Working our angles

Scene: Lunchtime, Armstrong sitting to my left, Tyrant sitting to my right. Somehow the topic of chickens comes up, maybe because we’re eating a chicken salad. Or maybe because I’ve been talking about nothing else since I found out we could raise our own in the backyard. I would name them after my personal heroes: this hen is Thom Yorke. And this one is Ramona Quimby. And that fancy one over there is The Avon World Sales Leader.

I say to Armstrong, you know, most people support the idea of chickens. I’ve heard a few horror stories, but the majority of the feedback has been overwhelmingly in favor of the idea. And the Internet always knows what it’s talking about. You can trust that the Internet would not lie to us about chickens. If you do a Snopes search on chickens, turns out THEY ARE REAL.

Armstrong doesn’t even flinch. He takes another bite of his salad, swallows, and then says, nope. We’re not getting chickens. In fact, before we ever get chickens he’d string himself up by his nipples with a set of rusty nails and fishing wire and dangle from a pole over a den of angry Republicans.

Tyrant, having grown up on a farm in Southern California, reaches across me and my plate, waves his arm in front of Armstrong and says, “But I know chickens like the back of my hand. Lovely creatures, they are.”

Have I mentioned I recently gave him a raise?

This time Armstrong clenches his jaw. He’s not budging. He won’t even say anything. At this point Tyrant has gotten up from the table and is throwing something away when he catches my glance and winks at me.

“Jon,” he starts, “what if some anonymous person sent Heather some chicks in the mail? What would you do then?”

“EXACTLY!” I scream. “You couldn’t just send them back! They’d die! And you couldn’t just abandon them! They’d be homeless and alone! We’d HAVE to raise the chickens then!”

“Oh, we’d raise the chickens, alright,” Armstrong says. “After I hire a private investigator, find out exactly who sent those chicks, and then show up at their house and punch them in the groin.”

Any takers?

  • Noelle

    I must agree with you on the Ramona Quimby as a hero…but I disagree with you on the chickens – had them, hated them – and I LOVE all animals…except chickens. They are dirty, yucky, noisy little animals. And they are not smart (I don’t need anyone to yell at me or quote studies showing how chickens are smarter than me – again, I had them and you will not convince me otherwise.) Sure, there are benefits, and if you are a chicken farmer or something and your whole life is dedicated to cleaning coops and gathering eggs, I’m sure it’s a different story. But when you have a job and kids and a life and then you have this coop to clean, eggs to gather, chickens to feed, blah blah…not to mention the constant squawking in your yard and the fact that it is very difficult to find a kennel that will board your chickens when you have to go out of town…the novelty wears off and IMO, is so not worth it! I say go make friends with a neighbor who has chickens – they will be happy to give you some eggs!

  • micmacker

    You know, I think the last post that was this divisive was the one about the bathroom remodel. Who knew we all took chicken farming so seriously? You’ve tapped a deep wellspring here.

  • hoosiergirl1962

    Grew up in Indiana…
    Very close to a chicken house…
    Chicken shit stinks…
    A “special place in Hell” type of stink
    all Im saying

  • Amanda Brumfield

    Oh I am soooooo sending you some chickens. There’s no way Captain Clog is driving all the way to Mississippi to punch me in the groin.

  • Penny Rene

    I just want to say – IT WASN’T ME.

  • Petra

    I just got 3 chickens yesterday! They are 14 weeks old, so they can live outside (I wasn’t game for chicks in the house) and will start laying in 6-8 weeks. I got the chicken bug about a year ago and did a lot of research. Most people’s concerns seem to be about smell, poop, and noise. Chickens are not noisy, roosters are. Don’t get a rooster. Don’t want them pooping all over your yard or getting eaten by things? Build them a run. Turns out there are two ways to maintain your chicken area. 1. clean it regularly. 2. don’t clean it regularly and use what’s called the “deep litter” method. The second one stinks. The first one doesn’t. I live in San Francisco and have a tiny yard. I visited several people in a similar situation who did not have unhappy neighbors because their chickens do not stink and are not noisy. Also, there are some breeds of chickens that are easier to deal with than others. When you’re ready, find someone who is used to selling to folks interested in backyard chickens so they can help you make the right choices.

    My 4 year old thinks these are the most awesome things ever. My dog is still skeptical.

    Good book: Keeping Chickens
    Good website:
    We bought plans for our coop at:

    Also, to the person who said the eggs are not better. Have you ever had an egg from someone’s backyard flock? Chickens who get fed kitchen scraps and treated with love? The yolks are bright orange and delicious like no store bought egg you will find. And they are healthier, with more omega 3′s. Yum yum.

    I am so excited to have started my very own chicken adventures!

  • Bowleserised

    Heather, Heather, Heather.

    You’re married to a geek, right? And a Mac fan?

    Show him the Eglu:

  • Ray1987

    Hahaha! You guys are funny. Now all you need to do is hire someone else, so Jon will have someone on his side, when another conversation of CHICKENS comes up. =P

  • Meranath

    I think this is a very VERY good idea. If there’s ever a zombie outbreak you’ll have experience raising your own food.

  • JennyBeans

    I’ll bet he said something more colorful than “groin”!

  • Tamar@StarvingofftheLand

    I’ve been a chicken owner for one year, one month, six days, and seven hours, so I consider myself something of an expert. The upside is obvious — eggs, companionship (you’d be surprised), conversation piece. No matter who tells you different, the downside isn’t poop, which is way less offensive than you’d think. The downside is that it’s the first step on the slippery slope to rubedom.

    A previous commenter, gbennet, listed a link to my blog, Starving off the Land (thanks! I got a huge influx of hipsters), but I think it went to the wrong story. The chicken story is here (actually a story about how my super-scientific experiment determined that all eggs taste the same):

  • KruseZoo

    You must get chickens. Get a nice coop and fence them in. As long as the coop is cleaned out on a regular basis there is no smell. Oh.. and do a Google image search on polish chicken. You won’t be sorry.

  • tanya


    I can’t believe Armstrong doesn’t want to raise happy chickens and eat happy eggs. Doesn’t he know that the chicken in his chicken salad probably lived in a cage so small it could not move and more than likely was missing the tip of its beak? By not supporting you raising happy chickens, he is supporting the evil people that raise unhappy chickens.

    Also, I grew up on farms, and chickens are 1. extremely entertaining 2. very photogenic 3. good for your yard – they fertilize the soil 4. will distract Coco for huge amounts of time she would instead spend chewing your shoes 5. lay eggs 6. are very cuddly if you raise them from baby chicks and 7. cluck softly when they lay eggs


    We have three hens, they are not old enough to lay yet- expect them to be ready by the end of July. Very sweet, good natures. My kids, 5 & 9 love them, my husband loves then, built them an amazing coop.

    You won’t regret getting chicken. can deliver next day.

    We have a garden so we’ll be composing the poop- along side our regular compose. Live in urban Seattle- rule is max 3- many people have more- but three is enough. We expect each hen to lay 2-3 eggs a week – about 12 a week.

    We do not have a dog- so take that into consideration.

    All the best.

  • jigglyjello

    they have the bestest and coolest chickens / fowl etc of any hatchery ive found.

    The chicken poop if kept in check isnt that bad and is a great fertilizer! The chickens will also keep down nasty bug populations etc etc.

    As long as you dont get a rooster they wont be crowing at the onset of dawn either.

    I saw go for the chickens dammit!

  • tifotter

    Hello! Debbie downer here… I’d just like to remind everyone that shipping chicks through the mail is not humane. Hatcheries add “extras” because up to 30% die in transit. Dying from heat/cold/exhaustion/starvation and/or dehydration are not warm & fuzzy things.

    Just say no.

    Even the captcha knows this. My words were “monster farmer.” See?

    Please don’t ship poultry.


    P.S. Animals are not toys, nor are they around for our amusement and entertainment.

  • strawberrygoldie

    Ain’t skeered.

    Bring it.

  • Thrift Store Mama

    Ramona Quimby ? My kids’ pseudonyms for my blog are Ramona and Beezus. We’re listening to “Beezus and Ramona” on audio and my almost 3 and almost 5 year old are LOVING it ! Has Leta read them yet ?

  • dragonflyvisa

    Posting again to say that hens are really nice to pick up and hold, sweet like pets, roosters not so much. And of course don’t ever get a mixed batch of chicks and realize later you have 5 hens and six roosters, because that is a bad thing to witness. Gsng Rape is what I’d call it.

  • jon


  • Prince-Albert-in-a-can

    In full support of Jon and of the groin punch philosophy. My wife also wants chickens. In another life where we didn’t live in an urban environment perhaps but cmon.. this is what petting zoos are for.

  • actcreative

    Our ladies are named after female cooks – Nigella (Lawson) and Rosemary (Schrager). We’ll need to get a couple more soon as their laying starts to drop off and the new ones will continue the tradition. So far the list includes Stephanie (Alexander), Donna (Hay) and if we ever got a rooster … Gordon (Ramsay).

    They’re hilarious fun to watch scooting about the yard, you save a fortune on buying eggs, you get free fertilizer for your garden and as long as you have a ‘chicken tractor’ (movable cage) for them they don’t get smelly or attract vermin.

    Come on Armstrong! You don’t know what you’re missing! (Just keep them away from Coco!)

  • Prince-Albert-in-a-can

    SOLUTION! make a 3ft square cage, put it in the back yard, have Tyrant fill the floor of it with chicken poop every day and have Heather clean it out daily for six weeks. Hide some eggs every other day or so for effect. Voila, Jon. Problem solved.

  • NHMaman

    I have to side with the anti-chicken contingent based on experience. My friends’ chickens pecked each other to death out of boredom (do you really want to entertain fowl?), leaving carcasses to be disposed of (my friend tossed them in the woods when she could not stand the idea of plucking them).

    Children are easily traumatized by this. While I’m all for children experiencing nature and knowing where their food comes from, don’t we have enough ways to traumatize our children without adding chickens to the mix? Especially if one’s named after Grandma?

  • mandypants

    Dude, our chicken eggs are hatching RIGHT NOW AS I TYPE!!! Come freaking get one and say it was mailed! :) I don’t need this many birds in my backyard. They are sweet and all and I am certainly looking forward to the fresh eggs, but seriously. I don’t need this many! And they look like poodles. They are like poodle birds. With fluffy fuzzy feathers. And did I mention they are hatching right now? Come get one, I will risk the kick to the crotch. Jon wouldn’t kick a woman holding a baby. I’m fairly certain of this.

    ps, they don’t stink cause we free range them all over our yard and it’s been so great for our yard.

  • dykewife

    bluntly put, chickens stink. really. that’s not a euphemism, that’s not code. en mass they are an offence to the olfactory senses. your neighbours would not love you for having a chicken coop. i’m pretty sure that leta’s nose wouldn’t like it much either.

  • Cheryld

    Ramona Quimby! LOL! Too funny.

  • Wookie

    Dooce, girl, I only read the first page of comments and maybe I’m just lazier than you or easier to scare, but the word that comes to mind is: FAUSTIAN. All for some eggs?! There must be some Mormons living on a compound somewhere willing to hook you up with some fresh egg…just be sure to use an alias.

  • Star

    I’ve been planning (also against my husband’s better judgment) to get some chickens as well. It’s a fabulous idea!!! And you can keep a small garden in the chicken run. Supposedly they’ll eat the bugs and weeds while they fertilize and aerate. It would be stupid NOT to get chickens, really.

    I know you’ll appreciate this:
    Merging my chicken wish with my Ikea obsession spells YES.

  • jigglyjello

    I think Jon or well Armstrong there has a deep seated hatred of birds. I bet he is affraid they are going to go all hitchcock on his arse and poke his eyes out. Isnt that really the reason you dont want chickens Jon come on be honest lol.

  • justcrazyme

    Story for Jon:
    Once upon a time, long, long ago when my children were Leta’s and Marlo’s ages, I decided it would be a good idea to get ducks. Cute yellow ducks that followed my kids around the yard. So cute. So stinky, so dirty. No eggs to make up for the stinky messiness, but still we loved the ducks. When I was away from the house one day, my husband decided to allow the kids to let the ducks swim in their old baby bathtub. The kids didn’t understand how to safely remove the ducks from the tub. When I got home: ducks dead, kids hysterical, Dad nonplussed.

  • JannyLynn410

    When I was growing up we had 4 chickens, promptly named bubblegum, jellybean, gumdrop, and lollipop. I had a great time with them. Even when my older sister would lock me in the coop. I have pictures of me, standing outside in just my underwear holding and playing with the chickens. These same pictures are also used as blackmail but we’ll forget about their current use and focus on the memories that were made during that time of my life. Now that my parents have grandchildren they decided to once again build a chicken coop and get the grandkids chickens. There are now 6 chickens at my parents, across the street from where i live, and they’re awesome! Wouldn’t trade them for anything. My 9 month old loves just sitting on the bench with me watching them. They keep him very occupied. But I would also like to note, that my husband HATES birds, so he’s not very thrilled with them but he does put up with them when the kids want to go see them. =)

  • mommica

    Poor Jon. I feel for ya. My husband insisted we get chickens when we got a backyard. The original plan to have three turned to nine (Cinnamon, Blackie, Delilah, Pecker, Chicken, and Nugget came first. Then he decided he needed another breed so we got Snowflake, Kitty, and Cockasian. Pecker and Cockasian, if you hadn’t guessed, are roosters).

    I am kind of mortified. But only the coop stinks and I don’t go in there. They are actually easier than the dogs. In fact, I would let him get nine more if he would find a new home for our dogs. Feel free to steal my idea…

  • dialing footnoterphone

    Wait, you mean you haven’t already gotten the chickens…? Ho crap, I need to call UPS.

    Side note, this might just be a whole “I live in Austin and crap like this happens” but, my ex-co-worker had chickens, one she’d named Ted Nugent. One evening they were viciously mauled by a marauding pack of chihuahuas. The only one who didn’t make it was, sadly, the Nuge. Perhaps there’s a curse in naming chickens after musicians and/or giving them male names.

  • squir999

    Oooh. I don’t think that groin punches are very scary for women, so I’ll find a female to send you some chicks! Yay! (I don’t actually know where to GET chicks or I’d do it).

  • ErikaMSN

    dialing footnot: marauding pack of chihuahuas has me cracking up.

    Heather, I just changed my profile pic to one of my friends’ chickens. This is what your yard will look like (not saying this is a bad thing–actually amuses me).

  • beth2905

    I’m with Jon on the chickens…Do you know a chicken was responsible for pecking the eye of one our neighbors toddlers? She is still having surgeries many years later……boo on chickens!

  • ubertaco

    They’ll wake y’all up with their clucking at 4am. There. Enough said.

    Move along people, move along. Nothing to see here…

  • Be Like The Squirrel Girl

    Someone might have already mentioned this, but maybe Jon would change his mind if you took him to the Tour De Coops this month!

    Although it sounds like his mind is already made up.

  • Big Gay Sam

    I’ve raised chickens. I spent my entire childhood gathering eggs/feeding/watering/cleaning coops/laying out oyster shell/burying dead carcasses and cursing the day God created a chicken… or was it an egg? Only God and His hairdresser know which came first.

    Chickens are nasty, stupid, evil little creatures that will peck each other to death given half a chance. They are disease carrying, mite infested feather dusters with sphincters.


  • oncogeneheaven

    Oh PUHLEEZE. I have 16 hens. They don;t stink if you change the shavings. The eggs rock. THey’re fun to watch.
    How’d you get so many pussies following you? “Oo, chickens flutter! They go poo-poo! You have kids two dogs and a husband and a house and a business? You’ll never do it!”
    Muthereffers, this country was BUILT on the backs of women with 10 kids, a farm with shitloads of animals, drunken husbands, and home businesses.
    A few chickens are nothing. Geez.
    If you honestly, seriously, want chickens, check out
    I love em. And I work, have a farm, have two kids, AND I’M PREGNANT and work fulltime, and have dogs and horses and a goat herd. And we do AWESOME.

  • Scott-5×5

    I cannot believe you goaded the internet to send you chickens! Are you crazy? You now will definitely get chickens! And Jon knows it too. If it happens it will make for some great reading here on your site, but there sure are a lot of people making some really good arguments against them.

    Just can’t wait to see what happens next…


  • virtualcarly

    Just saw this on Treehugger regarding raising chickens! I still think raising chickens would be AWESOME, but organic feed might be a good plan in light of this article:

  • mac_runs

    What’s with all the comments that chickens stick? Heather just posted about dog poop, which last time I had a dog I sure noticed it was stinky. Poop stinks. Manage the chicken poop and you’ll be fine.

    Direct Jon to the Eglu site. The design on those might make him willing to get a coop. Then who has a coop and no chickens! We have a cube and it is a snap to clean and the chickens seem pretty happy. $$$ though.

  • eastcoaster

    so…my 12 year old heard an awful sound early yesterday morning and we discovered later in the day that one of our chickens was beheaded and gutted…by something that CHEWED ITS WAY into our coop….

    This chicken experiment is nearly over…Im not a fan…

  • laurelquint

    I have chickens in downtown Denver. I am an interior designer so I am a bit fancy and picky about stuff inside and out, I say this only so you know I am not living on a farm in Nebraska where these things are the norm. I think people would be surprised to see chickens in our backyard. I live in a nice home and have three kids and my husband had them growing up and wanted them. They are awesome! Go to They have a little quiz there where you can choose whether they need to be winter hardy, good with kids, and how you want them to lay their eggs (meaning a lot or a little). They will also make sure you get only hens, AND have them inoculated for weird chicken diseases that I care to know nothing about. They end up being about $4.00 per chick and will send as few as 3 via US Post. It was almost worth the order to see the post office workers freak out over the peeping package! My kids are very attached to their chickens, we have 6 and they have learned to take care of them, great teaching tool! Although we are downtown we have to be aware of coyotes and such so we always put them in the coop at night locked up tight. They roam the yard during the day and have worm wars and take dust baths etc.. It is really calming to hang out with them after a bad day. The only things that are not my favorites are that the dogs eat the poop (which is a very good fertilizer for the grass and garden etc.), I call these chicken pops, the cleaning of the coop which Emmett does, and they can be noisy when they want to get out of their pen and roam. If you keep the coop relatively clean (we do it 5 times a year) they are not smelly at all. We have had to fence off our garden so they don’t eat all our veggies, but I don’t mind, it was a great reason to make a cute fence. The eggs they lay are beyond amazing and I love bringing them to dinner parties etc. as a hostess gift. People love it! They lay more than we can eat so it is fun to share them. I hope you get them, I am happy to tell you anything else you may want to know! Good luck on your quest! Laurel Quint

  • Cyn

    Soooo tempting…how do I fed ex a chicken? I’m sure the internet will tell me…

  • Fifi Coon

    Good Luck with that!!

  • eastcoaster

    We have 4 backyard chickens…they all have names..there were 6 when we started but one became lunch for a hawk, and the other died when I went away for a week…no cause of death determined…however, as much as I love love love the fresh eggs, ours are free range…im mean FREE RANGE….like around our yard…pooping on the deck…yeah, free to do whatever they want..becasue its SO MEAN to make them stay enclosed when we have ACRES for them to roam on…but alas, they still POOP ON THE DECK AND THE LAWN..they beg at the patio door to come in in the rain because they have discovered that we have tasty treats in the house and its definitly way cooler to look pathetic in the rain…IM NOT LETTING THEM IN >>>THEY HAVE A HOUSE>>>a really cool house…so, do I love them? No, do I like them, yes….but winter, when they are not laying and just pooping…ugh…makes me want to wring their necks…literally…;) Good luck!

  • CrisLawson

    oh my GOD. There is one of those shed companies nearby, and they have a little chicken type coop thing with chicken doors to go into their little sleepy nest space or out into the well fenced free area. It’s red with little white touches like a barn. Ramona Quimby would LOVE IT.

    Sooooo what color chicks? I need an address if I’m gonna send ‘em UPS. I think they run about 10 bucks a dozen here right now, but they won’t guarantee the genders. I’ve seen ‘black, buff and red.’ So cute!

    Oh, and you’ll need a little guard Llama, too, right? I mean, to keep the foxes away.