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?

  • lady m

    The overwintering is something you may want to investigate.
    Aside from that — when the cute itty bitty chicks arrive…they ARE SO CUTE!!!

    My mum suggests letting them listen to classical music to keep them calm and healthy and also that lemongrass essential oil is good for keeping the smell under control.

    Chickens can smell VERY BAD. Consider yourself warned.

    I’m still in the pro backyard (cooped, cooped for sure) chicken camp.

  • alittlecoffee

    Why’s Jon so against the idea anyway?

  • Cheshire Kate

    ya know if I had the bucks I would so send chickens…if only because your hubby would never find me LOL. And because think of the PHOTO opportunities…Leta avoiding them like the plague, Marlo chasing them..Coco trying to herd them and Chuck balancing one on his head…and that is just off the top of my head…You NEED chickens!!!!

  • gbennett

    http://www.starvingofftheland.com/2010/06/06/motor-skills/comment-page-1/#comment-4225

    Yeah, I sent this to you in a email too. But check out this true life experience of chickens. Oh YUCK, I am so with Armstrong on this!

  • kristanhoffman

    Chicks might be great, but… do you really need more shit in your life? :P

  • apostate

    My brother bought a house next door to people who own chickens. Don’t get chickens.

  • g.fox

    This has to be one of those “it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission” scenarios. Get yoself some chickens, lady!

  • OrangeLily

    Keeping chickens in the yard smells very bad. We visited some neighbours of my husband’s family who kept chickens in the yard. It stunk. And for all the neighbours around them too. As well as pissing off your neighbours, you may have by-law issues to deal with.

    You won’t be able to let your children play in they backyard either, too unsanitary. Really.

    As nice an idea as it is, in practice, it’s not.

  • QueenSarah

    Dear Jon,

    Please hold your ground. Chickens are malicious. Your wife will bitterly regret having any in her care. It bears repeating: Chickens are malicious. You can see it in their eyes.

  • sarahdoow

    It’s true, I’m not speaking from experience, but I get the feeling that it’s most fun just to like the idea of getting chickens.

  • missusclark

    um, Heather? Chickens have their good points, but there is something to think about before getting any: all sorts of animals like to eat them. You may wish to consider what you would say to Leta when you discover the bloody remains of Ramona Quimby or The Avon World Sales Leader after a raccoon eats their heads off. I’ve seen it up close and it ain’t pretty. And we know you have raccoons around, now don’t we?

  • omichaelmooreo

    I’d take one to the balls for the content a chicken farm would provide. Plus side? It would mean the Armstrongs in Boston. I can only imagine…

  • OldGrayMare

    Just order yourself some chicks, use Jon’s credit card and order under his name. Then he can punch *himself* in the groin.

    (Sorry, Jon, I’m a chicken fan. They’re a hell of a lot easier than dogs, honestly. And they give you presents. Most days of the week my breakfast is two fresh eggs from my own little banty hens, over easy on a piece of whole wheat toast. Yum.)

  • freckleface

    With all the crap going on your life with two kids, two dogs, a husband and a very demanding job, do you really need to add something else into the mix to make you crazy?? Chickens are dirty, smelly and gross, and don’t you remember the study you posted yourself saying that free range eggs and chicken meat are less healthy than the alternative? Save yourself the trouble and just keep Ramona Quimby and friends in your thoughts, not in your backyard :)

  • Agent Scully

    I’m not sure why I care so much, but I’m really upset Jon won’t let you have a little chicken coop in the backyard. Think of the learning experience your children could have! Farm animals are completely different from pets, and would open up a whole new world to your kids. Sure, Leta probably wouldn’t go near the chickens, but she’d still learn a great deal.

  • kravos

    careful, buddy…some guys might take you up on that ‘offer’ erm, threat.

  • The Dalai Mama

    Chickens can’t be worse than ducks. We had those growing up in the suburbs (I’m sure our neighbors loved us). At least chickens can give you eggs. They’ll be pets that the girls will never forget and Coco could heard them. Win Win for everyone.

  • Nhiro

    On the one hand…
    Delicious eggs all the time.

    On the other hand…
    OHMYGOD THE SMELL.

    Tough decisions.

  • jwalk

    I would worry more about how Coco would take to the chickens rather than Jon…

  • Mini Purl

    ummm, what happens when it’s time to roast a chicken? Could you really eat Thom York!?!?!?

  • Salt Salty Saltersen

    I grew up in So Cal on what was once (and no longer) the worlds largest farm (so the owners claimed). Though they were not the primary livestock, there were tens of thousands of chickens. Chickens were also pets for me until such time as my sister was pecked in the eye by a territorial and frightened hen. (My sister is okay now, but 9 year old girls weep an awful lot when they have to wear an eye patch.) The chicken disappeared and was a ranch hands dinner the very same night with my father’s blessing

    Pro: Eggs, Con: Poop on eggs, Pro: insects in garden eaten, Con: plants in garden eaten, Pro: free high nitrogen manure, Con: free high nitrogen manure where you had intended to walk, sit, dine, and would not ever want to have high nitrogen manure, Pro: They eat grain, Con: They eat grain like miniature hogs spilling it everywhere and the grain comes in 40-50 sacks that must be lugged from feed store to car to house and stored where the mice and rats and moisture will not get at them, Pro: Children learn about another type of animals besides dogs, Con: Read about sister getting eye pecked, Pro: raising your own chicken meat, Con: Killing your own chicken meat, Con: did I mention the stink and the rats and the mice and poop and the pecking and the plant eating?

    They cluck and crow and fight and stink. They are funnier than all get out. They die for seemingly no apparent reason. They draw raccoons, foxes, and sometimes dogs. They carry any number of bacterial and fungal yuckness and are known to have both fleas and lice. They require special housing if you want them to survive the night and to lay eggs and a person to clean out the chicken poop covered everything within the housing. They single the weak out in their midst and peck and claw and eventually kill that member of the flock for sport.

    Sorry Heather, I have to go with Jon on this. Chickens suck.

  • CrystalB

    Do not waste your time/energy/money on baby chicks! Most places that sell chicks will also sell ready to lay hens! I’ve done both and its much cheaper to go with the ready to lay. I will admit that the chicks we raised produced better eggs but that could have been because we had a rooster at the time or it could have been all that chick starter feed we fed them before we realized we needed to switch feed or they’d never start laying! Man those were some fat hens.

    My daughter (22 months) loves our layers and routinely picks them up and hugs as many as she can find (we have 12). They are so easy to keep and quite tame actually (we have rode island reds).

  • TxSuzyQ

    Get ready. A dozen yellow baby chicks are en route to you as we speak! You’re welcome.

  • workroom

    I side with Jon.

    I grew up with 3 horses, 6 chickens, 12 ducks and 2 goats… You are romanticizing chickens and need a reality check on what you’re getting into…

    they will smell, coco will chase them or sit barking at them nonstop, Leta will have nightmares about them (especially after a local fox, owl, or bear or various other prowlers comes in and kills some… because, IT WILL HAPPEN-I came out to feed my ducks one time and 6 of them had their heads ripped off and were bloody carcasses thanks to an owl), you will need to clean their cages (or, I bet Jon will end up doing it because you’ll be too busy)… you will need to buy feed, hay or shavings, keep their water filled (they will dump it)… you will need heating for the coop over winter, you will need somewhere to dump all of the pooped on bedding (and it better not be near the house because it attracts beaucoup flies, is unsanitary and, oh, did I mention the smell?)

    Actually, I changed my mind… you should get some… and for Jon’s sake you make a rule that Tyrant will be 100% responsible for them and any problems that arise from them (and he cannot quit his job)… this should be an interesting venture…

  • Charmings Mama

    I’m with Jon. Our neighbors had chickens last summer, what a mess. He only put up a fence on the north side of his yard and left the south open, like he thought the chickens couldn’t get out. Besides the chicken shit all over my walk and driveway and yard, we would occasionally find an abandoned egg and we were constantly chasing them out of our yard. Hubs says if the get more this summer he is going to get a bee-bee gun.

  • tracy

    I love the idea of having chickens. In theory. But the noise, stink, extra poop, stink, extra mouths to feed, stink, and the risk of bears being attracted to our yard & eating them? No thanks. I’ll stick to my grocery bought, organic cage-free eggs.

  • TexasKatie

    Tell him it could be worse. It could be a hippo!

  • krislhoffman

    I have to go with Armstrong on this one. You and the Tyrant must be crazy. Chickens are evil and they stink. And then theres the poop. Poop everywhere. And, chicken poop smells worse than normal poop. Because chickens are evil. Did I mention the poop?

  • snowlyf

    Chickens are amazing pets! Can’t you make some bargain – new Apple gadgets for chickens? I raised chickens when I was younger and am now 13 days into incubating eggs with my 6YO and 3YO. Besides being great pets, you get the benefit of having free range, organic eggs in your own backyard. Tell Jon to go read Susan Orlean’s chicken article in last year’s New Yorker.

  • sabina

    Before you do it, read ‘The Femivores Dilemma’ in the NYTimes Magazine – which is roughly about backyard chickens, and maddenly snarky.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/14/magazine/14fob-wwln-t.html

    I’d so get the chickens if we didn’t live in fox country. And too many people I trust have told me about the smell thing.

  • SandraDee

    All I know is – your lunchtime is waaaaaay more interesting than my lunchtime.

    And I side with Armstrong on this one. Hot chicken coop stench is NOT one that you will ever forget.

  • christine1127

    You want to raise chickens because your life isn’t hectic enough already? I’m with Jon on this one.

  • labsnabys

    I have a suggestion for you. Make friends with someone who has chickens, offer to buy a bag of feed or bale of straw or whatever they need on occasion in exchange for some eggs on occasion. Nobody that I know who has chickens can eat all of the eggs they lay on their own…they are always pawning off eggs on friends and neighbors. Seriously…you need chickens like you need a hole in the head. Don’t do this to yourself.

  • sugrbluemagnolia

    I will be sending 12 chickens your way now!

  • micmacker

    If you do get chickens, I’d recommend following my next door neighbors’ Master Chicken Plan: 1. Spend over $1,200.00 on a fancy chicken coop (The Eglu, available in designer colors!) in order to raise poultry in a densely packed, town center neighborhood. 2. Purchase five chickens from a chicken farmer who is fighting multiple lawsuits because her new egg operation is smack dab in the middle of a small village and the many roosters keep the entire town awake (it should be noted for the novice chicken rancher that roosters do not lay eggs). It’s best to buy from this farmer because she would never, never, never “accidentally” sell a rooster intead of an established laying hen. 3. Excitedly retrieve one egg from one hen the day after bringing the chickens home. 4. During the following 6 egg-free months, purchase multiple types of organic feed and bedding in an effort to coax THE SECOND EGG out of the birds. Refer to your ‘urban chickens’ in every conversation with everyone. Consult with experts. Consult with amateurs. Consult with humongous puppy acquired shortly before the birds. Remember to put humongous puppy on special organic raw chicken diet. Purchase vast quantities of organic raw chicken elsewhere even though your 1/10 acre lot is filled with just such a food stuff. 4. Start waking up at 4:30 a.m. when the ‘hens’ are crowing. The same week, discover THE SECOND EGG in the coop. 5. Try to figure out which birds are hens and which ones are roosters. 6. Continue Step 5 for several weeks. The roosters have really got the hang of this crowing thing now. 7. Give up. 8. Make arrangements to transport all poultry to local chicken sanctuary, which is well-populated by urban chicken mistakes. 9. Let all 5 chickens escape while loading into the back of the fancy SUV. 10. Disappoint neighbor who was not home to watch the chicken-catching fun. 11. Capture 4 chickens and bring to sanctuary. 12. When 5th chicken returns home, determine that it is definitely a rooster. Allow to live alone and crowing in the brightly colored, state of the art Eglu for many weeks. 13. When this remaining rooster is about to either die of loneliness and/or freeze to death in early winter, finally slaughter and feed to dog. Approximate production cost per egg gathered: $1,525.00. Value of chicken-free neighbors: priceless.

  • malisams

    We have three hens in our backyard. Once they’re at least pullet-age, and cooped, they’re really very low-maintenance. And they’re funny as all hell; little personalities, each one. Someday when we have more space, I want enough to name 4 after the Golden Girls and 6 after the wives of Henry VIII (though 2 would be Annes and 3 would be C/Katherines, but whatever).

    Anyway, I am all for the Blurbodoocery raising chickens, if only for pictures of Coco FREAKING THE F*** OUT ALL OF THE TIME.

  • Coyote

    My neighbors have chickens. They are noisy and I do not like them. They are stinky and I do not like them. They fly over the fence and into our yard to poop and I do not like them. (Yes, chickens can fly; they will roost in trees if they are so inclined.) My neighbors’ rooster is in ‘perpetual dawn mode’ and crows whenever he f-ing well wants to, mostly in the middle of the night. And he has crowing contests with my OTHER neighbor’s rooster. All. day. long. I do not like him. Because my neighbors have chickens, thus make my life miserable, I do not like my neighbors either. I would not want your neighbors to start not liking you, too. NIX THE CHICKS.

    P.S. My Captcha words are “the brewery.” That would be a far better hobby to partake in than chickens.

  • Maura

    Chickens are so fun!! If you clean the coop often enough they aren’t that stinky…ours are free range in the yard. The dogs don’t bother them all that much. I would worry about Coco to be honest.

    They also eat a lot of our plants. It’s worth it to me for the entertainment, eggs and my 2 girls. They love them!!

    We have 5 and yes, have more eggs than we can eat. People are always asking for some, I don’t have topawn them off.

    Free range eggs are more healthy too!! Maybe just get a couple? Not as much poop or too many eggs!! I can’t wait to hear what happens. Good luck Heather!!

  • ErikaMSN

    Huh, I know a bunch of people w/ back-yard chickens, and I’ve never noticed a smell. However, I’d recommend that you not name them. They do die–one friend had 2 die in the first year, one to a hawk, one to unknown causes. It makes it much harder if they have names. My daughter loves them, though–and I have to tell you, there are few things quite as awesome as watching your 7 yr old run around a yard trying to pick up a chicken.

    Take a look at this, if you haven’t seen it already. http://madcitychickens.com/
    There’s also a documentary, which is a local cult favorite… http://www.tarazod.com/filmsmadchicks.html

  • ErikaMSN

    Also, don’t get roosters. Unless you like 5 am wake-up calls…

  • Britiney

    So. Totally. Worth it.

  • Maura

    If you buy them as chicks, they are easier (for kids) to catch. More tame overall. We were actually recently interviewed by our local Fox station about ours. Want me to send you the link Heather?

  • dragonflyvisa

    Are you going to eat your chickens?

    P.S. Don’t get roosters. Just don’t.

  • gandhimom

    Friends of ours once had chickens in the yard. The chickens got fleas and lice. Fleas got into the house. Three kids and two parents had to deal with the fleas in the house and in the coop. No one was happy. They no longer have chickens.

  • aconstructedlife

    My husband could totally use a punch to the nuts, so your chickens are coming!

  • GreenInOC

    I am assuming that Jon loves his children, wife, dogs and possibly the Tyrant right? Well, he may not love the Tyrant but he certainly doesn’t want to be subject to a lawsuit from the Tyrant, correct?

    If so, Jon will submit to having chickens.

    You see, chickens prevent scorpions from habitating in your yard and then finding their way into your home.

    What happens is that lovely, protector, hero, wonderful, beautiful chickens eat bugs. When said yard is free of bugs there is nothing left at the buffet table for scorpions. Thus, chickens control the scorpion population which protects the people that Jon loves as well as preventing a lawsuit initiated by the Tyrant for a “inhospitable work environment in which the possibility of a scorpion attack is always imminent due to the lack of chickens on said property”.

  • dejavu2

    We knew someone who had a chicken and a rabbit and all was well until the chicken started loving the rabbit more than a brother and then the neighbors started to talk and the chicken had to go…so as long as you don’t add a rabbit you should be fine!

  • HilaryChill

    If you want chickens, you’ll really want chickens once you see the super cool and well-designed EGLU chicken coop!

  • Laura Jones

    Did you know there is co-op farming available? You could keep the chickens somewhere else and take Coco to visit them and the sheep. Jon would be happy, you would still have pet chickens, and your kids wouldn’t be traumatized by the attack rooster (those spurs are painful and leave scars).

    How’s that tomato plant?

  • deirdre

    Id send you mine (no names for them 2 months later other than the nicknames of “mad hen” and “slightly less mad orange hen”) but I think that sending from Ireland they would be even crazier than they currently are and dont want to be to blame for posts about the 2 mad hens you have. They do however give 2 good eggs a day between them other than today when one of the eggs was very very tiny (http://www.flickr.com/photos/deirdre/4677800863/)

    For those with fear of noise, poop and stink – you only really need worry about the poop, they dont make any noise really other than a bit of song when laying (which is late enough in the day not to wake you). They do however poop what appears to be more than their body weight every day. Regarding food and water they only eat what they need so we just leave out food and water every few days as the feeder is big enough to hold extra.