Learning to Care for Chickens!

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!

Learning to Care for Chickens in the English Countryside Learning to Care for Chickens in the English Countryside

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.

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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!

Learning to Care for Chickens in the English CountrysideLearning to Care for Chickens in the English Countryside Learning to Care for Chickens in the English Countryside Learning to Care for Chickens in the English Countryside Learning to Care for Chickens in the English Countryside

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.

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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.

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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!

 

  • Katrine

    as much as i don’t like birds/poultry (which i WAS chased by a goose one time when we were kids!!), that’s sad that some of the chickens were bullied!

    • Well now it all makes sense.. a goose! 😉 And I know.. it WAS sad!! And it was my favorite one! Apparently, they bought this kind just so it could be the bullied chicken, so that it didn’t disrupt the hierarchy of the others. We learned a lot about raising hens!!

  • My dad built a chicken coop last year and loves it! He even reads blogs about how to care best. This is so fun for you guys! My parents have loved getting fresh eggs everyday, and dad always says how fun it is to “live off our land” in this way. 🙂

    • Haha that is awesome!! We can’t wait to get settled somewhere “permanent” again and start up a garden and chicken coop. It really is the best way to be a city dweller and still have a bit of the natural farm-to-table life!

  • Love this!! I too have always had an aversion to birds (I cried while in one of those bird rooms as the zoo just last year), but for some reason chickens have never really bothered me and I have actually found myself wanting some every so often. This was a fun post! Thanks for sharing 🙂 Excited to peek around more!

    • Oh no! That sounds terrifying! haha. I think anything with a beak scares me a little (it’s the beak itself I think) but these chickens were a good experience. I think the pros of having fresh healthy eggs outweigh the cons!

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