We have wanted chickens for years. I lived in a neighborhood with a strict Home Owners Association (HOA) in Tucson, Arizona before I moved to Portland, Oregon, and so I couldn't have any chickens. My in-laws had chickens, and because of that, my older daughter named my MIL "Gramma Chickens" when she was 2 or 3. My MIL still goes by Gramma Chickens, and my older daughter is almost 10 now. Ever since my first time reaching into a nesting box and collecting a fresh egg, and seeing the vibrant orange yolks instead of the water yellow ones I'd seen all my life, I wanted chickens.
I told my sister I wanted chickens. She already lived in Oregon, and thought I was nuts. She thought it would be bad all around: bad for neighbors, bad for the yard, bad for the chickens themselves. But because she is a scientist (she has since earned her veterinary degree and license), she researched it before telling me I was nuts or placing judgement. Next thing I knew, she was hatching out her own chicks and building her own coop.
When we came to visit, we were in love. Here is my younger daughter chasing my sister's chickens (this barely walking baby is now 7!). They weren't too intimidated by her. We all loved the chicks and chickens.
In 2011, I was diagnosed with Mal de Debarquement Syndrome. When I go on an airplane, I get 2 months of rocking, bobbing vertigo that feels like I'm on a boat at sea, along with incapacitating fatigue and migraines. So we drove on our summer vacation instead of flying, and I was devastated to find that one long day in the car triggered another 2 month illness in me. (I've also been advised not to take boats or trains). I faced the prospect of being clear across the country from my family, unable to travel to see them, and with an illness that when active, made caring for my children very difficult. So, my husband and I decided to move to the Portland Oregon area, a few miles from my sister and a 2 hour drive from my mom (2 car-hours I can do). While there were a lot of downsides to facing a lifetime of not traveling and having to settle in a new place, the chickens and the easy gardening were a huge plus. (If you've ever tried to plant a garden in the SouthWest, you know what a challenge it is; I couldn't even dig a hole in Tucson because the ground was so hard and dry).
So we got a house, got 10 chicks (all named after My Little Ponies, and planted a garden. Out of our 10 chicks, we gave 2 to friends, 2 were roosters, 2 got sick and died, and one was dragged off by a raccoon or fierce cat. We were left with three: a Rhode Island Red named Apple Jack, a golden laced Polish named Spike and an Easter Egger named Twilight. Then we adopted 2 Rhode Island Reds (production reds, I believe) from my mother's friend. They came named Betty and Veronica.
Twilight and my younger daughter
Apple Jack, Veronica, Betty (behind)
My sister bought fertilized eggs and incubated them this spring. They hatched the Friday of the beginning of Spring Break. My sister babysat the kids that day, so they got to see most of them hatch. A trip to the feed store meant she let my girls each pick out a sexed chick (last year, we had to eat my older daughter's "baby," Rainbow Dash, when he turned out to be a rooster). My older picked a dark Brahma and my younger picked a Buff Orpington. We came home with 9 chicks.
Buff Orpington: Daffodil. She looks mean but she's a sweetie. She is the second-friendliest chick we have. She's big and smart and fast. She darts in to steal a treat from the big chickens so quickly they don't know what happened.
Dark Brahma: Nugget. Nugget is AWESOME. She's a greedy pig, bigger than all the other chicks, brave enough to hang out with the grown up chickens and fend them off, even when faced with their favorite treats to battle over. And despite being so tough and brave, she lets me pick her up and cuddle her.
Silver Laced Wyandottes (3): Cruella, Ursula and Maleficient (or Dexter, if Maleficient is a rooster)
Cruella or Ursula (They are identical: mostly black with some white)
Maleficent/Dexter. I think he is a male mostly because he looks so different from the other 2 silver-laced wyandottes. I named them evil named because they frustrate me beyond belief. They are skittish and when it's time to lock them up for the night, the Wyandottes run away (I try to wait until it is dark, but with chronic fatigue, I have an early bedtime. It's still light out when I need to lock them up lately). I end up having to chase them down, which scares them more, which means they are more likely to run away from me the next evening. When I pick them up to put them away, they scream like I'm tearing their feathers out. I don't like them much, so I named them evil names to keep myself light-hearted about them. Now that I recognize there are "evil," it doesn't bother me as much. Dexter even let me pen him up last night with minimal fuss. (That means he was the last one in, I only had to chase a little, and he only squawked a medium amount when I touched him).
Olive Eggers: Dragonfly and Oliver (pretty sure Oliver is male)
Dragonfly. Isn't she gorgeous? Her gold color gleams in the sun. I have no idea what breeds she is; she was sold (in fertilized egg form) as an olive egger and that's it. She's small and a bit shy, but once you catch her, she's gentle and sweet.
Oliver is rumpless with a peacomb. I want to breed him with our Easter Egger, Twilight, and see what babies result.
Barred Rock mix: Turtle (male). Turtle was named because he hatched right when I arrived at my sister's to drop off my kids with her. He pushed out of the shell and laid there, with half the shell on his back like a little turtle. I don't have a picture right now, but you know, little wet black chick with half an egg shell on his back, photo slightly blurry because it's taken through incubator plastic. There, you've got it.
Cream legbar: Romeo (male). His beak is not QUITE aligned properly, as you may be able to tell in this picture. His comb is also crooked and his right eye is smaller than his left. Poor lil guy. He is small and shy, but friendly to me if I can get all the bigger, fiercer chickens out of our way first. I like to root for the underchicken, so I try to feed him special treats. Sometimes I bring him yogurt, scramble him an egg or make him some oatmeal, something soft he can eat without trouble. He's a good boy.
And that's my current integrated flock.
Here are the chicks (and one RIR) having a "water cooler moment."
But.... because chicken math, you know that that's not ALL we have. We got a few males from the hatch, and our only cream legbar (an autosexing breed) is a rooster, so I got on Craigslist and bought a couple of female cream legbars. I want those blue eggs! Our still unnamed legbar chicks.
They are very small and shy so they are not in with the chicks and chickens yet. I also haven't decided on names for them yet. I'm considering Matilda and Miss Honey but I might think of something even better.
We keep a "chicken bowl" on the kitchen counter, and all our food scraps go in there. Since we have 2 kids, there is usually some waste of cooked food in addition to the normal stuff that would normally go on a compost heap. When the kids leave a box of cereal open so long it goes stale and the box has ants, they get that too. Every morning, I go out and let the chickens out, call them, feed them the scraps, and talk to them a little. I asked our back neighbors if the chickens were bothering him; could he hear them? He told me no, he couldn't hear them, but sometimes he could hear ME talking to them! I told him to feel free to yell out, "Hush up over there, crazy chicken lady!" Ha. He insisted he doesn't mind, but I offered him free eggs anyway.
I love my crazy chickens, yes, even Cruella and Ursula, and I'm about to build them a big coop (a shed!) because they've outgrown their little 6 chicken coop we built last year... A bigger coop means I can get a few more chickens.
How I came to have a flock of spoiled rotten chickens
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