Grit Blogs > Chicken Scratch

Welcome to Chicken Scratch

Jill ClinganHere is a conversation I had with my 7-year-old son, Jack, last week during breakfast:

Jack: You know, Mom, some people don’t know what chicken poop looks like.

Me: You’re right, honey.

Jack: Some food fell on the cafeteria floor at school, and it was brown and white and shaped like chicken poop, and some people said it didn’t look like chicken poop. But they are wrong, because I know what chicken poop looks like.

Me: (Oh dear.)

Family Picture
A family photo with chickens and ducks.

A year ago such a conversation would never have taken place around our breakfast table. A year ago my family – my husband, Matt, my 11-year-old daughter, Amélie, Jack and I had been living in the country for just a little over six months. A year ago we had big dreams and zero experience. A year ago we had ordered from a hatchery catalog 15 chickens and three ducks that were scheduled to arrive at our post office in mid-March, but aside from exhaustive research on chicken and ducks breeds that were cold-hardy, heat-hardy, laid pretty eggs, and were themselves pretty, we didn’t really know a thing about having poultry. 

Now here we are a year later. We are definitely still learning as we go, but we now have 24 hens, one rooster, two ducks and two drakes. Our spunky little flock of chickens is made up of Red Stars, Barred Rocks, Gold-Laced Wyandottes, Silver-Laced Wyandottes, Golden Comets, Buff Orpingtons, Rhode Island Reds and Ameraucanas. Our ducks are Rouen, Pekin, and one whose breed I have yet to identify. 

We have become a bit addicted to our poultry family. We have been researching the breeds that are going to be at our local farm supply store later this month so we can bring yet more home. (I am thinking more Ameraucanas, another Gold-Laced Wyandotte or two, and a few Polish Hens.)

Instead of counting down the months until Christmas or birthdays, I now measure my year from March (when we can go get our spring chickens) until September (when we can go pick up a few more). Matt built a nice-size chicken coop last spring, and just last night as I peeked in on them all comfortably roosting, I wondered how long it will be before the chickens need an addition. 

We have a year of chicken-rearing under our belts, but we are still pretty green at this chicken-raising thing. We learned what we could from library books and Internet research, and the rest we have picked up through trial, error, and a good deal of listening to our chickens and ducks, who, it turns out, can be quite opinionated. 

Our ducks are especially opinionated. They squawk loudly when we are late to release them from the coop in the morning, when they are out of food, or when their kiddie pool needs more water. (They boycotted our pond until fall, but now, on nice days when the ice is melted, we can’t get them in the coop at night because they have taken a liking to midnight swims.)

Our chickens are not quite as opinionated, but they like to communicate with us, too. They hover around the back door on cold days, begging to come in, and whenever we open the door to let a dog in or out or we go out and feed them, one or more scooch in and help themselves to whatever crumbs might be lurking about on the kitchen floor. 

Chickens at Door
Our chickens trying to get inside from the cold.

One hen even decided to try out the piano last week.

Chicken on Piano
An ornery chicken trying out the piano.

They also cluck proudly when they lay their eggs – be it in the coop, under the porch, in a random pile of leaves, or their latest favorite spot – the heated dog house. Our dogs have learned what this proud clucking means, and then it’s a race to see who can find the hiding spot first – me or the dogs. 

Chicken Hiding in Leaves
Chicken laying her egg in the leaves.

Chickens in doghouse
Some chickens keeping warm in the heated doghouse.

A year ago I had no idea that chickens and ducks were quirky, spirited and full of personality. I had no earthly idea that I could actually fall in love with my feathered creatures, but I have. Oh, how I have fallen in love with them. I dote on them. I save them table scraps. I grieve whenever one dies. I clog my Facebook and Instagram feeds with chicken selfies, chicken videos, and proud pictures of tiny first eggs. 

Chicken egg measurements
A pullet’s first tiny egg.

My chickens and ducks make me smile and laugh and take a little more delight in my world. I plan on sharing those moments with you here at my new blog. Welcome to Chicken Scratch! 

3/18/2015 12:44:59 PM

I keep trying post a message, but I seem to be doing something wrong! So, I'm hoping third time's a charm........we just started our first flock with12 mix-breed chicks & ducklings that are 6 weeks old that we're keeping in a small barn (really just a large shed, but who cares) and 5 four day old ducklings living in the house with a heat lamp in the family room. My worry is, what's going to happen when I put them in with the older fowls in 5 weeks. Will there be feathers flying? Will they get along? Any suggestions?

3/14/2015 7:24:10 AM

Jill, welcome to the GRIT blogging community. Farmyard two legged feathered friends can indeed be quite entertaining, can't they. I don't have any live stock or birds as I live in the urban area of a large city. My claim to fame is urban farming on vacant city lots. I buy them from the city after they have foreclosed on the properties and then plant gardens on them. I have four raised beds with non traditional growing methods in my back yard. That's just for fresh table use. My big garden is called Terra Nova Gardens and is located about 20 minutes away from where I live. It's 60 X 60 and is still under construction. The city night shade critters consider my garden a buffet delight so I'm in the process of building six foot fence around the garden in an attempt to at least slow them down a bit. I'm looking forward to your posts and hope to see them often. ***** Have a great breakfast farmyard discussion day.