Heirloom Gardener Blogs > The Practical Garden

The Real-Life Tragedy and Joy of Chicken Keeping

I’ve spent most of my time to this point talking about medicinal plants, but now seems a reasonable point to talk a bit about my chickens—well, my chicken, singular, whom I’ve dubbed “The Lone Chicken” as of late.

I started out with five chickens—four hens and a rooster. I now have one. Now, I won’t give you any gory details, but the first chicken I lost was, of course, my favorite. She was named Diana, and she would follow me around the yard, clucking and cooing, and was always the first to walk up to me when I threw treats on the ground. There’s not good way to say this: she was eaten. By something. Who knows what.

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The second to go was Elizabeth, the half-blind chicken who went slowly into that sweet night until, finally, she went.

And the rooster, of course. Ah, the rooster. He was a beautiful rooster, and a good rooster, who protected his decreasing flock faithfully. However, he kept jumping on me, punishing me with his bony, sharp spurs, despite the fact that I was the one feeding him! The nerve. And, though I didn’t blame him for this, he crowed. A lot. All the time. It was stressful.

He went into the stew pot.

And on it went, until, finally, I was down to one chicken. When it was still chickens, plural, the chickens abandoned their perfectly serviceable coop. The Last Chicken is left to hop to her roost. First, she hops on the back of the porch bench. Then, she jumps on the back of the porch rocker. She stares, gathering her gumption, until she finally, desperately, urgently, flaps her wings until she makes it to a bottom branch. Once she makes it to the branch, she clucks as though pep-talking herself before scooting her way a few feet up the branch to find her roosting place.

Chickens are hilarious.

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For a long time, I lost track of where she was laying her eggs, until finally the dog pulled one out of the doghouse. It’s a toss-up on any given day who is going to get to the egg first.

Now, you should know that I love keeping chickens. We live on exactly enough space, in my view, to let them free range, so they’re pretty easy to keep, and frankly, during the summer, they don’t even care if I don’t feed them but occasionally, due to the high number of bugs and plant matter. Even better, they give me eggs. I forget that most people have to buy eggs, until winter when I begin pep-talking the hens about how long they’ve got “on break” until they better start laying again.

So here I am with one chicken, admiring photos of large flocks on the internet, dreaming of spring, when I, too, will have multiples. Until then, The Lone Rang—I mean, The Lone Chicken, my cat, and my dog will be here, perpetually waiting for their next meal.

Coming next: Let’s get specific. I’ll talk about the practicality of chicken coops. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with ideas of the “perfect” coop, when in reality all they need is protection from elements and predators.