For the Love of Pets
photography: Jenna Resko
My husband, Willie, and I began our chicken adventure this past spring. We are now very proud owners of five beautiful hens, named after country music artists (Patsy, Loretta, Emmy Lou, Reba and Dolly). Sorry City of Hailey, we had five before the three hen ordinance was enacted. Thanks to the City of Hailey, you are now allowed to have three laying hens within the city limits. Hmm…what if they aren’t laying, can you have more? The ordinance is just one way to make the city more sustainable.
Willie and a helpful friend built our coop out of an old deck and various other materials. We had no plans, other than building something that would be easy to clean and would provide lots of space. From our summer chicken project we have a learned a ton. The most important thing is this: Chickens have many predators and it’s our job to protect them.
Our dogs were the biggest predators in the beginning, but I’ll spare you that story. Let’s just say there was lots of barking and flying feathers involved. Since then, we have been meticulous about letting out the chickens only when one of us is home. Call us overprotective, but we have put too much time, love and effort into these hens to lose them. Once the coop is built and you buy the basic supplies (straw, cedar shavings, food, scratch, feeders, etc.), you can sit back and enjoy your flock.
We have made some fun discoveries along the way. For example, our chickens love table scraps, especially watermelons and tomatoes. They come running whenever I open the gate, in hopes that I might bring them a treat. Another neat thing, the chickens will put themselves to ‘bed’ inside the coop at dusk and perch on their roost. They even line up in the same order every night. We call our pen/coop the “time waster,” as our chickens keep us very entertained. My husband turned to me the other day and stated, “getting these chickens was the coolest thing we have ever done.” Oh yeah, I completely agree, but I’m sure our friends think we need to get a life!
Our hens were hatched in May, so they should be laying any day now. If you get chickens, be ready for the big question: Any eggs yet? I haven’t talked to a friend or family member in weeks without this question popping up.
For the record, you don’t need roosters in order for chickens to lay eggs. Thanks to the very informative website and forum at www.backyardchickens.com, I learned that a very red comb is a telltale sign of your hen getting ready to lay. We have three with really red combs, one without a comb and one with a black comb. Every day I look for another sign…or just an egg!
Have any chicken questions, tips or stories for me?
Missing Chicken update:
I wrote this before we headed out on a road trip to Utah last weekend. When our neighbor was closing up the coop for us, only 4 out of 5 chickens were in there. One is missing, and it’s my favorite one (Emmy Lou) to be precise. No sign of a struggle, no clues. Our house has turned into CSI: Hailey. This isn’t the first time, and I am afraid it won’t be the last time, we have a disappearing chicken. I’m sad and confused. I will keep you abreast of any news on my next Fetch blog.
[For more on the ever-growing popularity of raising chickens, check out the photo essay, A New Pecking Order, which is currently gracing the pages of Sun Valley Magazine’s Fall Home issue, or click here to read the story.