Category Archives: Being Mindful of Our Surroundings

Chickens in town…why not?!?


Last weekend we brought “the girls” to town.  Up until now, they have lived at my father-in-law’s farm just a few miles away.  The “girls”, or 7 hens, are now happily at home in a coop in our backyard.  My 10 year old daughter is my guest blogger today…  She wrote this post while we were getting ready for them:

Chickens…… town!  Why not?!

I can’t wait till’ we have chickens in town. My 2 younger siblings, my mom and dad, and I get to fix and pizazz the chicken coop. So excited!!  Anyway, we also get some advantages with the fully developed chickens. What, you say? Well, we get free eggs, something to hold, pet, and study for 4- H. I love to hold the chickens (as long as they don’t poop on me!) One of the big chickens at my grandpa’s farm lets you walk right up to it and pick it up and hold it. Tips for holding chickens – When you grab them, hold their wings down and put the head under your arm so you can see it on the other side. Put your hand under their backside, and remember to stroke the chicken’s back so it knows it is okay.  If you are new to this, you should go for one that is slightly big, and a female. Roosters (males) are a bit scary and aren’t as calm as females. Recently, my little 3 year old sister caught her first chicken! YAHOO!!  Last year I won grand champion at our county fair’s poultry show, and I’m looking forward to practicing with these “classy chicks”! I am very excited for my feathered friends to move into town.

Corralling hens for the big move…

Caught her!

The Chicken Wrangler 🙂

Almost there…

“Gossamer” – Cuckoo Marans hen

Checkin’ out their new digs…

Home Sweet Home!

A note from the Earth Muffin Mom:  This move was not without drama.  The hens…well…didn’t exactly like each other right off the bat.  We never gave this thought because they had all been together since they were a few days old.  The first day, we brought four hens to town.  It was painfully obvious by the end of the second day that the three bigger hens had ganged up on the fourth smaller white leghorn (Miss Toot).   We had a little lesson in chicken psychology – who would know that hens would be bullies in such a planned manner?  The three hung together in a pack, they would not let Miss Toot out of the hutch area, they wouldn’t let her eat or drink, and any time they got the chance they would peck at her head.  She would hang her head and dodge back into the hutch.  It was really sad to watch – frankly I felt like I was reliving high school in a weird sort of way!  We decided to bring in three more white leghorns just like Miss Toot.  At first, it was total Chicken Solidarity.  The four white leghorns seemed to stand up to the three big hens.  For the first day.  The next day we realized that those three big hens weren’t letting the four smaller hens out of the hutch, or letting them eat or drink.  They continued to peck at their heads and feathers.  Right about the time we were ready to take those three hens back to the farm…they all seemed to have some sort of epiphany and are now getting along beautifully.  Don’t know what exactly happened…perhaps they really did understand my threats about ending up in my stock pot???!!?

Our town has an ordinance against having farm animals in town.  We were quite happy to get a special use variance since our kids are in 4-H. The hens are considered “show animals” since they’ll all be making an appearance at the county fair.  Aside from 4-H, I have my reasons for wanting them here.  I can choose their care, and having them here, my kids can do chores and care for their own animals which is great.  I wish they were grass fed, but our yard is small and it isn’t allowed through the variance that we got anyhow.  But…I can feed them all of my kitchen scraps that would otherwise be compost and they are out in the fresh air getting sun (can you say…Vitamin D egg yolks???).  I love walking outside and picking fresh eggs…  Considering that we go through five to six dozen eggs a week…this is a no-brainer!!!

On a more serious note, I think that if people knew just where alot of those pristine white eggs from the grocery store came from, there would be way more people with backyard chickens.  I will not support a system that looks like this:

Chickens in this type of industrial farming conditions (known as battery cages – which according to Wikipedia accounts for about 60% of the worlds eggs) often have their beaks snipped without anesthesia.  The reason that this is done is because living under these conditions, the birds go insane and will peck each other to death, and cannibalize the other birds.  Now…I am not even remotely a vegetarian (although the book “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer did push me into a very brief vegetarian stint a few years back)…but I don’t believe that what I eat should live or die badly to end up on my plate.  I encourage you to do your own research on this subject, and not take my word for it.  I try my best to purchase humanely raised meat from local farmers that I know…and also to keep our own chickens for fresh eggs.  Seriously, who would want eggs from these poor things?????

Our girls have been a blast to have (although I could do without the flies)!   A couple are even tame enough already that they like to be petted.  We like watching them “expressing their chickenness” (to coin a phrase from my favorite farmer/author, Joel Salatin).  They make great pets, and I think that the chores are a good way for the kids to see outside their own needs.  It sure beats watching TV!

If this interests you, check it out!  If your city has some type of farm animal ordinance like ours…talk with your city officials to see how you can keep backyard chickens.  Maybe they would  be willing to change an existing ordinance if there is enough interest.  Even a couple of birds would reap big rewards for their owners!

This post was shared on the Healthy Home Economist’s Monday Mania; The Morris Tribe’s Homesteader Blog Carnival; Real Food Forager’s Fat Tuesdays; Cooking Traditional Foods Traditional Tuesdays; Better Mom Mondays Link Up;  Prairie Homestead’s Homestead Barn Hop; Like a Mustard Seed’s Living Green Tuesdays; Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdays; Frugally Sustainable’s Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways; GNOWFLINS Simple Lives Thursday; The Nourishing Gourmet’s Pennywise Platter; Real Food Freaks Freaky Friday; The 21st Century Housewife’s Gallery of Favorites; Too Many Jars in My Kitchen’s Fill Those Jars Friday. Premeditated Leftovers Gallery of Favorites.


Gardening…It’s Good for the Soul!


True confession:  We were out weeding in our jammies this morning.  Good thing we have a fence!  It’s been an average of 90-100 degrees out all week, and while it was cooler today…we were getting out before it got too hot.  My three year old loves to be out in the garden.  She pretends to hoe, and just plain likes to be where we are.

I love spring, but I really love summer.  It is a time of rapid growth…a time where you can run out your back door and pick your dinner from the dirt…a time where it’s good for your body to be out in the sun getting Vitamin D…and a time where it’s good for your soul to connect with nature.  And when I’m done working, I sit out back and look at my gardens and…relax.

This is the third year that we haven’t used any chemicals on our garden, which makes it pretty much organic.  I used to “dust” things with some bug killer or other at the first sign of holes, and once I even hosed down a couple of tomato plants with Home Defense trying to kill a particularly large spider.  Then I learned all kinds of things – that those chemicals could be affecting the asthma that my kids had at the time, could likely make their way into the water supply (and aren’t necessarily filtered out), and could otherwise affect our bodies in ways that we might see immediately…or maybe years down the road.  A couple of years back, my son (with a little help from dad) made a compost bin for a 4H fair project.  We have become fairly dedicated composters, and at the beginning of the season we coated our garden with our old decomposed kitchen scraps and some rabbit poop that we happened to have in abundance.  In 11 years of having a garden, this is by far the best garden we’ve ever had.  This is also the year that my wonderful husband built me four raised beds in addition to the main garden.  The fourth was supposed to be for our strawberries, but they were already “doing their thing” in the whiskey barrels that they are in, so I didn’t dare move them.  In the fall, they will have a new home and can spread all they want.

This year we planted: broccoli, six varieties of heirloom tomatoes, tomatillos (I make a “mean” salsa verde!), two varieties of cukes, kale, lettuce, dandelion greens (which oddly enough, didn’t do much although they were rampant everywhere else in my yard), arugula, shallots, leeks, pac choy, turnip greens, red and green cabbages, eggplants, green and purple beans, various peppers, beets, carrots, summer squash and zucchini, celery, artichokes, cauliflower, onions, cantaloupe, radishes, Daikon radishes, parsnips and about a dozen different herbs to make teas and for cooking.  Did I forget anything???


This year I have focused on getting organic, heirloom seeds from companies who have made an oath to not use genetically modified (GMO) seeds.  A few of my favorites are:  Seed Savers Exchange, Bountiful Gardens, John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds, and The Cook’s Garden.  Some of those sites are also have some great recipes, so you know what the heck to do with all your beautiful produce once you’ve got it!!!

I plan to freeze, can, dehydrate and ferment (kimchi and kraut) everything…after we’re well fed of course!   We’ll be busy, but I have lots of good help this summer, and there is nothing like eating tomato soup in January that you froze in August!  The rewards will be great!

I encourage everyone to grow their own food!!!  It is comforting to know where your food comes from, and how it was grown.  It is good for kids to see where their food comes from, and to play a role in it’s production.  Did you know that most produce travels 1500 miles from farm to fork?  By the time you get it, many of the nutrients are already greatly diminished and it tastes nothing like it does fresh.  That, and in economically uncertain times…it just makes sense.

For people reading this who live in apartments or have homes with small yards…you can do incredible things with small spaces.  Check out the principles of square foot gardening and have a small plot in your back yard, or use raised beds, or even space in your front yard if your city allows it.  Even having a few pots on an apartment balcony or your back porch step is better than nothing!   See if your town has any type of community gardens that would allow you to use space elsewhere.  And if you just can’t make it fly…support your local farmers by purchasing through farmers’ markets or CSA farms (Community Supported Agriculture).  You can generally get great produce, etc., way cheaper than in the store, and especially if you’re living in a small town…you probably know who you’re buying from! Check out your state’s “Buy Fresh Buy Local” website for information about local farmers markets, farms and CSAs.  Even if you can’t grow it yourself, you can still get a bounty of healthy, fresh and clean food!