The New (Battered) Girl in Town

Meet Millie.Millies-first-day

Millie came to me a few weeks ago, after she’d been badly pecked up by her flock  sisters. Actually, Millie has been treated like this her whole life (of about one year), living with a flock that never accepted her into their hen club. Out of desperation, frustration, and concern for Millie, she came to live with me.

I wasn’t totally sure what breed of hen Millie was when she showed up (as she was missing so many feathers) but my best guess these days is maybe a Red Sex Link? (What do you guys think?) She’s VERY skiddish. VERY. Tiny birds flying FAR overhead will startle her. I don’t blame her, though, since she’s pretty much only known violence and being an outcast her whole life.

Millie came to my established flock only a week after my lovely, gentle Jessica (Black Sex Link) was beheaded by a raccoon. Jessica was the leader of my flock so there was already some pecking order re-positioning going on. I figured that might be a great time to introduce someone new.

The friends that brought Millie over also brought her a deluxe rabbit hutch to live in temporarily. I set it up near the chicken yard and also fenced off a section of the yard for Millie to hang out in without the threat of being bullied by my hens. Pecking order is a serious thing among chickens and I’d be setting Millie up for failure if I had just released her into my flock. Everyone needed time to get to know each other.

Hattie, my white Easter Egger, who is a strong contender for the top dog (er, hen) position with Jessica gone, was not happy to see a trespasser on the property. In fact, all my hens were extremely upset to see poor Millie move in. They paced a groove on their side of the fence, puffing up, strutting around, making all sorts of non-typical noises. Hattie even tried her hand at crowing (badly).

Hattie trying to show Millie who was boss through the fence (I re-enforced it with more wire after this episode).

Hattie trying to show Millie who was boss through the fence (I re-enforced it with more wire after this episode).

Poor flighty Millie just flitted about and worried about her new situation.

I knew things would eventually settle down. And they did.

After about a week and a half of this carrying on from my normally mellow flock, they moved on to more interesting things, still keeping their eye on Millie, but not in such a worked up way. I eventually allowed Millie into the larger chicken yard, with supervision and we’d have short recess times together. This transition wasn’t seamless, but overall it went well. Slowly I increased their together time and for the most part Millie is part of the flock now. (Goldie, the lowest hen in the pecking order in my original flock is the one who picks on Millie the most, reminding Millie that she’s the  boss of at least her.)

For now, Millie still sleeps in the rabbit hutch. She puts  herself to bed there just as the other hens put themselves to bed in the coop.  I do keep Millie in the enclosed area by herself for a bit in the morning to make sure she gets enough food (most of the fights these days revolve around food), but then she spends the rest of her day with the other girls.

Millie is settling in too. At first she wouldn’t let me get near her. And when I’d lift her out of the rabbit hutch in the morning, her poor body would just shake like a leaf. Now she patiently waits for me and allows me to lift her out to start the day.

She’s even eating out of my hand. And coming with the others when I call her.

When she first came her naked little shoulders were badly sunburned. So, I mixed up a HIGHLY DILUTED solution of essential oils and I spray her shoulders every morning. It seems to be helping her heal. And slowly her feathers are coming in, although her wings are still pretty naked.

I would have rather introduced Millie to my flock with an additional hen at the same time. This way she’d be more likely to have a ‘friend’. But I took what I got and I didn’t push the process.  Patience (which is not a strong suit for me) is essential when transitioning new birds into the established flock. I’m happy to say, although there’s occasionally a little bit of squawking, there’s been no blood and virtually no feather loss.


Millie seems to be settling in quite well and runs around having a good time with her new, much nicer to her, sisters. Once again, all is well in the chicken kingdom.

PS If you’d like more information on how to introduce new chickens to your flock, click here. Or more information on what the pecking order is all about, click here.

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The Top Chicken Blogs?


I was notified last week that the City Girl Farming blog made it into the top 25 chicken blogs. From this list, there’s a voting contest to determine the top blog in the chicken kingdom. There are some awesome blogs on this list.  Some that I read. Some that you should read, too, if you’re interested in chickens and sustainability and other related topics.

Anyway, if you click on over to the contest, you can vote for your favorite blog. The voting ends on July 6th. And you can only vote once. And while you’re over there, check out some of the awesome blogs on the list. You might want to add them to your regular reading too!

Thanks everyone!


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Rescue Chicks

This sad tale has a happy ending. I thought I’d tell you that right off the bat. It did start out a bit shaky though.

About a month ago, my neighbor- friend, Audrey, drove up with a cardboard box full of the saddest looking chicks I’ve ever seen.  These poor babes reeked like rotten road kill. They tottered when they tried to walk because their crops were so swollen and disfigured they couldn’t keep their balance. All of them had droopy wings that dragged on the ground. None of them made any sort of happy chirpy chick noises. They mostly just stood still or toppled over or lay on the ground without moving.

The littles arrive

Bulging Crop

(There are obviously people in the world that should never own animals. This is a good example of some of them.)

My friend asked for advice on how to help heal these little birds. I wasn’t sure what to tell her. So, I did what I often do: I guessed.

First, I helped her set up a temporary chicken coop in my carport. I wasn’t sure if these chicks were in this terrible condition purely from their poor treatment, or if they were also sick. I didn’t want my hens to catch anything that might have just arrived with these babies. I also wanted to keep them safe from my full-sized flock. They were already very weak and didn’t need to be bullied.

Next, I suggested a bath. So Audrey took them into her house and bathed them with soap and water with a rinse in apple cider vinegar in water (to kill potential germs and bugs). She kept them in her bathroom overnight with a heater going and a diffuser wafting an essential oil blend (to build immunity and kill potential germy things they might be battling).

sick babies

Next, we needed to deal with their over bulging crop issues (Dolly Parton had nothing on these poor girls). I suggested a syringe and gently (and in small doses) feeding them drops of water and of oil mixed with wine. Audrey also massaged the crops to help pass whatever it was that had clogged them up so terribly.


Six pathetic chicks arrived on the property and two didn’t make it. Honestly, I figured the numbers (at best) would be the other way around so we were all happy at their progress.

Then the person who had the chicks to begin with called asking Audrey to come pick up two more chicks. MORE? She had MORE??  Two very sick girls from the same flock were added to the chick hospital. One of these looked as close to death as you could possibly be while still being alive. But Audrey, empowered at their survival rate, determined to save this little one.

This chick couldn’t even lift her head. Audrey fed her little drops of water from a syringe. She did all the other things from above, too, that she’d done for the other chicks, but this one made no progress. She lay so still and lifeless she already seemed gone.

So, on a whim and with nothing to lose, I suggested she try feeding this baby a very watered down solution of my cat’s liver pate in a syringe in addition to the other things she was doing for her. Apparently that stinky cat food was the ticket for this chick as within just a couple hours she went from pretty much dead to roosting on Audrey’s finger.

Before and AfterNow these chicks (whom I affectionately  call ‘The Littles’) are making up for lost time. They’re growing like weeds and constantly chirping and eating and pooping and exploring, just like happy, healthy chicks do. One of the places they LOVE to explore is my art studio. If I leave the door open, even for a moment, they all charge in like a herd of rambunctious children. I spend lots of time shooing them out (and yes, occasionally picking up poop after them).

Snoopy LIttles

The Littles have had a few recess times in an enclosed fence so my hens could get to know them safely and the last few days they’ve been running around free ranging with the established flock. All is well in the chicken kingdom.

Meeting The Littles

Goldie meets the Littles

Except of course that they can’t stay forever in my carport and need a new coop built for them (the one my current flock lives in is too small for 5 more birds). But I’m so happy to have new babes on the property. And Audrey wanted to get chickens anyway, so it’s all working out.

And I’m happy, too, that they’re no longer suffering at the place they were before (although truthfully I’m sure they’d all be dead by now). Like I said, some people should never have animals. In this situation it mostly turned out positively in the end. We are happy they joined us. Even my old hens don’t seem to mind.

Yep, when life gives you sick chicks, create a new flock. After all, one can never have too many chickens. (Unless, of course, you’re one of those people that shouldn’t have any animals at all.)

hungry Littles


Roosting Littles

PS: Always remember I’m not a vet and am not advocating anything I’ve said in this post. I’m just sharing my personal story. If you need medical advice for your animals, please seek the help of a professional.

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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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