Playful, elegant, and not above the judicious use of the word “shit."

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?

  • 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.

  • slcEB

    I was with you, Heather. Yay, chickens. Yum, free-range eggs from your own back yard. But I was talking to my mom recently, and mentioned my neighbors-two-doors-over having chickens, and how I was thinking about it. She then reminded me of the chickens we had when I was 7 or 8. We ended up with them when my first-grade class did the obligatory “science experiment”, incubating eggs and watching the cute chicks hatch. Then what do you do with the chicks? My mom got suckered into adopting them. So we raised them, gave them names, treated them like pets. Somewhere along the line, we ended up with a one-legged rooster, too, but no one can remember how that happened. I don’t remember ever getting eggs from the chickens, but I do remember there being poop everywhere, and my brother and I seemed to get every kind of weird infection a kid could get. There were fleas, too (this was CA, not a problem in UT). So now I gotta side with Armstrong. Eew, chickens. Yay, grocery-store free-range eggs.

  • StephHyne

    Unfortunately I have to agree with Jon. I hate chickens. Nasty, filthy, horrible things. I have had issues with chickens, it’s a lifelong hate hate relationship that a psychiatrist would probably have a field day with.

  • martinifontaine

    You’ve opened a big can of worms there lady! Be careful what you ask for because we chicken enthusiasts will happily send you baby chicks to cuddle and soon you’ll have a flock big enough to supply every Avon rep in three counties with eggs!

    That said, you could easily raise two hens (roosters tend to bug the neighbors) in a clean and tidy chicken tractor that you move around your yard which would probably keep you in and family in plenty of eggs. And if you’ve been through Coco? Chickens will be a piece of cake! Although, Coco will try to eat any baby chicks you get, so be forewarned. I meet people every spring at the farm store who are replacing the baby chicks that their dog thought was just a tasty snack.

    Wow, this is so exciting! I would be surprised if Jon wasn’t pleasantly surprised at how easy, personable and just…zen chickens are.
    Here’s the photo story of our backyard flock:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/martinifontaine/sets/72157617749283195/

    And I would also suggest checking out:
    http://www.backyardchickens.com

    They are so ridiculously easy, there isn’t any reason why anyone with an extra 60 square feet *shouldn’t* have them.

    Good luck!

  • mommyoffour

    I love the chicken idea. Jon needs to get on board. Maybe Marlo needs to “receive” some baby chicks for her first birthday!! If they’re a gift you’d HAVE to keep them, right?! Don’t want to be rude to a gift giver. Think of Marlo’s happiness!

  • WashingtonMama

    One year my MIL got us baby chicks for Easter. That’s they way to do it, have a grandparent get chicks for the kids. There is NO way to get rid of them then without facing the wrath of the grandparent and the child.

    I hated those chickens…even after we grilled them.

  • mdavis79

    I’ll do it! My boyfriend finally caved and let me get 4 chickens this spring, and I absolutely love them. I even conned him into building a nice coop for the backyard. Now that he’s about to start getting delicious, fresh eggs every day, he has suddenly stopped complaining about my four lovely ladies. If you’re dilligent about keeping the coop and run clean, the smell can be kept to a minimum. Just make sure to keep the little ladies away from the dogs and you should be fine. Good luck!

  • martinifontaine

    I’m sorry for posting twice…I just can’t stand it.

    1. Our chicken don’t smell bad. But I attribute it to the fact that we move them to a new grassy area each day and we have enough space to let the lawn recover between chicken seatings. In fact, our lawn has never been healthier.
    2. There are predators everywhere, and this has never really stopped anyone who wanted chickens from owning them. There are always measures you can take to keep them safe(r).
    3. Our girls only make noise when they are laying, and as others have noted, that is later in the day (say around noon) so they don’t wake you or the neighbors like a rooster would.
    4. Chickens would be the easiest part of your day. Daily we spend *maybe* ten minutes with the “care” portion of dealing with our 5 chickens, and that includes gathering up the beautiful eggs that they lay.

    Read, read read! There is a ton of information out there and people who are making it work in all sorts of situations. It’s possible! You can have it any way you want it…now how many things in life can you really say that about?

    Cheers!

  • 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: http://www.backyardchickens.com/
    We bought plans for our coop at: http://www.thegardencoop.com/

    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: http://www.omlet.co.uk/homepage/

  • 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):

    http://www.starvingofftheland.com/2010/06/03/extra-extra-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

    TEAM TYRANT!

    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

  • REAL_SEATTLE

    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. Mypetchicken.com 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

    http://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/index.html?aid=89&gclid=CPvr8oaQj6ICFRAMDQodhAx8ZQ

    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.

    XOXO

    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

    NO CHICKENS. EVER.

  • 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: http://ikeahacker.blogspot.com/2009/06/ikea-home-for-chicks.html
    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! http://wasatchgardens.org/learn-and-participate/chicken-week

    Although it sounds like his mind is already made up.