Housesitting has been a blast, and it’s also forced us to go outside our comfort zones on a few things. We had to learn to care for chickens on our second assignment this year, and although I was confident we would be able to–hence why we accepted in the first place– I was a little nervous about how it would go.
Ever since seeing Alfred Hitchcock’s famous The Birds, I’ve been wary of any sizable gatherings of feathered beasts… even poultry.
Thankfully, I’m not as nervous around birds as my sister is (did we have a bird encounter as children?) so we decided that learning to care for chickens was outweighed by a snuggly dog and a 200 year old cottage in the English countryside. #priorities
We arrived and were immediately enchanted with our new home away from home. Below is a view from the backyard, out over the street and hills. And a close up of our bedroom window!
Each morning, either Tyler or I would get up and wander out to feed the chickens. There was sometimes a little bargaining to see who could avoid the task on particularly cold or wet days, but thinking back, it really wasn’t too bad a task at all. Once we got ourselves outside, the crisp air and smell of fresh earth were actually nice.
The chicken coop ran almost the whole length of the background, built on the sharp incline that led up the hill to the next street. It was a really wise use of space, and this inspired us for building our own coop someday. At one end of the yard was a sheltered patio where we would go scoop lots of
delicious looking grains and other dry food. We even topped it all with a pinch of meal worms. That was the hardest thing for me to touch!
We then filled up a water bottle and carefully lugged it all up the steps to the door where the girls were sure to be waiting. It took a little fancy distraction (throwing said meal worms over the fence to their side yard) to be able to slip in the gate without any of them slipping out.
I would squeeze inside the hen house and grab the food trays first. We’d set them up on the top of the house and fill in the prescribed amounts of each type of food. It was a bit scary to try and wrangle the heavy metal trays in and out while the birds were swarming, anxious to be the first to start pecking away. Once, one even jumped up on the tray while Tyler was transporting it down to the ground… glad that was not me!
After the few agonizing seconds of bird attack passed, we would take a breather and watch them all jostle for the best spot at the tray.. or if they were smart, they headed back down into the yard to see if there were any extra bits leftover from my earlier distraction toss.
It was around now that I’d feel safe enough to stick my head back into the hen house, pet a few backs–our homeowner said they needed to be pet?!– and then grab the water trays to refill those as well.
The final task to master in learning to care for chickens was collecting the eggs. These were laying hens after all. Thankfully, this one was super easy. I think the bigger challenge was keeping up with eating them! We had about three to six beautiful eggs each morning; each hen laying a different color.
In the end, learning to care for chickens really equaled learning to love having chickens. Fresh eggs right from the backyard… doesn’t get any more natural, local, or free range than that! And it was nice knowing that the dozens of eggs we were consuming had just been laid a couple days prior. I don’t know that you could call us farmers just yet, but we’ve been convinced laying hens should be a part of our future backyard.
Plus, it was fascinating to hear a bit from our homeowners about all the personality chickens have! I had no clue!! We could definitely see the schoolyard hierarchy among our girls… The ones that led, the ones that were bullied, and the ones that tried to avoid being bullied by running around behind the queen. Even the ones that avoided all the drama by hanging out under a tree. Funny how our actions are put into perspective when mirrored in the animal world?
Have you ever had to care for chickens? Anyone else out there with a bird fear? My sister said there’s no way she could care for chickens, but I shockingly ended up loving it!