Tag Archives: urban chickens

Inside the coop

I am so happy to report that the ladies are greatly enjoying their full-time outside lives. They still seem to love us a lot even though they are big girls with their own lives. Bribery, treats, and special attention will get you everywhere with chickens. I like to peek into the egg door and see what they are doing. Usually they are being cute or funny, or both.

The inside of the coop is pretty nice. The roof is clear as to not interrupt their stargazing.

They’re good at putting themselves to bed when the sun goes down. They are learning to use their perch. They love the bugs and dirt. I enjoy not having chickens in my house. If we ever raise baby chicks again, I would prefer to do it in the garage. Or at your house. We’re friends, right? You’d let me keep a flock of chickens in your house, wouldn’t you? Now, that’s settled.

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Filed under chickens, summer

Chickens, 7 weeks!

There are so many things I want to blog about these days, but the most labor-intensive project gets precedence today. We have been working on our garden coop for months. In fact, we spent most of the 4th of July weekend working on our chicken coop — what is more American than that, I ask you? I would say that our coop is now about 97% complete. It thrills me to type that.

We still need to:
* finish filling in the predator-proof trenches.
* add hardware to the human-sized door.
* tile and re-install the coop floor.
* add perches and nesting boxes.
* sew up a little part of the hardware cloth to keep predators out.

It’s nearly good enough for chicken habitation. Later this summer I want to add gutters and a rain catchment system, but that’s not essential now. Our years of research, weeks of hard work, the labor of our dear friends who helped to build this, and a smidge of good luck seem to have paid off – we are delighted by our coop. With great relief, many broken fingernails, a sunburn, 5,000 mosquito bites, and a thin layer of caulk on my hands, I am so pleased to present our 97%-complete coop.

The chickens are too big for the light box anymore, so we made them pose with Levi this week. I have to admit, this is pretty much my favorite photo ever. Of All Time. I have never loved a photo like this. No one was pooped on in the making of this photo. (see it bigger here.)

Ramona & Pepper love to perch on human arms. They make us feel like professional falconers. They are so sweet.

On to the individual shots!!

Cry-Baby Walker, pretending to be a pirate’s parrot.

Hatchet-Face is growing some feathery Farrah Fawcett wings on the sides of her head.

Ramona did not want to pose today. Also, her white feathers are coming in like crazy.

Pepper Walker is checking out the egg-access door.

Lenora was far too busy flying around to pose. This was her “best shot.”

The chickens were enthralled by the coop and they can’t wait to move outside full-time. The dogs anxiously tried to herd/eat the chickens, but the coop was secure enough to keep the hounds at bay. I have high hopes that the flock can move outside within a week!

Click here for past chicken portraits.

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Filed under chickens, summer, urban farming

SIX WEEKS!

We have managed to live with chickens in our house for six weeks now. I wasn’t always so confident about the chick raising, but we have done it! We have kept them safe from weather, predators, our dogs and cats, disease, over-handling, neglect and everything else that could have ended their little avian lives. They have grown feathers and started flapping their wings.

Being a chicken mom is so rewarding. Let’s not talk about dust or poop. I prefer to focus on the precious moments. I wake up to a chorus of anxious peeping at chicken breakfast time. I am greeted by excited peeping when I get home from work. I hear a round of sweet, sleepy, contented peeps as they cuddle up for bed. I hope we can finish the coop & move them outside within the next week. I’m not sure how much longer we will continue the weekly photos. The ladies are difficult to manage in the photography studio. They hate to be separated from their flock. They are too big for the light box that Krista built to photograph them. That cat keeps destroying the light box by napping in it. There are a lot of factors.

Anyway, without further ado, here are the six-week-old portraits of the chickens in my living room.

Cry Baby Walker has grown into a seriously huge chicklet. I need to get her on a scale. She is Chickenzilla.

Lenora Frigid. I love this bird. She is like the dove of peace, in chicken form. She is terrifyingly good at flying. I need to learn to clip chicken wings.

Ramona Rickettes who is obviously a speckled sussex and not a welsummer. I really wanted a welsummer, but c’est la vie. Ramona is the chillest, sweetest chicken ever, so I am forgiving her for being the wrong breed, even though I am sad to miss out on chocolatey welsummer eggs. Next time around, we are getting chocolate egg layers.

Pepper Walker!! Pepper is a really sweet, chillax’d chicken, much like Ramona. Ramona & Pepper act like BFF’s. You can always find them together, quietly plotting to steal all of the raisins/quinoa/melon/worms/peas from their frantic sisters.

Last, but never least: little Hatchet-face, who is growing feathers and gaining weight but never quite catching up with her sisters. She is looking a little scraggly this week, but our fingers are still crossed for her. I just want a happy, healthy adult hen who lays turquoise eggs. Get to it, Hatchet-face.

Outtakes from this week include close-up shots that show off the wattles and combs we are growing.




Click here for past chicken portraits! Hopefully soon we will have gorgeous shots of our finished coop to share! In the meantime, buck-buck-buck-ba-gock!

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Filed under chickens, summer, urban farming

Chicks & Bees @NWFGS 2011

As I mentioned, we’re adding chickens to our backyard farm this year, and you probably know that we keep honey bees, too. These two topics occupy much of my brainpower during my waking hours, so I was on high alert for chicken & bee-related items at the 2011 Northwest Flower & Garden Show.

I had the good fortunate to catch a seminar called “What the Cluck?” with Jessi Bloom. It was about adding chickens to your garden. There was a lot of great information about life cycles, breed selection, roosters, coop requirements, permaculture design, other pets, different methods of keeping chickens and even chicken training. The resource section on the handout is excellent too. You can get a copy of the handout here if you are curious. Ms. Bloom brought some friends to help with her presentation — about 10 different varieties of baby chicks. I almost died from their peeping cuteness. ((I can’t wait for our chicks to arrive.)) These chicks were from Portage Bay Grange, in Seattle. They had a booth in the marketplace, and I really want to make it to their storefront in Seattle.

Seattle Urban Farm Co. & the Re-Store partnered up to build this adorable little city farm complete with chicken tractor, a little cold frame and a beehive. You know, typical backyard stuff. They must have some relationship with the Ballard Bee Company, too, because I spotted a jar of their honey.

The chickens at the Seattle Urban Farm Co. booth were completely nonplussed by the thousands of visitors that passed by their space. Not even hoards of devoted children could distract these hens from their scratching.

While this is unrelated to either chickens or bees, I love the creativity that Re-Store brings to their garden show displays. Last year they had a recycled cold frame that I fell in love with. This year? They re-purposed bathroom fixtures for the garden.

In addition to the Ballard Bee Company, I saw some business cards from Crown Bees around the vendor area. I just discovered the Crown Bee website. It’s really informative if you’re keeping solitary bees (which we do — an update on our mason bees is in the pipeline).

And finally, over in the display garden from Christianson’s Nursery, there was an old-fashioned skep in the garden shed. It’s a little piece of history; people kept honey bees in skeps before we developed beehives with movable parts. I get nostalgic for history like this, but I would have hated keeping bees in skeps. Beekeepers had to destroy the skep to get the honey, and that sounds like a giant pain. I like going back to the “old ways” in many regards, but I will keep my movable frame beehive thankyouverymuch.

My other 2011 Northwest Flower & Garden Show posts: Container Gardening and Themed Display Gardens

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Filed under bees, chickens, garden, urban farming

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.

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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.

Inspirational

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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Filed under food, marriage, urban farming