My therapist lives in a chicken coop. Yup. We have (currently) six hens. Whenever I need some reassurance, I head out to the shed where they live. I tell them all my problems. In fact, I can tell them anything; hens are experts at keeping secrets. When I’m finished complaining, they come around and bwaaaaak and braaap at me. Hens must make the most comforting noises in the animal kingdom! My hens always help me feel better, and they don’t charge $100 an hour.
In addition to their solicitous sympathy, my ladies are obliging in other ways. For instance, I feed them kitchen scraps that I can’t put in my compost pile (meat in particular) and they turn them into very tasty eggs. Before planting, I let them loose in my vegetable garden where they patrol for bugs and weed seedlings. I compost their bedding mixed with droppings to provide all the high-nitrogen fertilizer I need.
In return for all their help, I clean their coop a few times a year, fill their feeder weekly, and bring them clean water (and collect eggs) daily. Most days that means I give them five to ten minutes of my time—unless I want to hang around and chat.
We’ve kept hens off and on for the past twenty years, first in a tiny suburban yard in Silicon Valley, and now on our almost-five acres in Colorado. Assuming they are well cared for, they don’t smell. They don’t bark. (They do make happy clucking noises when they’ve laid an egg, but that’s usually at a very reasonable mid-morning hour.) They don’t take up much space.
As the oft-quoted saying goes, “Chickens make great pets that require little care, produce fertilizer, eat bugs, are very cute, and give eggs at almost no cost, plus, if you get tired of them, you can eat them.” I can’t imagine life without them.
Keeping hens is legal in many urban and suburban areas, and rapidly gaining in popularity. Denver even had a Chicken Coop Tour last year! With all those benefits, I expect even more people will want chickens.
If you’re thinking about keeping a small home flock, there are just a few important requirements. Like us, hens need food and water, protection from predators and the weather, and enough space to enjoy life. All that is easily provided in the average backyard. Most of the expense of keeping hens is all up front—buying or building a coop and fenced outdoor area is definitely the biggest investment. You’ll also need some sort of feeder and a way to offer water. Finally, you’ll need a way to keep your chicks warm and safe until they’re big enough to move into their coop. (The chicks themselves only run between $2 – 3.) I’ll be covering all these topics in the months to come.
Winter is the perfect time to plan for chicken keeping. You can learn all about keeping hens, take care of any preparations, and be ready to go when chicks become available in the spring. I hope you’ll give it a try!