Getting to Know Chickens

The rewards of raising a few chickens.

| September/October 2010

  • Hens
    Raising chickens can be fun and rewarding, and can also teach you to make new sounds.

  • Hens

You’d never guess it to look at me, but I am a woman who can make completely convincing chicken noises. I can sound like a contented chicken, an excited hen and a wide-awake little bantam rooster.

It isn’t a skill you’re likely to see on my resumé, but it is one of which I am somewhat proud, along with being able to yodel and double-clutch a 10-speed dump truck. Since I’ve quit singing in my band, the yodel isn’t getting much of a workout these days, and, to be honest, it’s been years since I drove a dump truck. But recently, I spent a few minutes with some chickens, and we had a nice conversation, though I imagine when I left the coop they gossiped behind my back about what a terrible accent I have.

Even a few years ago, I would not have imagined myself as someone who would be comfortable spending quality time in the presence of chickens. Then I moved to Kansas and took up residence on my friends’ farm. They didn’t have chickens when I moved in, but within months someone at one of our sister publications offered me five lovely Araucana hens and I thought, “Why not? I live in the country, I should have chickens.”

When I brought the chickens home and ensconced them in the old hen house, my friend who owned the farm thought chickens were such a great idea, he went to the poultry swap a couple of weeks later and bought about 60 fowl of various description. We quickly went from having five little hens who provide a few eggs in pretty Easter colors to having a full-scale poultry operation.

I can tell you, I like a few hens. An actual poultry operation? Not so much. Chickens in large numbers can be odoriferous and also very mean to each other. The term “pecking order” describes an actual phenomenon, as any of our readers who’ve been around chickens can testify, and for those at the bottom of this natural order, life can be miserable indeed.

But overall, I’m glad chickens are making a comeback on the American scene, and wish I owned stock in a few companies that sell poultry fencing and incubator supplies. This trend is going nowhere but up, and I predict that within a few years, every community in the country will amend its covenants to allow a few backyard chickens. Living on the farm, I came to greatly appreciate the elegant partnership we can develop with chickens. We fed them garden waste and food scraps, and they gave us delicious eggs with such deep orange yolks they looked practically citrus. 

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