Are chickens right for you?

Sylvia and Snowflake, the new girls on the blockSo you think you want chickens?



It’s okay to not be sure. I mean what if you get yourself a backyard flock and then decide chickens aren’t for you? Then what?

If you’ve been wondering if there’s a way to figure out if chicken ownership is for you before you take the plunge, the answer is YES…sort of.

First, before you do anything, it’s probably a good thing to find out if you can even own chickens where you live. Does your town/city/area allow them? If so, what are the rules? Each town has different rules, so make sure you talk to your city hall to find the specifics for you. While you’re at it, if you live in an HOA or other area that has a set of rules apart from the city you live in, check with them too. Even if your city allows chickens, your neighborhood might not.

One you’ve uncovered the laws in your area, it’s time to talk to some folks who already raise chickens. If you don’t personally know anyone, or can’t find any chickens in yards near you when you go out on walks (and hope to catch their owners out in the yard), look for a backyard chicken class (many are free) or find a feed store and see if they can direct you to someone. Be prepared, however: Most backyard chicken owners are flipped over their flock. Their enthusiasm is catchy.

Did you hear the one about the chicken who crossed the road?

Books are also a good place to gather practical information and there are lots of good books out there. Here are a few I’ve books collected on my website which will give you a place to start. Reading about chicken ownership and the specifics required for their care will help you start thinking about whether you have what they will need. Do you have space in your yard? A good place for a coop? An area for them to free range? A fence to keep out the predators? Enough money to get going? (You can also hop over to the City Girl Chickens website and find lots of information to get you started.)

If you’ve made it this far and found out you can have chickens where you live, talked to people who have had them, and think you can swing it, take a deep breath. We’re not quite done.Linda and girls

It’s time for some soul searching. This part can be a bit tricky because you might not always know what you really think. But here are some questions to ponder:

  1. Why would you like chickens?
  2. Do you like eggs?
  3. How will you take care of them when you’re gone on vacation, etc.?
  4. Do you have the time and money to care for them?
  5. What will you do with them when they’re not in their egg-laying prime anymore?

All the education, talking, researching and thinking might give you a good idea about whether or not you should jump into raising chickens. But sometimes it might not. It didn’t with me.

When I was a kid, we lived on the outskirts of a tiny town in Montana and raised chickens, horses, occasional 4-H animals, and random other critters. I don’t remember bonding much with the chickens. As a matter of fact, I don’t remember much about them at all, except that I had a Polish hen named Phyllis Dillar.

After I moved to the city as an adult, I contemplated chickens, but I wasn’t sure I even liked them. I worried about smoldering mile high piles of chicken poo, and millions of buzzing flies. I worried that I’d be stuck with these creatures that might have the personality of a slug and smell badly and wreck the yard. I worried about costs, and unhappy neighbors and all sorts of things.

And honestly, I didn’t really see myself as an ‘animal person’. And, since chickens are animals after all, I didn’t know if we’d be a very good fit. So, I stalled and thought and worried and wondered…

One day a friend talked me into going to a backyard chicken class with her. I went, mostly to humor her (she’d just moved to a farmhouse just outside the city and romanticized a flock of her own pecking the grass beside her bright red barn). Little did I know that a beautiful gentle Buff Orpington hen in that class would sweep me off my feet and send me straight into chicken ownership as fast as my legs could carry me to the feed store. Nobody was more surprised than me (and believe me, most of my friends and family were quite surprised)!Some of my girls the day I brought them home.

If I would have been practical, I might not have rushed down and brought home 9 fuzzy peeping balls of cuteness. I still had tons of doubts how it would all pan out. But, all these years later I can say with CERTAINTY that bringing home those first chicks completely wrecked me. It changed my life for the better and I look to that one decision as a big turning point for me. My outlook on life, the way I relate to food, and what I think about animals and the world around me in general have all been greatly influenced by that small box of baby chicks.

For me, I’ve been nothing but pleasantly surprised. I thought I was bringing home chickens for eggs, but the eggs are such a minor side point to me now. My only regret in chicken ownership is that I didn’t do it sooner. I’m completely smitten with my hens. I can’t imagine not having chickens in my life. Ever.1

If I would have gone through the above exercises, I would have decided chickens weren’t for me. But thankfully I got them anyway. Sometimes you just don’t know until you do it, I guess.

There are some programs that have sprung up in a few places where you can rent a flock of hens for a while. They bring you the birds, the hen house and the things you need to take a trial run at the backyard bird gig. You try it, and if you like it, you can opt in to own the birds you’re renting, or buy some others of your own. It’s a great way to get your feet wet, so to speak.

If that isn’t an option in your area, spend some time around hens if you can. Offer to help clean out their coops. Do whatever you can to get a feel for what it would be like to own a flock of your own. (But also know that just like children, it’s a lot easier to care for your own than for others because they’re yours and you love them.)

So, I guess my best advice is, yes, study, talk, do your research and think things through. But don’t let fear stop you. Dig down deeper than those fears and see if there’s something more than fear telling you not to get yourself some hens.

Equally, don’t let popular trendy opinion sway you if chicken ownership really isn’t for you. They are a commitment and they do take time, thought and money, just like any other animal you own.

In the end, you have to go with your gut. I did. And there’s no turning back for me! (And because I’m super pro chicken, I’ll leave you with this list of over 20 reasons to consider raising some chickens of your own.)

Good luck in your decision making process. Let us know how it all turns out!

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The Birds Have Landed (and a Giveaway You Won’t Want to Miss)

Greetings from the new chicken home.  Yes, the girls are Finnnnnaaaaaallllllyyyyyyy moved out to my new location. Yes, it did take TWO MONTHS to get them here. Yes, I did take my sweet time (not on purpose). Thankfully for me, I had the option of time, as I had a friend’s son taking care of the hens in the in between time (without having to move them from their old location to do it).

Recess in new location

Recess in new location

I used to live on an extra huge lot, so I took advantage of the space and way OVER BUILT the coop, and gave the girls a nice spacious 40×100 foot chicken yard, fully fenced and pretty safe from the world at large.

I recognize accommodations like this aren’t always possible in the city. Neither are they possible in my new location. So, while we’re all downsizing in our own way, I’ve set up a space for the hens and they’re adjusting nicely.

But it didn’t start out like that.

When moving hens, it’s a nice idea to do it at night. They’re more lethargic. They can’t see in the dark. And the theory is that they will wake up in the new place forgetting they haven’t always lived there.

Fat chance on that one! My girls wouldn’t step foot out of the coop for days without me coaxing them out. And as soon as I left the scene, they’d hightail it back inside. So much for forgetting they haven’t always lived here!

New Hen Pad: Converted dog house and dog run.

New Hen Pad: Converted dog house and dog run.

I had some unhappy hens. Seriously unhappy. But they’ve forgiven me. The telltale sign of adjustment was being rewarded with two eggs one morning last week. Yay.

First eggs in new home.

First eggs in new home.

The new hen living situation isn’t exactly like I’d like it, but funds were low and rain and cold abundant, so for now, it is what it is and it works well enough (the coop and run are less than half the size of the old one, but still more spacious than they truly need. They’re just spoiled!) The only thing left is to build a fence around part of the yard so they can free range with a bit more safety. Until then, I closely supervise recess for them.

Small flock in new territory.

Small flock in new territory.

Onward we go.

In the meantime, with the ruffled feathers settling, I wanted to tell you guys about an opportunity to win some essential oils. If you’re new to oils, I just want to say I use them not only for my own health and well being, but also for my flock. I’ve saved several hens with EOs (and the garage smells like a spa instead of a sick chicken when I use them). You can read more about some of that here, here and here. (PS I’m not a vet just a chicken owner looking for natural solutions.)

There are no strings attached. Simply go enter to win. Hurry though, the contest ends on Monday the 15th. Good luck.0001-38363407

PS and with the move over, I’m flying a bit more above the radar these days and promise you’ll be hearing from me more often!

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Moving Chickens (part one)

As some of you might remember, I talked about the hard time I was having finding a new place to live (renting) with chickens. This surprised me, actually, since Portland is known for it’s backyard chicken loving ways.

I finally found a place, but it’s a bit outside the city. The move is complete, except that chickens haven’t joined me yet. Part of the problem with this is that I went a bit crazy with last coop. I also made it mostly out of scraps, held together by an abundance of boxes of screws. Just to be sure it stayed together.


Yep. It’s not going anywhere. At least not in a way I could re-assemble it in the new location. Shoot!

In the meantime, my flock is down to only four birds. It’s never been this small. But since I knew a move was coming (but wasn’t sure when), I haven’t added to the flock like I normally like to do.

I also live in the Pacific NW, in the beginning of the pouring-down-buckets season. Not my favorite time to build.

So, I’ve come up with a stop gap solution for the moment. I’m taking the small dog-house-converted-to-coop that I had already (I was going to use it for a nursery coop, but haven’t yet) and using it as one of two coops.


I’m taking this second dog house and converting it in a similar way as the first coop.


I’m sticking them both inside a 5×15 foot dog run (cyclone fencing), covered with wire and a tarp. I will eventually add an additional fence (to create a fenced free-range area). And that will be the winter coop. Not ideal, but it will work.

I’m hoping to have the girls moved over before Thanksgiving. And in the meantime I check on them regularly and have someone taking care of them for me during the transition.

They are also molting right now, poor things! Everyone is in the midst of change. I’ll keep you posted on all of our progress!




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Pumpkin Granola

Pumpkin Granola | City Girl Farming

I am a summer girl. I love long days and sunshine. I love planting and growing and walking barefoot and trips to the beach. I love the smell of grass and warm pine needles. I love flip flops and shorts. And sitting out by the blooming mint watching dozens of bees get their fill. And taking walks in the evening.

Everything about summer, I love. Even the heat (well, as long as it doesn’t get TOOOOO hot).

And then comes fall. It’s not that I don’t like fall. It’s beautiful. And smells good. But it’s a bitter sweet thing because it signals the end of summer with the impending doom of winter is just around the corner. When I’m tempted to get down about fall though, all I have to do is think of pumpkins. Then, magically, all is right with the world again.

Right now I’m in the middle of frantic last minute packing, trying to juggle all my work around jillions of last minute details. I feel stretched in way too many directions. Yet, when my aunt texted me to say that she came across a pumpkin granola recipe, I stopped everything, scoured the mostly empty (because they’re already mostly packed) cupboards and did a happy dance that all the ingredients I needed were yet to be taped up into boxes.

So, I set aside a bit of time this week and made some pumpkin granola. It hit the spot on a rainy, cool beginning-of-fall day. The original recipe came from Two Peas & Their Pod, but I tweaked it up a bit. You can see the original recipe here. (And, while you’re over there, check out this awesome and super easy salsa recipe, too!)

Pumpkin Granola

5 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon (or a heaping one if you love it as much as I do)
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup organic brown sugar
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
½ cup pepitas
¼ cup flax seeds
½ cup pumpkin puree (if you want to make your own, here’s how)
¼ cup apple or pear sauce (I used pear)
¼ cup real maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
6-10 drops On Guard essential oil blend
1 cup dried cranberries

Mix the oats, spices, nuts and seeds together in one bowl (but not the cranberries). Mix the wet ingredients together in another, until smooth. Add the two together. Mix until the dry ingredients are coated with the wet ingredients.

Spread on a parchment lined cookie sheet and put in a pre-heated 325 degree oven. Bake for 30-45minutes, stirring after each 10 minutes. It’s done when it gets crunchy (it will get more crunchy when it cools, so be careful not to overcook it).

Pull it out of the oven and stir the cranberries in.Pumpkin Granola Close Up | City Girl Farming

It smells so good you won’t be able to resist it. Just warning you. And it tastes great warm, too. But I like it better cold. By the handful.

Yes, I guess I might survive fall after all.

(PS you’re in the pumpkin mood, like me, I have a few more pumpkin recipes to share with you here and here.)

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Renting with Chickens

Flock-looking-upI’ve been a renter all my adult life. This last place, owned by a friend, has been home for the past 10 years. It has been in this stretch of years that I acquired my chickens. As time has gone by the flock has ebbed and flowed peaking at thirteen. Currently I have six hens.

I’ve been feeling the restless stirring of a move in the back recesses of my mind, but didn’t really know what that would look like, or when it would come about. However, through a set of circumstances beyond my control (and foreseeable knowledge), that time is now. Although it’s taking me by surprise and has me scrambling more than just a little, when the dust settles, it will all be good.

However, it’s opened my eyes to the plight of renters with chickens, which isn’t something I’ve thought about before. Finding a rental that will allow my hens (and cat) to tag along has been tough. More than tough, pretty much impossible. I live in a suburb of Portland, Oregon: home of green people, organic lovers, and chicken owners. Heck, even goats are allowed in the city limits. We’re a chicken hugging tribe. At least that was my belief, until I tried to find a new chicken-hugging landlord.

Needless to say, it’s been a long and stressful two months. In the end, I’m moving outside the city where I’ll be renting a property shared by some goats (and their humans). Although there are many things about this place that are nearly perfect, it’s not my ideal situation. I’d hoped to stay in the city, not live 30 minutes out. But for now, I’m headed out (to what feels like the STICKS) where I will re-group and (hopefully) be back to the city soon, this time as a home owner (or tiny house builder or something) with my rag- tag caravan of animals tagging along behind.

I’m not sure how many chicken owners are out there that are also renters. I’m sure I can’t be completely unique, even if I’m part of a minority. So for those of you out there who could someday be in this same position, here are some things I’ve considered in this last 60 days:

  1. Pay attention to the zoning laws. This is a no-brainer, I know, but when you’re in a metro area, one street to the next might be a different town and therefore different laws. For instance, Portland proper will only allow 3 hens without a permit. (With a $31 one-time fee you can apply to have more chickens, but you also have to get permission from all neighbors within 150 feet.) Where I live, just a few blocks over, we can have as many as we want, even roosters. In Milwaukie, just down the street a ways, there’s a limit of 50. I’ve been looking at places in all these areas and more.

(By the way, even if the town allows, make sure you’re not moving into an HOA that won’t let you bring your chickens. Do your research. It will save you a lot of trouble later.)

  1. Build portable. Yes, yes, I know. This also goes without saying. Because I’ve lived where there’s no limit to the number of hens I have, and because I didn’t know what I was doing when I built my coop, and because I didn’t follow any plans, I, um, sort of overbuilt. (Those adorable city coops that hold three cozy little hens? Yes, I love them. That is NOT, however, what I have.)fall-coop

Oh, and because I didn’t know what I was doing, I overcompensated with my lack of skill, planning and knowledge with boxes of screws. So, it’s not really coming apart. There’s no way I could practically move it. This, of course, presents another real problem: I finally found a place my hens can go, but the coop can’t come with us. Drat!

  1. Network like crazy. Landlords seem to be more open to out-of-the-ordinary ideas if they have a personal connection to you. I’m headed out to the country (which I found with a personal connection) to a spacious acreage already containing goats, but no chickens. Through talking to the landlords-to-be and finding out we actually have THREE people in common, suddenly the door swung wide open for a flock of hens to move out with me. It really is who you know sometimes. Thankfully I know some keepers.

The girls like the new digs

  1. Move your flock at night. Mine aren’t moved yet (remember I have the coop issue to deal with). But once I get their new space set up, I will come fetch them with a big box, at night, when they’re already groggy and a bit disoriented and mostly blind. The theory behind this is that they will wake up in the morning somewhere new and be happier about it than if they arrived during the day. We shall see about this and I will most definitely keep you posted. I’m anticipating them being a bit mouthy, regardless. They aren’t too keen on change. (Me, neither, so I sympathize with them.)

In the meantime, my friend has graciously allowed the hens to stay for a while longer where they’ve lived their whole life. Her son will take care of them and I’ll check in on them weekly.

  1. Last but not least, having as much lead time as possible to find your new digs will help. The Portland area is a brutal place to find a rental even without the extra hassle of chickens. I read a report last week that said Portland is the second tightest rental market in the whole nation right now, thanks to the 75,000 new folks that moved in during 2013 (I hope they came because of the chickens). But regardless of where you live, moving hens to a new rental is a bit more complicated than a hen-less move. It might take some time (or creative solutions) to get it all to work out.

It’s been a tough two months for sure. I’m moving my household, but the blog will continue on. The next month or so might be a bit harried, but I’ll be back on track before too long.

I’m curious: are there any chicken owning renters out there? If so, what have you experienced in the rental scene? Have you had trouble finding a place to live with hens in tow? Do you have other suggestions to add?


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Free Seed-Saver Envelope Download

Free Seed Packet Download for saving your own seeds | City Girl FarmingIt’s that time again…seed saving time. If you don’t already save your own seeds, it’s not too late to start. And it’s easy to do. (You can find out more here.)

If you already save your seeds, but get tired of them looking all messy and unorganized in baggies with masking tape labels, I’ve got the solution for you.

Seed Packet Small

This past week, when I was sick of looking at my random collection of baggies, I sat down and designed an envelope for my seeds. Simply print up, cut out and glue a couple of the edges down. Easy. And free.

You can download the full size .pdf here.

Enjoy your collecting.


Posted in D.I.Y., Gardening | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Jessica’s Swollen Abdomen

Jessica Ruler of the RoostI first noticed Jessica’s swollen abdomen the beginning of July. It felt like a water balloon filled taut, about to burst. Jessica didn’t show any signs of being sick, though. She was still eating, drinking, walking and running, chatting with me. All the normal chicken behavior of a friendly, social hen. I’d never had noticed if I hadn’t picked Jess up and encountered her big water balloon belly with my hand. WHOA.

I seriously doubted Jessica was egg bound. She showed no other signs (although her swollen abdomen was very similar to Harriet’s when Harriet was egg bound). So, I did what I often do when the girls  have me stumped, and I tried  to find a reason for her water weight gain via research.

A possible ailment could be that she got a bit of egg-stuff stuck inside her somewhere and it was creating an infection. Some advice said to drain it, others said to leave it. I decided to leave it until the poor girl looked like she was saddle sore, waddling like a pigeon toed duck, and having a hard time jumping up onto things. She was still eating, drinking, happy, but I could tell she wasn’t very comfortable. So, I decided to try to drain it.

I don’t know if any of you ever call local vets and ask for weird items like syringes and catheters? Um, yea. It didn’t go over so well….

“Excuse me? You want what? Do you have any experience with this? Do you have any training?”

Well, I watched a YouTube video.

“We can’t sell you this sort of thing. We suggest you take your hen to a vet who specializes in birds.”

Yea, well, that’s not going to happen. Besides, how hard can it be?

Thankfully I DO have a vet friend, although she’s a cat vet, who has helped me with Peep’s bumblefoot surgery and given me prescriptions when Harriet sounded like Darth Vader. I texted her for the supplies, and told me to swing by clinic, pick up said supplies, and bring them to her house (with Jessica) so she could teach me how to use them.FirstAidSupplies

It really IS a simple procedure, although I’ve never stuck a needle into the backside of a hen before. (It slid in like butter on a hot knife). Jessica didn’t mind. We  drained off 2 ounces of fluid that looked like a green smoothie (which is unfortunate since I drink green smoothies several times per week). My vet friend said she’s never seen fluid like that come out of an animal. She took a picture and showed it to her chicken vet friend who said the same thing. Mystery fluid.


For three days straight,  I pulled fluid out of Jessica’s swollen belly. She was very cooperative. I think it was definitely one of those times when “This hurts me more than it hurts you” was actually true. But we got by. After removing more than three cups of faux-green-smoothie, she was able to run and jump easier than when she was slinging that volume along behind her.

(For those of you that don’t know–like I didn’t–the proper color of this fluid should be more like ginger ale, not sludgy thick green vegetables.)


PullingFluid JessTowel2


To be on the safe side, I started diffusing On Guard essential oil in the coop (for killing germs/bugs growing inside her and to strengthen immunity). I set up the  diffuser in a nest box and blew it in on flock at night (I figured since it’s not toxic it wouldn’t hurt to dose everyone). I’m not sure if this contributed, but the mass stopped re-filling with fluid. It’s still there, but not growing (or if it’s growing, it’s very slow). And Jessica is happy as a chicken three cups lighter.

The chicken vet, based solely on photos from the phone, suspects that Jessica might have some kind of cancer. My surgical oncologist friend (with human patients), suspects something like a burst organ (unsure of which organs chickens have–she suggested gall bladder or spleen).

Regardless, Jessica is happy and seemingly doing well.  It’s been two months now and she’s not showing any signs of slowing down, although I suspect she will slow down, simply because she’s over  four years old and there’s a growth on her belly that won’t completely go away.

But for today, Jessica is living the good chicken life and that’s a reason to cheer.


Posted in Bees, Chickens | 2 Comments