So we got chickens.
Except it wasn’t quick or nonchalant like that. We joked about it for years, obsessively researched for months and then finally decided to get them.
We drove north of Los Angeles to a chicken farm, picked out six little balls of fluff and then drove back home. The chicks were in a shoebox on my lap.
We settled them in their brooder (which is a fancy name for a huge cardboard box with a heat lamp in our case) and Crappy Boy and Crappy Baby spent time observing them. We all quickly became familiar with their eat, sleep, eat, sleep routine.
Those first days were fun. The birds were new and exciting and we could watch them do pretty much absolutely nothing for hours and still be entertained.
Our visits paid off, because soon, the chicks got comfortable with us.
Perhaps a little too comfortable:
There is nothing like having to ask your child to lift a chicken off your head but he can’t because he is laughing too hard.
Course it wasn’t all fun and games.
There was work to be done. We still had to finish building the chicken coop and run.
Before you roll your eyes at the irresponsibility of us getting chicks before having a coop finished, let me just say something that will make you more annoyed. I did it this way on purpose.
I work best on a deadline. Crappy Papa does too. We knew we had roughly 8 weeks before the chicks would be ready to move outside to the coop. Since it had to get done, it got done.
Thanks to all of my obsessive researching about predator proofing a coop and run, it was determined that I had to dig a trench all the way around the perimeter of the run at a depth of about 2 feet for the hardware mesh and walls to sink down into.
So I dug. And I dug. I dug in our hard, clay soil that was like cutting through dark chocolate. It had to be chiseled away. With all of my weight on the shovel it wouldn’t even sink an inch.
Every single day I worked.
And into the night.
But eventually, I dug the trench.
If you are wondering where Crappy Papa was during this time, he was sitting on the patio with a glass of lemonade reading a newspaper. Just kidding, it was a magazine.
No really, he was busy building stuff. Nesting boxes, doors and such. So I was stuck with the unskilled labor job. The digging.
But once the digging was completed, I got a new job. Screwing in hardware mesh to the frame of the chicken run as it tried to roll back into a tube and slice my arms off.
Now if you’ve never played with hardware mesh before, take my advice and don’t. (And wear gloves if you must.)
Okay, so we got it all done in plenty of time.
Back to the chickens.
They are funny creatures. People who keep chickens are funny creatures too.
When you get chickens all of a sudden you start meeting people who also have chickens. It’s like a club that you don’t even know exists until you are in it.
People say that there are two different backyard chicken owner camps.
The ‘chickens as pets’ camp:
No really. Chicken diapers are a thing.
And the ‘chickens as food’ camp:
Course while I have met people that would lean one way or another, most people actually fall somewhere in the middle.
Back to our chickens.
So when we got them, they looked like this:
Fuzzy wuzzy balls of cute.
But that doesn’t last.
In roughly three seconds, they turn into this:
Some sort of dinosaur/bird hybrid that poops a lot.
We started with six birds and three different breeds.
But one didn’t look right.
She was bigger than the rest. Looked…different.
Like so many new backyard chicken keepers before me, I fretted endlessly over the possibility of having a rooster.
I searched online. I posted photos on chicken message boards. I looked at her/his comb. Looked for tail feathers. The color and shape of his/her feet. Is she a he? We don’t even know what breed it is! What IS this weird bird?
Everyone guessed it was a roo.
But then. Then!
We caught the bird doing something that all the other birds were not yet doing.
Hmmmmm. Is there still hope?
Then, the next morning:
Turns out, our mystery bird was just older than the others. She also wound up being our very best layer and everyone’s favorite bird.
So in case you are considering getting backyard chickens, it can be summed up like this: cute, poop, ugly, poop, yay eggs!, poop, poop, eggs! poop, poop, eggs! More or less.
Welcome crappy chickens!
We’re getting 5-6 eggs each day. It’s awesome. Totally non-crappy. Course we’ve since added two more pullets…
The “What’s so bad about a rooster?” issue for the confused-living-out-in-the-country-folks… Chickens are allowed but roosters are loud so we can’t legally have them in our neighborhood. The farm where we got our chicks from would have exchanged an accidental rooster so we had a contingency plan.
I’m on instagram now. Warning: there are no illustrations, just photos. Of chickens! The chicken coop! Eggs! Other pretty things!