At work, my teammates jokingly refer to me as “The Crazy Chicken Lady”. I have to admit, I kind of like it. When we’re younger, we strive to fit in. I’ve finally reached a place in my life where I embrace my eccentricities, and feel sadness for those who are in their 40s, still trying to “fit in”. Let your freak flag fly, I say. (Channeling my inner Portland…)
Miss Cleo, City Chicken
I did not enter into the decision to raise chickens in the backyard of a city lot lightly. For me, pretty much everything requires hours of research. I worried about the neighbors, about how the dog and cats would get along with them, but from the time I was a little girl, I always wanted to live on a farm, and something called to me.
I’ve heard chickens called the “gateway animal”. Once you have chickens, you might as well have goats. Hmm. I would love goats! Not sure they’re legal in my city, but one day, with a plot of earth…. maybe. Rabbits, perhaps?
“The Girls” free-range in my backyard during daylight hours and have a small coop I ordered online and assembled, that they really only sleep in and lay eggs in. If I had it to do over again, I would have definitely built something, but I do like it this way. They are not confined, and had I built something from scratch, I think I’d feel the need to enclose a run. This way, I felt guilty with their small accommodations and let them have the run of the yard during the day. I get up, have my coffee, get ready for work, and let the girls out. Thankfully, it’s now light when I leave for work. There were days in December where I had to open the coop for them in the wee dark hours before sunrise. Thankfully, our city raccoons have had their instincts bred out of them. I close the coop at night after they’ve already put themselves to bed, and they keep my backyard grub-free, and the grass nicely trimmed.
There are drawbacks, of course. I love flowers. So do chickens. I spent days researching chicken-friendly landscaping, logging my botanical discoveries on a spreadsheet. I long for more than the standard Rhododendron/Camellia landscaping that is so prolific in the Pacific Northwest. Last spring, I planted New Guinea Impatiens, which they’re supposed to dislike. They left them alone for a month, then I came home from work one day and they were devoured down to the dirt.. Russian Sage is another plant that is supposedly distasteful to them. I planted it along the fence, and it lasted through the flowering season, but as soon as the weather started to turn in September, they devoured every leaf on it. I hope it comes back.
I’m listing the plants that have survived my free-range chickens below. Several are noted to be poisonous, so not necessarily “chicken friendly”. At least I have smart chickens.
Plants that have survived my chickens:
- Lilly of the Valley (inherited it with this yard, and is fairly prolific)
- Daylilly (planted last spring without barrier/protection, and they haven’t touched them)
- Pansies (a weed in my yard that they won’t touch)
- Euphorbia (they leave the leaves, but do eat the flowers)
- Bleeding Heart
- English Ivy
- Chamomile (planted last spring, and they have left untouched)
- Rose Campion (commonly misidentified as “lambs ears”)
- Cotoneaster (their favorite hiding place)