Sunday, May 20, 2012

Chicken Adventures: Meet the Girls

We have a lot of testosterone in our house.  When I found out my second son was a boy, I have to admit that I was disappointed.  Another boy?  Including our dog, that meant I would be outnumbered 4 to 1.  And it’s rough being the only girl.  A day in my life=superheroes, cars, dirt, and urine.  Urine.  So much urine.

I’m never invited to guys’ night.  Instead, I have to hang out all by myself with nothing better to do than read books or catch up on Jeopardy or eat massive amounts of cookie dough that I hide under the vegetables in the freezer.
So, in an effort to reclaim my girliness--to make up for the distinct lack of pink and purple and tiaras and ballet--I decided to bring up the estrogen levels in the same way any girl would.

I bought 12 chickens.

For a couple of years, I’ve been trying to figure out a way to have backyard chickens.  Motivated by Jonathan Safran Foer’s gripping book Eating Animals, we started changing the way we eat in our house.  We eat a lot less meat and a lot more fruits and vegetables.  We try to eat as local as possible and in season as possible.  Most importantly, we like to know where our food comes from.  
The angle makes it look like the bottom yolk is bigger, but it's not.  The top yolk--from my chickens--is bigger, firmer, and clearly more colorful.  The bottom yolk is from a "local" store-bought egg that probably sat on a shelf for 40-100 days before we ate it.

Before anyone writes me off as one of those people, know this: I’ve already mentioned my cookie dough addiction, and for the record, Doritos are always in season.  We are totally debatably normal people who are just trying to make better choices for our family, but we also have our guilty pleasures to be enjoyed without guilt on occasion.

We are a military family, so the next decade+ will be full of moves, so I can’t settle into farm life the way I probably would under other circumstances--I would LOVE to be completely self-sustaining to know that every bit of food I consume came from my hard work, but it just isn’t possible.  BUT, I can start with chickens and at least know that eggs are coming from healthy, happy, humanely-treated hens who haven’t been pumped full of steroids or antibiotics.

We live on 38 acres with only one family as neighbors, and we were chatting a couple of weeks ago about my desire to have chickens.  The Saturday before Mother’s Day, my neighbor, Mike, asked if I was serious about turning an unused outbuilding into a coop, and by Monday, we had a coop.
This shelter is right outside our house and wasn't being used for anything.  Neighbor Mike made the door out of  some chicken wire and scrap wood he found lying around somewhere on our 38 acres.
Helping Daddy build the door
Between our house and theirs, there are eight boys (the smallest one is tiny, so he was taking a nap) which makes a great construction crew.
I put Ben up here to take a picture, and Will said, "Is Ben trying to poop out an egg?"  Another added bonus to having chickens--more conversations about anatomy and reproduction.

Even though I look like I haven't showered (because I hadn't) in this picture, I wanted to post a picture of me with this chicken-induced smile on my face!
On Wednesday, I contacted two local farmers--two very lovely stay-at-home-moms--who sold me a total of twelve hens.  On Thursday, we had our first four eggs (which I think is a pretty excellent return considering the trauma my girls experienced being uprooted from their homes and transferred to a new place with a bunch of chickens they had never met before--probably not unlike how I felt when I switched schools between junior high and high school).  We had six eggs the next day and eight the next, so I think the girls are starting to feel comfortable in their new home.

Speaking of homes, I have too much pent up creativity to just throw them in a coop.  No, no.  Welcome to:

This is an homage to the epic serial novel, Bleak House, penned by the incomparable Charles Chickens.  I mean, Dickens.  (If nothing else, I hope you are a more informed reader by the end of this post.)
And now, some pictures and bios because I know you are all dying to meet the girls. They refused to line up for individual pictures, so if you want to know who is who, you’ll have to visit, so I can point them out to you.  Their breeds are in parentheses.
From L to R: Erika Buzzard, Feathery O'Connor, Emily Chickensen, and Louisa Lay Alcott.
  • Louisa Lay Alcott (Rhode Island Red): a natural nurturer and motherly hen.  She is clearly the queen of the roost and lovingly keeps all the other girls in line.
  • Feathery O’Connor (Barred Rock): the penultimate Southern lady.  She is quiet and reserved and makes her presence known with compact, deliberate strength.
  • Emily Chickensen (Barred Rock): the shiest of the group by far.  She spends most of her time alone in the corner.  The other hens both fear and are drawn to her dark eccentricity.
  • Erika Buzzard (Rhode Island Red/Black Australorp): the only hen without a literary namesake.  She is named after one of my best friends, who just happens to have a bird as her maiden name, and who is jealous of my backyard chickens and thus insisted I name one after her.  Erika is the only mixed breed chicken, making her the most unique of all the hens at Beak House.


  • Harper Lay (Rhode Island Red): one of a kind and irreplaceable.  She is a hen who wears her morals on her wings as an epic purveyor of good.  Her wisdom is not broad, but deep, and she influences the other hens to think before pecking.
  • Judy Plume (Rhode Island Red): the girls’ girl of the group.  Her juvenile humor allows her to be a peacemaker during girlish squabbles and makes her a perfect social chairwoman, organizing all girls’ day out activities.
  • Maya Angelay (Rhode Island Red): the yin to Judy Plume’s yang, the woman’s woman of the group.  She exudes charm, beauty, and confidence.  Effortlessly.
  • Eggith Wharton (Rhode Island Red): a hen of prestige and privilege, who appreciates the finer things in life while remaining accessible to those who have not had the same opportunities.  She is diplomatic and humble in regards to her position in the coop and maintains positive connections with everyone.  She is also the resident designer of Beak House.
Not a chicken.
My best helper.
Buying flax seed in bulk to add to their pellets.
Me and Dorothy
I love her.
Obligatory crazy chicken lady picture--take note of my new rubber boots.  Who doesn't love buying new boots?
  • Emma Layzarus (Rhode Island Red): a proud and spirited hen.  Her natural compassion and fervor for hen life inspires all who meet her to act on behalf of less fortunate hens.
  • Anais Hen (Rhode Island Red): a scandalous little lady.  Many of the other hens view her as an outcast and a show-off, while secretly wanting to be her.
  • Eggna St. Vincent Millay (Rhode Island Red): a hen who loves her simple home and refuses to be bullied into submission by anyone who does not appreciate her individuality.  She is stubborn, smart, and assertive.
  • Dorothy Bawker (Rhode Island Red): the comedienne of the group.  She is wildly (but forgivably and lovably) erratic, standing out in the crowd with her noise.  She makes friends easily but alienates some by spending far too much time at the water bowl.

We also bought six chicks on Friday, who are named after characters rather than the fabulous writers who created them.  Their names are tentative, as we won’t know if they are actually girls for another few weeks.  The two Rhode Island Reds are Jane Layre and Scout Finch.  The two Barred Rocks are Hester Preen and Katniss Everpreen.  The two Auracanas are Henny Weasley and Hermione Freeranger.

Each day has brought more eggs, and everyone seems to be adjusting well to Beak House.  Eggith Wharton and I are still in the process of decorating, but I will post more pictures soon when I have more to report.  Thanks for reading!


  1. Awesome!! I was cracking up (pun intended!) over your chickens' names and descriptions and my husband is SO jealous that you guys have chickens. That is one of his dreams!!

    1. Well, clearly, I wasn't going to name them without purpose. It's not that hard, so if your city codes allow it, you should totally get three or four. The boys would LOVE it!

  2. I am beyond excited that my proposed chicken name might get used if Katniss turns out to in fact be a girl. I am fascinated by this whole venture and can't wait to read more.

    1. I actually think Katniss Everpreen is one of the best names of all! If "she" is a he, we'll just replace him with Katniss Everpreen II and so on until we get a girl.

  3. OMG. The names are classic! Love it! I would totally have a hen house if we had some land. Not sure my neighbors would appreciate the noise. Excited for your new female friends! I feel ya with the lack of estrogen over this way too. Two boys and a husband and I'm always out-voted and outnumbered. :) Cute blog!

    1. As of now, I think everyone should have chickens. One or two wouldn't make much noise. :)

  4. These are great! Beak House is hilarious. My favorites have to be Hermione Freeranger and Emily Chickenson. Brilliant, Leia!

    1. I'm so glad I didn't disappoint you! :)

  5. I laughed til I cried over the names!


    I want chickens! Now that I have a stay-at-home husband, it's looking like my dream will soon be a reality, too!

    1. Somehow I missed this when you posted it! I am so glad I've inspired you--and I can't wait to see what you name yours!