I love my chickens! My life would be an empty shell without my chickens. Okay, that sounds a little extreme, but let me just say that I can’t imagine not having chickens ever again. Chickens are an ever-present delight and a constant source of entertainment. They require relatively little care yet deliver daily in the form of their wonderful eggs (if you can find them). They care nothing about you, but are completely fascinated with you at the same time. I can’t walk across the yard without a pack of chickens around my feet.
If I dropped dead tomorrow, they wouldn’t care, however, as long as someone else showed up with cracked corn. I like to think that is part of their charm.
Of course, I have complete control of my chickens.
I’m going to tell you something that may shock you–I have no idea how many chickens I have.
Something around 50. Probably. Why don’t I know how many chickens I have? I lost count a long time ago. I also free-range my chickens, which means there are mysterious losses–some of which I can account for, and some I can’t. Sometimes chickens just go missing. Sometimes I don’t even know that they went missing.
And that’s because (brace yourself!) my chickens aren’t all named.
I have heard of people that name every single one of their chickens. I’m thinking either their chickens must all be a different breed or else they are far more exacting than I am with their memories. Some of my chickens just look alike. This is particularly true of my purebred chickens. I also have a number of mixed breed chickens, ones I’ve hatched out myself in the incubator, and those are much more easy to differentiate because each mixed breed chicken has a more unique appearance.
I love every single one of my chickens, but I can’t always tell them apart. Free-ranging is also a mixed bag, because it exposes the chickens to some risk, but overall I am a fan of free-ranging and will always do it. A chicken who free ranges is a healthier chicken (in my opinion) and a happier chicken. On the other hand, I also understand that not everyone is in the position to free-range. It depends on many factors whether or not this is a viable option, but for us, in our 40-acre farm in the middle of nowhere, it works well. We lose very few chickens to predators (knock on wood) and many of them even roost out at night. Some like to come back to the chicken house, some don’t. The ones that don’t will roost on the goat pen gates, and I believe the presence of other, larger, animals acts as a form of protection for them as we lose very few.
Some chickens do reach out and grab my attention, making themselves known in a unique way. Those chickens do end up named and I become extra attached to them (which is occasionally heartbreaking).
A few of the chickens I’ve loved and lost include my dear, sweet little banty hen who only wanted to be a mother.
The Funky Chicken disappeared soon after being released to free-range. (The most dangerous period of time for a chicken is in the days following their release as they learn the ropes of the free-range life.)
I really liked her, so that was upsetting.
And then there was the irreplaceable, the frightening, the love-to-hate-him Mean Rooster.
I still miss him and can’t believe he’s gone. Or believe I was so attached to a rooster that frequently tried to kill me.
Sometimes they like to stretch out on the grass and pretend they’re dead. They just do that to annoy me.
Then there’s the Crooked Little Hen…..
….who continues to breeze through life like the beauty queen she is.
And her boyfriend, Mr. Hyde.
Crooked and her Mister are both doing well. Mister is mostly on his own these days as Crooked is sitting on a nest in the goat pen. (We’ll see what comes of that! I’ve yet to have a hen sit on a successful nest.)
A nestful of crooked little blue eggs.
Spartacus, my little banty rooster, was one of my first chickens to really steal the show with his personality.
“Prepare to die.” He’s still around, and still wishing I’d get some more banties so he’d have somebody his own size.
And then there’s Lucky, who was actually my very first chicken. She was the miracle chick who hatched out of a batch in the incubator that was accidentally overheated. She’s a cheerful hen and a good layer.
She’s the unassuming queen of the chickens.
And a little bit….scraggly.
I think she’s been letting herself go since Mean Rooster died.
One of the most frequently asked questions around here is–why is this website called Chickens in the Road? Especially since our house is so far away from the road, our chickens are never in the road. Back when I was driving around looking at property and fantasizing about having my own farm, I was out on some little country back road. One of those narrow one-lane roads dotted with farms, tangled up in woods interspersed with meadows and falling-down barns, homes few and far between. The kind of place where you come across chickens in the road–and it’s actually quite safe, because the road is so far out from nowhere. It is that country. I said, “I want to live some place where I can have chickens in the road.”
To me, “chickens in the road” symbolizes a lot of things that I wanted to create in my life, not simply the literal meaning. (Chickens don’t really wander very far–my chickens have been, on occasion, as far as down to the bottom of our driveway, but I’ve never seen them go any further.) Chickens in the road, in my mind, is a lifestyle. One of these days, I may talk my chickens into taking a stroll in the road while I take pictures. You know, if I can get them to cooperate.
But don’t count on it.
I did a post here about the basics of keeping chickens if you’re thinking about starting your own flock.
See the archive of all my chicken posts here.
See all my posts in the “Cast of” series here.
This was a really fun post to read. As someone who has never had chickens but knows she can’t live a full life until she actually owns at least one chicken, this was a wonderful read and a great introduction to your brood of chickens. We had a favorite farm we visited when we lived in NC and one day the farmer said, “come over here and meet my chickens”. I knew then, I had to have a chicken.
I love the symbolism of your blog name ~ Makes me long for my own country life and country living. For now, I enjoy reading about yours. 🙂
On June 22, 2010 at 3:58 am
I have about half as many chickens as you do, and since the cast has changed year by year, now I really have to think if I want to “take inventory”. Here they can free range only with a bit of supervision (especially to keep them disciplined in the veg garden), but they do love it so I make the effort.
I am surprised you have not had a broody hen hatch some eggs. It’s the coolest thing on earth to watch a mother hen teach and protect her chicks! I hope CLH gives you that opportunity. (And I hope she’s not really sitting on her own eggs, passing on her genetic flaw!)
On June 22, 2010 at 6:39 am
Kelly Walker says:
We love your chickens too! And for those of us who can’t have chickens live vicariously through your posts. Thanks for sharing. Your chickens also make great models for my paintings. I am still working on others for the farm animal series. I love painting your babies!!!
On June 22, 2010 at 7:00 am
Love the blog. When do you mix the ages of your hens and chicks? I got my first flock last year and now this year I went a little crazy and I have 70 chicks but they are outgrowing their space. I want to combine in the bigger space but I don’t know when the best time would be. The chicks are 10-12 weeks.
On June 22, 2010 at 7:52 am
Suzanne McMinn says:
Elaine, just be careful about combining them when they’re little. I’ve had some chicks get crushed (sob) at the feed box when combined with older chickens. Also, I never let younger chickens be with roosters because they are more likely to peck at young chickens. I haven’t had trouble with hens doing that, but you never know. Watch them carefully after mixing them to see how they’re getting along. By the time they are about half-grown, they’re big enough to manage well in a mix of chickens. (Not sure what age that is–I go by looking at them. I always lose track of weeks! About full-grown banty-size is big enough.)
On June 22, 2010 at 8:03 am
:chicken: :heart: :heart:
On June 22, 2010 at 8:04 am
When I was young my father brought home 6 chicks for Easter. (He told my Mother not to worry because they would probably die) They grew and we would dress them in doll clothes and push them up and down the street in a doll buggy. Eventually they became Sunday dinner, cause we lived in the city and chickens were not allowed.
On June 22, 2010 at 8:12 am
Recently I acquired two 8 week old pullets and separated them from the laying hens. The next morning, they had somehow gotten in with the Big Girls, and were getting along fine, so I left them. In the past I had hens peck and kill younger pullets, so this was a happy surprise. Glad they get along well, as it is easier come chore time!
On June 22, 2010 at 9:26 am
I loved your pictures! We also have too many chickens so only a select few have names. (I have a “crooked little hen” too but mine is named Cross Beak.) When you talk about chickens disappearing and wondering where they go, we had a hen show up with seven chicks one day (we didn’t even know she was missing and sitting on a nest!) and a banty hen disappeared (thought a racoon may have gotten her) but she re-appeared with 11 :bugeyed: babies.
My chickens DO get into the road…so I love the title of your site.
On June 22, 2010 at 9:27 am
I’ve been reading your blog for about a year and a half now. I have come to the realization that I’m a country farm girl at heart. I have never really lived in the city, but also not on a farm either. I enjoyed reading about all your animals, cooking, country living in general. But last winter my DH’s co-worker started bringing in his farm eggs to work so people could take them home. One taste of that fresh egg and I knew what I (we really DH helped immensely) wanted to do. It took a lot of convincing on my part. I did load of research online and in books from the library. Everyone I told about my dream to have chickens thought I was nuts. Well this spring everything finally started to come together.
We live on 2 1/2 acres pretty much surrounded by dairy farms and fields so we fit right in! We started by buying my BIL’s old garden shed and moving it next to our storage building. With lots of hard work by my wonderful hubby, some paint and picking up items on craigslist, we now have an awesome coop, run, and automatic pop door!! I’ve been rambling long enough, here is a link to my facebook album with the pictures of the process!
Thanks for the inspiration!!!
Next time I’ll tell you all about the soap I’ve made!
On June 22, 2010 at 9:27 am
I love your blog and your photos and I do fantasize about that type of Chickens in the road lifestyle but doubt I’ll ever be able to afford it. I can’t really have chickens where I live just not enough room but I can live vicariously through you and your chickens. I’m so glad to have found your blog.
On June 22, 2010 at 9:31 am
Miss Judy says:
I knew exactly what you meant with the CITR name. I can remember going around a bend in the road and always slowing down because you just never knew when a neighbors chicken might be out for a walk!
On June 22, 2010 at 10:29 am
Your posts on your chickens are my absolute favorites! My girls and I cried when your broody little hen died and laughed when you nailed the raccoon’s tail to your porch. We also still miss hearing about Mean Rooster and we love your Crooked Little Hen! :heart:
On June 22, 2010 at 10:38 am
This was very interesting to read as I have many of the same experiences as you describe.
I just got my very first chicks in April of this year (just 1 doz) and they have been a joy! They are so relaxing and comical to watch. I just laugh watching a chicken run. lol
I let mine free-range as well. They have a building we chase them into at night and we just let them out in the morning. They free-range all day. We don’t have any fenced in area for them at all. Eventually I want a fenced in area attached to their building, but we’ve just been too busy.
So do your chickens just wander into their building at night by themselves? Do you shut it up? Or just leave it open for them go in and out as they please?
We usually chase ours in and shut it up for the night. I do worry about predators getting to them at night.
I plan to let mine free-range the majority of the time too. I just love looking out and seeing them pecking and scratching around. They really do add “something” to a farm.
On June 22, 2010 at 10:43 am
Susan at Charm of the Carolines says:
Suzanne, do you have trouble with chicken poop everywhere? I would love to have chickens and have picked out a coop I plan to build and have been reading about the care of urban chickens, but my parents who remember their chickens as kids only remember the poop everywhere and have discouraged me from getting a couple of banties. I love chickens, too.
On June 22, 2010 at 11:19 am
I don’t feel bad about not having names for all our chickens. It is so hard to name them when they look so much alike and the only differences are noticed when they are standing next to each other, lie that one is bigger than the other one or that one has a black feather on her belly. I think it would be easier to name them if they wore nametags, but they don’t seem too interested in putting one on. Darn it.
What happened to Mean Rooster? He sure was an imposing creature!
On June 22, 2010 at 11:57 am
Susan—yes, they poo, but if you have just a few banties it would not be that much. If they are kept in a pen/coop the poo would be contained there, so no worries about going barefoot in the back yard.
On June 22, 2010 at 12:14 pm
Thanks for this article. I will go read about starting chickens after I finish here.
Loved your photos. Especially Spartacus. Made me chuckle.
We are going to let ours free-range, too, and they won’t be named either.
Loved hearing about your chickens. 🙂
On June 22, 2010 at 12:17 pm
I have also sort of stumbled into my great love for chickens.
We live in the city, and the rules (ha!) limit us to 3 hens, no roosters. Well we incubated and hatched out 9 little banty eggs (that I found on Craigs List) last month and are now 13 chickies strong.
We won’t be flouting the law for long though, we’ve put an offer on our own CITR-style little farm house, just up the road a piece, and just out of city limits. :shimmy:
On June 22, 2010 at 12:21 pm
I just loved your story about all your chickens! I just think it would be so cool to have them. :chicken:
On June 22, 2010 at 12:44 pm
Yarnhog (Suzanne) says:
Oh, I love this post! A blog friend directed me here after reading my recent posts about my new “flock.”
On June 22, 2010 at 1:15 pm
Mary from Baton Rouge says:
I love this post Suzanne and I can’t agree with you more! I love my flock. I do free range mine some of the time. I let them out of their pen half of the day. You see, I have four bird dogs who would love to get their paws on my chickens, so they have to split their time being free with the chickens.
I have recently acquired several bronze turkeys. Our goal is to have fresh turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. We have lost two of my original five. I did not realize that you should not keep turkeys on the same pasture that you keep chickens on. We have made some adjustments and the remaining three seem to be thriving.
On June 22, 2010 at 3:09 pm
I am so glad I am not alone in my “unknowledge” of how many chickens I have or if I have lost any! I think I have around 100 hens and a half dozen roosters. I don’t really know for sure though. We free ranged at first and then lost the entire flock sans 3 to the local foxes. We no longer free range anything more than the ducks and the roosters that refuse to stay penned. I miss the lovely eggs that free ranging gives you. You are so lucky to be able to let yours free range!
Bantys are addicting! We started a small flock of them this spring. They are such fun, endearing little things.
On June 22, 2010 at 5:28 pm
Another reader living vicariously through your chicken posts. My husband even asked our mayor if it was illegal to have chickens in the city. He said he hadn’t heard that it was but I’m sure I read somewhere that no farm animals were allowed. Hubby’s theory is get the chickens and plead ignorance. My theory is get my the heck out of the city. It’s only a small town-ish city but they sure do interfere with what you want to do. And our neighbors complain about everything. No, I don’t really like the Jerusalem artichokes any better than they do, but they are edible. And I believe I saw a recipe for pickled ones on “Farm Bell”.
I’m confused about the “looking” or “shopping” for land comment. I thought your farm was part of your family’s land? Stringtown and all. You actually had to hunt for land? You didn’t inherit? Your characters in your novels would have. Anyway, however you came by it, I’m glad you did. It keeps me sane while I am stuck on my little 10th of an acre, trying to figure out where I can cram one more bucket of tomatoes.
On June 22, 2010 at 7:00 pm
Suzanne McMinn says:
lavenderblue, I didn’t inherit this farm. We had to buy it! It borders my great-grandfather’s old farm.
On June 22, 2010 at 7:49 pm
One of the nice things about chickens (or other poultry)is that they don’t have to be included in the count when someone askes (and they always do) “Just how many animals do you have here? …usually said in a not to friendly voice.
On June 22, 2010 at 8:07 pm