10 Joys of Keeping Backyard Chickens.

I’m almost about 10 years deep into my backyard chicken hobby and have loved it every step of the way. From ordering chicks, getting the coops set up, watching them grow, and collecting eggs, keeping backyard chickens has been one of the highlights of my life. Chickens are animals that require little but give back much in return. In this post I will highlight the 10 joys I have experienced as a backyard chicken keeper.

1. They are always happy to see me

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No matter how bad my day has been at work or other wise my girls are always happy to see me. In the mornings when I enter the backyard opening the coops for the day they are thrilled at my presence. They cluck with joy as I prepare their food, water, and clean their coops. They are genuially happy to see me. After a long day at work or just a bad day in general,  I can always go to the backyard and find happiness on their faces. They flock, running sometimes flying in from the far ends of the yard thrilled to see me. Their joy in response to my presences lifts my spirits and in return brings joy to my day.

2. Companions in the backyard.

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Dogs come to mind for most people when thinking about backyard companions. But chickens, can be just as much of a companion as can a family dog. For example, Tilling Day is a flock affair! Tilling up the garden for the upcoming garden season is a big deal . They follow in the path of the tiller gobbling up all the worms that were unearthed, all the while further assisting me in turning the soil over. It’s not just gardening that attract the flocks attention, the girls are alway eager to be involved in what ever I am doing. Anything from painting coops to mowing the yard attracts all kinds of “hen-help”. Chickens are very curious creatures, they want in on everything that I am doing. Sometimes they get rewarded with a big juicy worm while gardening and other times its dust bathing in the potting soil bag or eating fresh grass clippings Either way, no matter what I am doing, I often have a flock of curious girls wanting in on whatever is going on.

3. Collecting Farm Fresh Eggs daily.

There is nothing quite like collecting farm fresh eggs from the backyard. After eating organic pasture raised farm fresh eggs its hard to go back to store bought. The feeling of finding an egg or more in the nesting box never gets old. Chickens really are the pet that makes you breakfast. There is pure and simple joy that connects one to the days of old while collecting eggs from the coops.

4. Observing the complex social structure of the flock.

Chickens are very highly socially organized creatures contrary to what many people think. A flock of chickens are organized into a hierarchy, each member knowing his or her place. The term “pecking order” is derived from this complex social system of chickens and for good reason. At the top of the pecking order is typically the alpha rooster, under him will be the other roosters in the flock. The roosters determine who is the alpha by competing for the position. Following the roosters will be the alpha hen, this is the hen that has earned her right to be at the top of the order directly under the rooster. The alpha hen is usually a little bit bossy in regards to the other hens in the flock. As for the rest of the members, position is established by literally “pecking” another hen on the back indicating that the pecker is above the peckie. This behavior flows from the alpha hen all the way to the bottom of the order. Each chicken pecking someone else on the back indicating their position in the order.

Once the pecking order is established all activities of the flock revolve around the order. Simple things such as the order in which the flock exits the coop in the morning and the order in which they return. Watching this animal behavior in my own flock is very interesting. More importantly the pecking order is always changing. If a member of the flock is sick and needs to be separated for treatment, in the absence of the member the flock order will adjust. The same is true for when a member dies. In the case of a death of a member the order will usually take on an extreme adjustment. For example, when our rooster Roy died the flock was suddenly without its top member, a rooster. The remaining hens in the flock had to decide who would take his place at the top of the pecking order, claiming the position of the alpha hen. For several days the flock worked through this decision and finally come an agreement on who would be the head honcho. As a backyard keeper, this behavior is very interesting to observe. Furthermore, it brings home the literal interpretation and understanding of the term “pecking order”.

5. Watching a mother hen raise her young.

Let’s be honest, baby chicks are adorable. Whether they be wild birds or domestic, chicks are just about as adorable as a baby animal can get. What’s even better is having the opportunity to watch them grow. This is one of the simple joys of owning backyard chickens. I have several times throughout the years allowed a broody hen to incubate a small clutch of eggs. Each and every time it is an adventure and a pleasure to watch the process from egg to chick. This spring I allowed a broody Silkie to sit on a clutch of 7 eggs.

After anticipatingly waiting the predetermined 21-23 days for the eggs to incubate, they one by one started to hatch. Over the course of 3 days every single egg hatched into a beautiful healthy chick. The joy of watching this cycle of life is indeed an honor. Over the next several months the mother hen will teach her little ones how to be chickens. Such things as what to eat and not eat, how to dust bathe, where to find water, and where to roost at night.

If you are lucky enough be in the position to observe this cycle of life in person , it is indeed an educational and humbling experience. There is so much that we can learn from a mother hen and chickens in general. Chickens are amazing teachers, all that is needed is a willing soul to watch and listen. Below is a video of Miss Donna and her brood of 7.

 

6. The joy of watching a Rooster care for his flock.

Roosters are often unfairly stigmatized as being fearsome, blood thirsty, mean and nasty aggressive birds. While they do have a job to do and take it very seriously, they really are amazing and gentinle creatures. Personally, I love roosters I currently have 7 and value every one of them. Roosters, although not necessary in order to keep backyard chickens are an added bonus.

You see, when raised right, roosters are an asset to a flock of chickens. They preform many husbandry duties taking care of all the hens in the flock. If a flock has more than one rooster (such as mine does), they will divide the flock into groups each rooster taking care of a section of the hens.

They are much more than just merely protectors for the hens, they serve the flock in ways beyond this. For example, a rooster will hunt for his girls. He will actively look for food, things such as a big bug, juicy worm, or vegetation for them to eat. Once he finds something of value he will call his girls over to eat it. He will only eat what is left, he is self sacrificing looking out for the welfare of his hens. It’s as if by evolutionary design he knows the girls need the extra nutrition for the procreation of the flock (laying eggs). As the girls eat what he has found he will keep watch, sounding the alarm if there is a threat and if needed sacrificing himself for the safety of the hens. I have witnessed this first hand with my Buff Orphington Rooster, Roy. One afternoon while out in the backyard he sounded the alarm, I heard his cry from the house, rushed out the the backyard in time to see a hawk fly away. All the girls were safe under a large tree, Roy on the other hand was injured. Lucky, he recovered from the hawk inflicted injuries and lived for several more years. I learned on this day the true value of a rooster. You can read his story here.

A rooster will serve the flock in other way as well. He will lead the girls to the coop when time to roost, help raise young, break up any squabbles among the hens, and of course mate with the hens to propagate the flock. All these things and more make roosters a very valuable asset to the flock. As a backyard chicken keeper, I have peace of mind knowing that when not around the guys are on duty. It gives me great joy to hear my roosters crow in the morning and watch them interact with the flock.

7. Beauty a flock of chickens bring to my property.

There is just something soothing about a flock of chickens happily hunting and pecking on a lush green lawn. Their feathers contrasting with the surrounding greenery like little yard ornaments. Chickens when free ranging are a very welcoming sight, watching them as they search for delicacies to dine on. I allow my flock to free range in the backyard only confining them to their pens during periods of inclement weather. I love go to the backyard and see my flock busy at work, ridding my yard and gardens of all available bugs and pets. My evenings are usually spent sitting and watching them as they go about their business, taking in the ascetic pleasure they bring to my property. They really are beautiful, the different breeds together in the yard adds a diverse contrast to the evening setting. So for me, one of the joys of owning backyard chickens is simply sitting and appreciating the beauty they add to my homestead.

8. Observing the diversity of their personalities. 

Many people think that chickens are void of any personality or individual characteristics. This is so far from the truth. Chickens are a very social creature and with that comes  distinct personalities. They all have preferences of nesting boxes for which to lay they eggs. Some are more outgoing while other more reserved choosing to reside on the sidelines. Some want to be held while other prefer to be appreciated from afar.

Chickens are very complex creatures with individual personalities to match. I have a few girls that love the camera and will pose at any chance they get. Two of my flock hams are above Aphrodite (White Crested Polish: left) and Miss Sweet Pea (Buff Orhpington: right). These two girls are the standouts among all the flock members. They love attention and will do just about anything to get it.

Chickens are much like dogs in the fact that they love to interact with their care takers. Some members may be more upfront with human interaction while others more distant, but all my girls at one level or another want to feel appreciated. It was not until I had chickens that I realized how much of individuals they really are. It’s these characteristics that make them easy to identify and name. People often ask me if all my girls have names, I say “yes”. All 50+ chickens that I have are all named and often are assigned names based on their personality traits. It’s not as hard as you would think to name 50 or so birds and not get them confused. They make it pretty easy to keep all their identities straight. Which bring me to my next point.

9. Constant comedy in the backyard.

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Chickens are without a doubt constant comedy! They are one of the funniest animals that I have had the pleasure to keep. Whether it be something funny that an individual does or something that whole flock does, chickens are the comedians of the barnyard. One of funniest interactions that a flock can engage in is something I call “the chicken keep away game”. When a hen finds something such as a juicy bug or big worm she will announce to the whole flock with glee that she has found a prize. With the object in her beak she will run around the yard while the others chase her wanting to get a piece of her find. Depending on how large the trophy bug or worm is, this could go on for quite some time. Changing beaks several times till finally someone eats the morsel or looses it. It’s just about as close as a flock of chickens can get to touch football.

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Another funny chicken oddity is the Polish chicken. Pictured above are two White Crested Polishes, Aphrodite and Apollo. Out of all the breeds that I have, this breed holds the crown for comedy. Due to their crests their vision is limited, not able to see what is above them. For this reason just about everything spooks them, simple things in their environment can get a rise out of them. They have a tendency to be flighty and high strung for this reason. Additionally, they are a very curious breed always getting them selves in trouble, then not being able to see well enough to get themselves out of it. They will often time call for other flock members to rescue them from their predicament. Typically one of the roosters will come to their rescue if I am not there to physically lend a hand. I have around 13 polishes in my flock of various colors all of them possess this particular niche for comedy. They are one of my favorite breeds to keep. They require a bit of special care but are well worth the trouble just to have them around.

10. A connection to the past: A lesson in simplicity

There is just something about keeping backyard chickens that brings us back to our roots. Times of old, days gone by when just about everyone had a flock of chickens to supply eggs for the family. A time when gardening was not just a hobby but a way of survival. A time when your land was how you ate and your animals were how you survived. Getting out of bed putting on my boots and heading out to the backyard opening the coops after the night bring a bit of that nostalgia. Cleaning the coops and collecting the days eggs has a feeling of purpose and self sufficiency that many are seeking today. In a world where we can buy literally everything we need at the store, being able to supply your own food has a purity that money cannot buy. Knowing that I am eating a product that is not only organic but supplied by animals that are well cared for and happy brings happiness to my soul.

In our busy and hectic world today, it’s nice to come home and just watch my girls as they forage in the backyard. To be able to escape the chaos of life and just simply be. Chickens are simple creatures, they don’t ask for much but give back much in return. They are content just to be able to hunt and peck their way through life. They don’t worry about much but instead are just happy to be given this day. It’s a lesson in simplicity that I think we all need. For this lesson and more I am ever grateful for my chickens. My chickens give back to me in many way,  but one of the best thing they give is a lesson in keeping it simple, a lesson in simplicity.

With this I bid you ado. I hope that you have found value in this post. If you are just staring out with chickens, I would love to hear from you. It is my goal and mission to help others with their adventure of keeping backyard chickens.

For those that are seasoned chicken keepers, I would love to hear the joys you experience in keeping backyard chickens.

Thanks for reading!

~ The Kuntry Klucker Crew ~

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Standing in the Shadow of the Moon

Hi Everyone, welcome back to the Kuntry Klucker Farm. Today the girls experienced an astronomical event that has captured the attention of the nation. At 2:30 pm this afternoon the sky darkened in the sky over our little farm here. I set up time lapse cameras on both coops and captured their reaction to evening setting in on their afternoon. I am not able to post those videos here due to platform issues right now, if you want to see them you can catch them on my Facebook page, the link is in the “contacts” section of my page.

So without further ado, allow me to tell you how the girls took to the sky darkening during their afternoon. As they were enjoying their day of hunting and pecking in the gardens something spectacular was about to unfold over their heads. As the sky slowly started to darken they did take notice to the early approach of evening. I could tell that they were starting to wind things up for the day. As they continued to graze in the backyard their heads looked around trying to see if everyone else was getting ready for bed. As they continued to peck at the ground more and more of the girls looked up to see what everyone else was doing. They seemed to look to each other as if there is some kind of que they were waiting for. The pure confusion as they stood it the shadow of the moon was nothing less than entertaining. Sadly, the totality did not last long enough for them to actually roost but they did make their way to the pen and got their last sip of water and bite of feed before they would go up the latter for bed. I wished that totally would have lasted a bit longer but it was funny watching them be rather confused as to why bedtime was coming so early.

Below are two photos taken from my time lapse videos that I took recording their response to the eclipse. As you can see it got quite dark for a few moments, but not long enough for them to make their way up the latter to the coop. Instead they just froze in place as all of a sudden darkness fell on them as they were doing their rounds in the garden searching for delicious bugs to dine on.

Their response to the eclipse was that of dumfounded confusion as evening came on so suddenly that they did not have much time to really react. I was hoping that they would go to roost just to have the sun come out again to finish their day. Although I did not get the pics of the girls that I would have liked to had I did get some good pics of the Eclipse. Below is a chronological order of the Moon over taking the Sun.

Thanks for stopping by and spending a little time with the girls and I. Till next time, take care and keep on crowing.

~ The Kuntry Klucker Crew ~

 

The girls go shopping!

Hello again! Well, here we are in the last few waining days of late summer. The girls so far are weathering our 90+degree heat well. They spend a lot of time in the shade and scavenging in my gardens for grubs. The flock is adjusting well after the loss of our resident rooster Roy. I still think they miss his presence but they have decided to move on with their lives and carry on with their chicken antics. As my gardens are expiring the girls are taking this opportunity to clean all the plants of remaining bugs, fruit, and other edibles. They are having a great time tending my corn and pumpkin gardens which remain their favorite destinations. I was out today doing my daily morning chores with the girls and discovered something rather interesting about my fancy ladies, they love to shop!

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Yes, my girls like to shop till they drop. You see, I have several small coops in my spice garden that I use as hospital or isolation housing for when I have a girl that does not feel well or a broody mama that just needs some privacy or space from the flock. When they are not being used for these purposes I leave them open for the girls to explore and lay there eggs in while they are about and about. I am afraid that if I leave them shut up till I need them wasps and other insects will set up house in the dormant coop. So to ward off these intruders I just leave them open for the girls to inspect and maintain while they are out in the yard for the day.

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Since it is hot I make sure they they have water and feeding stations all over the yard. I don’t want them at any point to be too far from a water source. It does not take a chicken long to dehydrate so I keep hydration stations very accessible for them.

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One place the I put these stations is in coops in my spice garden. I also set treats in each of the coops to keep things interesting for them and to give them a variety of food sources. Should we get a freak afternoon shower I am assured the the food will stay dry in the coops and not spoil. So for this reason the coops are a great place to keep their feed/snacks/water and so on. Additionally they will also lay their eggs in these coops. I do not find their eggs in the large coop anymore they prefer the smaller ones in the spice gardens for laying their eggs.

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So this is how I have determined that my girls like to shop. As I was spending my morning with the girls getting their stations set up I noticed something. As they made their way into the yard they one by one started inspecting all the coops, seeing what was in “store” for them to munch on today. First Betsy inspects the larger of the two coops, she goes in takes a look and exits the coop. Next Bossy does the same, and so forth as the girls made their way into the yard.

They would then go over to the other coop and see what was in “store” there. Betsy would enter the coop take inventory, exit then make her way over to the first coop she inspected and enjoy the snacks in that coop. As I watched I said to my self, “my girls are going shopping”! They are comparison shopping between the coops to see which has the best deal on the grub. I was just amazed at how they were taking inventory of the treats/food/snacks and so forth in the coops.

 

It just blew my mind! I just sat there on my hammock amazed at their antics. My girls like to shop! Even funnier, if one coop contained something that they preferred over the other coop, a line would then start to form. Not only can they shop, but they can wait in line waiting to check out. How funny are these ladies.

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Funny thing is, when they were chicks I staged a photo shoot of them I took some really cute pics. One of them was of them standing in front of a country store front, it appeared as thought they were shopping.

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Well, now that I know this I think an update in their outfits is in order. They wear their dresses but now I think they are going to need some little purses to go along with their ensemble. Not too sure how I am going to pull that off but it would be the cutest thing if I ever found a way to make it work.

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So there you have it. My girls are indeed backyard divas. They wear the latest in hen fashions and now they enjoy the art of shopping and finding the best deals. My girls amaze me more and more everyday. Keeping backyard chickens it truly the most fulfilling hobby I could ever imagine.

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Well that is all for now. I will post an update on the girls shopping spree a I find new things to put in the coops for them to discover.

Till then, thanks for stopping by and spending a little time with the girls.

~The Kuntry Klucker Crew~

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