since forever. I mean, that was part of the reason that we bought a house at all, and part of the reason we bought the house that we bought. Our house is magically in a one square block pocket of the city that is not incorporated (NO anti-urban farm regulations here!) so we can build an egg empire if we so choose. But as with all things, life gets in the way. With all the raised garden bed building and bee keeping frenzy of last year, our chicken coop never materialized. This week, our dear friends forced our hand to throw in on a chick order & build some coops together. Frankly, with all the eggs on our table these days, we’d be fools to put this off another year. So please, let me introduce you to the breeds we’re ordering this year.

CLOCKWISE FROM UPPER LEFT: buff orpington, barred plymouth rock, easter egger, white leghorn, that’s not a real chicken, and welsummer

We picked each breed for a different reason, but they are all pretty, hardy and productive. They will lay a variety of egg colors to keep things interesting. Levi read a library book about chickens and specifically requested the buff orphington when we first hatched this scheme years ago. So we had to get one for him.

Now, we only need to train the attack dogs to leave them alone.

When I was a teenager, I had a very failed flock of guinea hens who were picked off quickly by predators thanks to my completely inadequate coop. I do want to publicly thank my dad for telling me that they “escaped” and ran away. I appreciate the kindness of that little lie. My bestie Rayshell had a family flock of chickens for years, but they were not beloved family pets. They were not friendly and really stupid!! I grew up in a rural area, so almost all of my neighbors had chickens and I remember feeding & collecting eggs when our neighbors went on vacation. I have read many, many books from the library about chickens, because I’m that kind of nerd. And that, my friends, is the extent of my chicken-rearing knowledge!

questions i know you will ask:

why are you getting chickens?
This is like asking me why I’m a vegetarian. All of the Reasons! Every reason to get chickens (except eating them) is why we are doing it. Eggs! Localizing our protein supply, food security, economic reasons, entertainment value, a very steady compost supply, food safety issues (no one will recall our eggs), organic food and higher nutrition, we don’t have enough hobbies to fill our time, bug and weed control, etc. Homegrown eggs are rumored to be lower in cholesterol and higher in various nutrients. I’m no food scientist, but it just makes sense. It’s really not a new idea. People have had backyard chickens forever.

how many chickens are you getting?
We’re starting with five and plan to add a couple every year like diversifying a stock portfolio.

i thought you were vegan?
yes, we have a lot of years of veganism under our collective belts and we can bake some mean vegan cupcakes, but having a supremely local, cheap, unprocessed, organic protein source is more important to us at this point. Not every vegan needs to run out and get chickens as mandated by me (obviously I don’t make decisions for other people), but it’s the right choice for our family right now. I still consider veganism to be a superior dietary choice to mindless, unconscious, over-processed food choices. Just sayin, this isn’t a mindless, “trendy” decision for us.

where are you ordering from?
My Pet Chicken. Many hatcheries require orders of 25 birds, but they ship as few as 3.

can i come visit your chickens?
yes, please do! we can watch Chicken TV together!

if i visit, may i draw/photograph your chickens?
What a ridiculous question. I love art, especially art made by you, especially art of my pets. I will make you dinner if you make chicken art for me. Also, can I hire you to do portraits of my cats and dogs, too?

are you going to post 100 photos, stories and videos about your chickens?
Of course. We love over-sharing.

what are you going to do when they get old and stop laying? will you eat them?
Our vegetarianism doesn’t stop at our backdoor, so we will not eat them. They will age as gracefully or ungracefully as they like in our backyard flock. We already have plenty of worthless pets around, so what’s one (or five) more? The way I figure it, at least they will earn their retirement, unlike dogs and cats, who need to get jobs & pay rent.

what is your chickens’ theme song?
I am so lucky to have such good friends who would ask me such an important question. Our girls will cluck, lay eggs and forage to their theme song:

(I’m going to tell the girls that the parts about slaughter and roasting are fiction. These chickens will live a life never knowing the fate of their brethren.)

Stay tuned. We will document our coop-building experience before the chicks arrive, and then all the precious moments after they arrive. The delivery date is the week of May 16th. We won’t see eggs for weeks/months, but the cuddling and entertainment should make up for it.


Filed under chickens, food, garden, goals, spring

Seattle City Chickens Coop Tour

In case I forgot to mention it in the blog, Krista & I are dedicated to getting chickens in the next year. In Olympia, it’s legal to keep three hens (no roosters!) in city limits. We almost got chickens this year, but decided to wait until we buy a house because, let’s be serious, renting a place with two dogs, two cats, and a kid is hard enough. Throw in some chickens, and you’re nearing a certifiable level of insanity. You need your own place for that.

Why do we want to have chickens? Everyone asks us. We are planning on continuing our vegetarian diet, and Levi shows no signs of becoming a meat eater, so the chickens will stay far away from a dinner plate. Eggs from your backyard are more flavorful than grocery store eggs, higher in omega-3’s and vitamin E, and lower in cholesterol. They have dark orange yolks instead of the pale ones from the store. Chickens like to eat garden pests, including my sworn mortal enemies, the slugs. They also eat weeds, grass, and yard waste (less mowing and pesticide free yards!) and most any table scraps. So, I figure, if we can make organic protein for our diet and the food can travel like 10 feet from source to table, i have an obligation to do it. Keeping chickens is definitely not vegan, but it’s a non-veganism I can feel okay about. Plus, chickens are hilarious. And their manure makes for AWESOME COMPOST which leads to MORE AWESOME VEGETABLE GARDENING. That is my life’s work, right there. Chickens and zucchini in harmony.

Here are some urban chicken websites I recommend.
My Pet Chicken — great source of info and a wonderful resource. plus, they sell small #s of chicks, so you can get 3 not 25.
Backyard Chickens — another really informative site with lively messageboards & tons of resources.
Greener Pastures this is a sort-of local farm we’d like to buy chickens from when we’re ready. They raise organic chicks & pullets, offer recipes for making your own chicken feed (with stuff you can buy in bulk at the coop) and carry the breeds we’re interested in.

We hope to get a silver laced wyandotte, an easter egger, and a buff orpington. Levi has already gotten attached to the hypothetical buff orpington and plans to name it himself, so I hope we can actually find one when the time comes.

Seattle Tilth had a City Chickens Coop Tour last weekend. For our anniversary weekend extravaganza, we drove north to visit some chicken coops! Ok, that sounds a little weird, but it was a lovely day. We met a lot of lovely people, saw lovely coops, and communed with some lovely urban farmyard animals. There’s nothing like sunshine and the open (coop) doors of strangers. We met several “oops” roosters on their way to new homes, some baby goats, several hives of honey bees, a yard of ducks, and an impossible number of chickens & the people who love them.

Living Roof

We saw several living “green” roofs on different coops — a roof that is covered with soil & vegetation. We liked the look of them as much as I thought we would, and it cemented our desire to integrate this feature into our future coop. I think this would give us an outlet for Krista’s fascination with succulents.

Lay Chalet

at the “Lay Chalet,” we met Seth & his lady friends, Softail, Coco, and Einstein. They live in a unique coop bursting with personality & made from 80% recycled/reclaimed materials.


our last stop of the day coincidentally was this coop. we saw a picture of this coop a long time ago in the Seattle Times, and it has sort of been a personal “Gold Standard” since then. The window box grows real strawberries & herbs. The roof is alive. The hardware pulls are all adorable, vintage & reclaimed. There is a tiny rain barrel. The design of the coop with extra doors makes it really easy to shovel out the bedding, and there are two compost bins under the extra doors, making it even easier to compost directly outside the coop. The owner said she alternates the compost bins, using the finished one while the other finishes cooking. Part of the coop is a storage shed for extra bedding, tools, and feed. It’s a fantastic example of really thoughtful design. We were so happy to see it in person!

Other critters

Don’t worry, we are planning to get bees, too. More on that later.

we will probably refrain from getting ducks because that is a lot of livestock! it was great to see these silly ducks quacking around a Seattle backyard.

I’d love to get dairy goats (and make cheese, yogurt, and butter) but I am not sure if we can find a lot big enough in the city in our price range to hold the little farm of our dreams … Look at their crazy eyes! baby goats!

We came home to our own crazy household and their ridiculous antics. I am not sure how the dogs and cats are going to react to the chickens, but I bet it will be worth tuning in for.

P.S. our cat, elsa, fell out the window last night. oh, she is totally fine, but the volume of her “RESCUE ME” meows at 3am nearly cost her her life. never a dull moment…

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