Instead of a carton of marshmallow Peeps, my siblings and I were given a flock of newly-hatched New Hampshire Red chicks for Easter. Unfortunately for me, my shoebox apartment has no room to raise my hen, so I continue to pay for my local, organic eggs, while my parents play surrogates to Henny-Penny in my absence, keeping me abreast of her every development.
Even though I have had many flocks of chickens nesting in the coop in our backyard since I was a child, I have a newfound sense of propriety over Henny and her sisters. Perhaps raising this flock from hatchlings to hens has instilled in me a motherly instinct that has lain dormant with the other birds. Or maybe it’s the current backyard chicken movement that has me so keen on keeping my own flock. In any case, I am excited for all of the frittatas, omelets, and meringues that these fresh eggs will provide, and the joy that these hens are bringing to my family.
My family has definitely spoiled these eggs rotten. The hens and roosters we raised as kids typically kept to themselves in the yard, and we merrily collected the eggs in the mornings. Our chickens were not pets. But this flock is something special. They have enjoyed roosting next to our air ducts for warmth, being watched over by our lab, Mick, and being doted on with attention and affection as they have grown.
They’re now more than triple the size that they were in April, and are living outdoors, like good eggs ought. Yet, I have been receiving reports that Henny and her crew are not ready to leave the comforts of home. They are posting themselves outside the door to the house and scurrying in whenever they can. My mother has even found them settling down to nest on pillows and in blankets, sitting on the dog’s back like a scene from Peanuts, and even hiding in the corners to avoid being shooed out. You can safely say we have failed at raising backyard chickens.
It will be interesting to see how these hens grow and develop as a result of their environmental conditions. Maybe there is something to be said for the psychology of raising chickens as housepets - fresher, tastier eggs? A deeper connection to your food? Do happy hens come from happy homes? What do you think?
What experiences have you had with raising chickens – I’m sure there are many funny anecdotes to be shared, and we want to hear from you! Country and city folks alike have taken up the backyard chicken movement – how are you raising your flock?
Share your stories with us in our group Backyard Chickens
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