I Love My Chickens

Yesterday we went for a big walk along the canal to one of my favourite spots, near Theale, but quite a few folk were out and about enjoying the fresh spring air and I confess it left me feeling rather anxious about leaving the house again today. So, instead of going for a Sunday walk, we spent the day in the garden. In all our tasks, we were accompanied by the chickens who were Very Interested In Everything.

Two chickens in shot - one is a gingery colour with a lovely red comb; in the background there is a black chicken

We are so lucky to have a garden and to be able to keep hens.

A lovely dark hen - Lizzo - peeks through the chickenwire of her enclosure to the lush green grass beyond

I wish I could share these things with everyone who is feeling afraid or sad in the strange days of this pandemic. The clucking, bustling presence of the chickens plus their dear little sounds are a massive comfort. Since everyone doesn’t have chickens, but lots of us are feeling anxious and worried at the moment, I thought I’d try to share them with you here.

Little white chicken standing beside waterer

First, let’s talk about the chickens’ eggs. I swear it doesn’t matter how many times I pick up a warm, smooth egg from under a hen, or from the little depression they make in their bedding before they lay, each time it feels like a miracle. How can these characterful little creatures produce these tasty items from their fluffy arses? I think it is magic. I pay very close attention to my chickens’ eggs. If the shells are a little bit thin or seem fragile, I make them a fortifying porridge of oats and ground up eggshells, with some tasty herbs – fennel or chilli or whatever I have on hand – to replenish them. Because of this, the chickens follow me everywhere, optimistically anticipating Treat Porridge. I love to fuss and pamper them and like to think their eggs are extra tasty because of it.

a gingery coloured hen eats treats from her feeder

Next let’s talk about their feathers. My chickens have got lovely feathers.

Lizzo – who is the darkest of the flock – has an almost bottle-green iridescence. She is the most laid back of the hens and her shiny emerald plumage is super silky to the touch. You can see the greeny tinge here, in this photo where Lizzo is hanging out with the speckledy Princess that is Missy, and they both have their heads down scratching in the ground for tasty morsels.

Lizzo and Missy with their beautiful dark feathers - two pretty hens seen from the back

Silky Lizzo peeks to the side, her bright red comb sparkles and she is all shiny and lovely

Lauryn is a gingery-coloured hen; she is extremely food-focused and more adventurous than the others when it comes to “Stuff I Will Do For Food”. She experimentally pecks everything (can I eat it?); wolfs down massive earthworms in three terrifying gulps; jumps or flies up to wherever OMGMEALWORMS are being kept; and will literally *sprint* for food. Lauryn also has a horrible habit of jumping in any treatbowl offering and immediately kicking all the contents on the ground, while she ruthlessly sifts through it with her beak in case there are any OMGMEALWORMS in there. I love Lauryn’s biscuity feathers and we are allowed to pick her up and give her a cuddle, as long as we don’t come between her and her food.

Lauryn - the gingery hen - face down scratching in the ground looking for treats

Missy is shy.

Missy the speckled hen with the red comb, she stands with her back to the camera

She had a chest infection last year and has never trusted me since I put her in TRAVEL CAGE and took her to VET. She is fleet of foot, impossible to catch, and very interested in caring for The Eggs. Lauryn and Becky sometimes forget themselves and lay in random places – yesterday, for example, we had a bit of an “oops, it’s on the patio however did it get there?” moment with those two. However, Missy feels there is an order to The Eggs with which all hens should comply. Sometimes she stands outside the coop and yells for hours – a long, complainy sort of noise – because the proper order of laying is not being observed. Once The Eggs are laid, Missy likes to fluff herself up and cover and warm them.

I very often have to scoot my hand gently underneath her toasty little body to retrieve The Eggs, but she is very sweet tempered about this, and tends to slightly chide me before standing up, fluffing out her magnificent speckled wings, and then settling back down again. Missy is the only chicken to have a fetching little top knot on her head; it bobs about like a fascinator when she runs towards us because OMGMEALWORMS.

a speckled black and white hen and a black hen face one another, their bright red combs aligned

The pecking order IS A REAL THING. Becky is at the bottom; she swiftly understood this and, as a matter of survival, has perfected a grab and run manouevre. Little, swift, and the colour of clotted cream, she is relaxed about being picked up and cuddled and will often just hunker down when you’re near and wait to be scooped. The combination of her grab and run moves and her very sweet nature are very winsome and although she is bottom of the flock in the eyes of the others, she might just be our favourite.

Becky the white hen, peeping through the chicken wire

Speaking of Becky brings me to my third favourite thing about chickens: Dust Bath.

Becky has a real knack for finding a good spot for a dust bath. She’ll burrow with her feet and beak until she’s sculpted a perfect, chicken-sized divot, in which she’ll then roll around happily for ages – or until another member of the flock turfs her out to take a turn. The main rule of Dust Bath is that everyone wants to be in Dust Bath and the only one of interest is the one that already has a chicken in it.

I wish I had a photo for you of the chickens taking it in turns to enjoy Dust Bath, or rather of the chickens fighting over whose turn it is, but hopefully you can imagine it.

A black and white chicken scratch in the dirt together

Eggs, Feathers, Dust Baths, OMGMEALWORMS.

In conclusion, Chickens are the best. I love mine so much and wish that I could transmit a tiny chicken cuddle to you, a little cluck, and a perfect poached egg to wherever you are in the world. In the meantime, this post will have to do.

I hope you are finding comfort in whatever you’re doing, wherever you are.
YOURS IN I LOVE MY CHICKENS –
XF

Becky and Lizzo scratching in the dirt

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8 Responses to I Love My Chickens

  1. Terry Hickman says:

    What a lovely portrait of your beloved chickens. My son (now 50!) had a best chicken friend when he was about 5 or 6. Her name was Charlie, and he was the only human she allowed near her. She was quite the imperious lady. And she lived many years past the usual natural chicken age. Even in her dotage she would lay eggs all over the place, hiding each one separately. But she would show my son where they were, and in return he would pick up old boards and mats of leaves to reveal all the little creepy crawlies underneath for her delectation. Theirs was a long and warm friendship and he was devastated when she passed away. Chickens are wonderful personalities!

  2. Karen says:

    Eggs are awesome.
    Chickens are awesome.
    Wait. Should it be the other way round?

  3. Elizabeth Martin says:

    What a fabulous, comforting post. Brilliant, vivid descriptions! Thank you, Felix.

  4. Pamela Butler says:

    Lovely post. Thank you. We get our eggs from the chickens in the field out back, not ours, but they are delivered to the doorstep every Saturday and I can see them and the 2 geese when I sit up in bed and when walking past with the dogs. They are indeed endlessly interesting and such a range of colours.

  5. Freyalyn Close-Hainsworth says:

    What a lovely post – I really enjoyed your chickenny words.

    Look after them carefully; people are stealing chickens now

  6. kmkat says:

    My mother raised chickens when I was small, but she had hundreds (thousands?) and had a special shed built for them. I was not able to spend any time with them because I could not breathe in that shed. But this post has made me long for a couple-few hens of my own, although since we live in the north woods of Wisconsin, I don’t think they would survive very long — foxes, coyotes, wolves, bears. And dogs.

  7. Beth says:

    OMG! I ADORE chickens! I have three right now, a lovely black iridescent one similar to yours, a Buff Orpington with that pretty gingerish tone, and a copper/black lacewing Wyandotte.

    Like you, they give me endless pleasure and make me smile, no matter what.

    I often tell people, “chickens are like dogs that lay eggs.” After all, they follow you around, keep you company, and in return, offer up their own special bounty. (Now if only you could knit with their feathers…)

    Thank you for sharing your beauties with us.

  8. Charlotte says:

    Hi Felix!
    Oh how I wish we were nearer, and there wasn’t a pandemic, so we could share a cup of tea and Talk About Chickens. I’m going on 10 years keeping a few hens in the backyard, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Mine are a bit flighty, thanks to the Gigantic Herding Collie who believes it is his job to Put Them Back In The Coop. But lovely, have ruined my grass but I don’t care. The eggs have ruined me for market eggs. And I have 3 new ladies, currently in the cold frame as they get big enough to introduce to the Older Ladies. Chickens are the best.

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