Why I Like My Hens

by Nicole Paull

On the “Meet Nicole” page of my website, one of the things I mention is my hens and I thought it would be fun to talk a little bit about just why I like chickens.

First, they hearken back to my childhood. Growing up, we had bunnies, hens and roosters, ducks, geese, and even a pheasant named Fred. My brother went to the county Agricultural High School and one summer (they were a school project), we even raised some baby steers. If you’ve never bottle-fed a calf, it’s a lot of fun. :)

Second, baby chicks are incredibly endearing little balls of peeping fluff. They’ll fall asleep in the palm of your hand. One of my hens hatched in an incubator I set up in my office and initially, she imprinted on me. If I sat on the ground and rested one hand on my thigh, she’d jump up to my knee, hop onto my hand and run up my arm to sit on my shoulder.

Third, a flock of hens is fascinating to watch…it’s an entire society in miniature. (It’s fun to see a rooster strut and “dance” for the hens and scratch around for little love-offerings for them, too, but roosters are loud and not all neighbors will tolerate them! The career of Horatio Hornblower was therefore, alas, short.)

They chase each other around, strike poses to determine who’s dominant, dust bathe, brag about eggs deposited, and find sunny spots to nap. They quickly learn who usually brings the food and will run to meet you at the door.

They have an entire language of bawks and squawks and after awhile, you get to know what they’re saying. (“Hawk!” sounds much different from “Yum” which sounds much different from “I wonder what that is?” A hen croons softly to her eggs when the chicks are close to hatching, too, and the chicks will peep back at her from within the eggs.)

Fourth, there is an incredible array of breeds and some are really, really beautiful. There are hens that lay brown eggs, hens that lay white eggs, and hens that lay blue or green eggs. Black Copper Marans lay “chocolate” eggs. There are speckled, laced, checkered, barred, partridge, and splash feather patterns, to name a few. There are little bitty bantams and great big Jersey Giants.

A flock of different-colored and -patterned hens, foraging contentedly on a lush green lawn, is a wholly satisfactory sight (although you have to watch yourself if you walk on said lawn barefoot!).

Finally, the eggs from hens who get to go outside, scratch around, and find some of their own forage really do taste better. My friend Sharon calls them “happy eggs”.

This is a photo of Rose with Matilda, Lucy, and Iris when the chicks were just two or three days old. (Click on the photo and you’ll be able to see it full-size.)

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2 Responses leave one →
  1. Laura Holley permalink
    August 25, 2013

    I love this article. I love chickens and roosters but have too many coyotes around my house to feel like I could keep them safe. My neighbor, however, has several hens and I love watching them. And, the eggs he sometimes shares with me are very delicious. Thanks for an interesting article.

  2. Nicole Paull permalink*
    September 3, 2013

    Thanks for your comment, Laura! I’m glad you enjoyed the article. :)

    A resource I’ve found helpful when it comes to learning how to keep the chickens safe is My Pet Chicken. There’s a section on predators here:

    http://www.mypetchicken.com/backyard-chickens/chicken-help/Predators-HC40.aspx

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