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morning chicken ritual January 24, 2011

Posted by therealtinlizzy in chickens.

One of the best parts of my days is morning chicken chores. Prior to adopting my chickens I really had no idea what to do with them, how to take care of them, what to feed them, and generally what all would go into looking after them on a day-to-day basis. And since most of you reading this are similarly situated in your chicken-challenged-ness, I figured I might tell/show you about a day in the life of me and the Galactica Six (not to be confused with the individual hen named “Six”).

Unlike my fore-mothers/father who were up at the crack of dawn (or earlier) beginning their day of earning a farm living, this city slicker chicken-keeper is up usually around 8 or 8:30. First thing’s first: plugging in the electric kettle to heat water for tea, as my habit of English breakfast tea is an essential kick-start to my mornings. While tea water heats, I grab whatever meat awaits in the bottom right fridge drawer or has spent the night thawing on the counter and apportion out requisite chunks as Shiloh’s and Dax’s (the four-leggeds of the house) morning noms. By the time the pups are happily crunching their respective portion of chicken thighs, turkey breasts or chuck roast, and I’ve washed the meat molecules off of my hands, the water’s boiling and makes its way into my own little Brownian Motion generator.

I then begin to assemble a motley collection of items which any given day may include 1) something along the order of oatmeal, leftover pasta, leftover rice, eggs, and 2) vegs/fruit such as head of lettuce, leaves of chard, a branch of broccoli, grapes, raisins, spinach, corn. By this point the dogs will have finished their noms and require a trip outside for completion of their pooping business, and I combine some bits of the chicken-slated noms in a container. Wet things like oatmeal (though light on the water-prep) and leftover canned tomatoes+spinach combine well – just generally things with discrete and attractive bits to peck at, and with contrasting colors as chickens are visual foragers drawn to things that catch their sharp little eyes. Bigger leafy things like heads of lettuce or chard I keep aside to let them forage for separately.

The pups come back in about this time and Dax is promptly locked out of the kitchen not only for the sake/sanity of keeping a clever evil husky out of the food-containing kitchen, but also due to the fact that the basement door locks from the outside (ask my partner about getting locked in the basement for 8 hours once upon a time) and must thus be kept open while I’m down hanging with the chickens. And in case you can’t further extrapolate – Dax roaming down to the basement while the chickens are free-ranging would be a predator/prey display of epic proportions.

So with Dax banished thusly safely away from chickens and kitchen, I grab the chickens’ noms, my cup of English breakfast (half/half, no sugar) and head downstairs with Shiloh the blind dog following calmly and nimbly at my heels. As I flip the light on, I hear the peep-peep-peep of the already-awake chickens. It’s partially light down there even without the light due to the basement windows, and in a happy coincidence the winter sun rises and shines through the southeast-most window straight into the chickens’ pen. While I know that holing up in the house is a necessity for them at this point,  I always feel a bit remorseful for the reality that they are basement bound critters thus far in their little chicken lives, so it cheers me to have the sun beaming directly in on them in the morning.

Once at the bottom of the stairs, I switch on the full-spectrum bulb attached on the outside of their kennel that they can bask in during the day to at least give some semblance of sunshine. I then artfully arrange my tool chest, a Rubbermaid container and a couple of chunky boxes to form a barrier to keep the chickens from heading upstairs and Shiloh from coming into the soon-to-be chicken-roaming area. Shiloh then usually just curls up by the boxes and next to the oil heater and waits for me until it’s time to head upstairs.

Then it’s time for chicken recess – which is exactly what it’s like. And while they are in no particular uproar when I first come downstairs, as soon as I open the gate they run out like they’ve been trapped in class all morning:

For the next half hour or so they get to flap, peck, nosh, posture, investigate, and generally run around like crazy pants in the area I’ve roughly partitioned off and is chicken-proofed. I usually put out some tasty bits of things first thing for them to nosh and chase each other around with –grapes, raisins, broccoli and the like, while I get the rest of their food ready. It’s quite amusing to watch 5 of them chase the 6th to fight over a single grape or raisin when the floor is littered with 30 more of them. I’ll then put down a food bowl filled with whatever ‘s on the menu for the day and let them get started while I get on with the rest of the chores:

So while the chickens eat, frolic, poop (yes – lots of free-range poop to clean up after!) and generally have their morning recess, I get into their kennel to do some clean up (while listening to MPR and continuing to drink my tea). This includes scooping up lots of poop, mostly from beneath their nighttime roost branches (I’m glad I don’t poop while I sleep, but it seems to work out for the chickens), as well also from around the rest of the kennel floor and their sandbox. The whole of the floor of the kennel ends up cleaning up like a litter box – where there are a couple inches of wood shavings acting as the litter, from which I can then just scoop up poop with my like rake/shovel doohickey a la a cat litter box, and top it all off with fresh shavings.  I then clean out and refill their waterer (which they’ve often managed to poop IN somehow), refill their bowl of dry chicken feed (which has all the requisite chicken nutritrients/vitamins/etc), and put the food bowl they’re already snacking on into the kennel.

If I have need for expediency that day, I’ll then shepherd, cajole or outright scoop up the chickens one by one back into the kennel. Usually by this point they’re quite happy to meander back in and get excited about the new piles of bedding, fresh water, and whatever greenery I’ve located around the kennel for them to peck at. But if like today I have a little more time, I’ll often just hang out and watch them for a bit, maybe grab a chunk of broccoli (which they go absolutely nutters over, even more so when I hold it for them):

Eventually the crew is back in their kennel pecking about, preening, sidling up on their roosting branches, scratching around in the sand box, and just seeming content post-recess.  I clean up the landmines, feathers and other detritus they’ve left in their wake in the extra-kennel /roaming area, and then move the barrier so Shiloh can come and investigate further. She doesn’t in any way get excited or agitated about the existence of the chickens, nor does she agitate the chickens in anyway. But then – she’s blind. She sniffs carefully but gently around the edge of kennel, and a couple of times been pecked on the nose for her troubles (which she doesn’t care for), but otherwise seems only vaguely interested in the chickens’ existence. Once I’ve finished neatening up, I collect any dishes and my tea mug, turn off the radio, and head back upstairs with Shiloh.

So that’s a typical morning in the life of me and the Galactica Six. There’s a whole lot of amusement to be found interacting with and just watching these odd little creatures. I’ve grown quite fond of them and the daily ritual, poop and all, that they bring me.


1. Mickey - January 24, 2011

I’d probably like broccoli better too if you just held it for me. I’m lazy like that.

therealtinlizzy - January 24, 2011

Perhaps you’d like it better if I stuffed it in your mouth like Michael did to Kevin on the Office last week. Eat it, you quitter – eat the broccoli!

2. giggle - January 24, 2011

Chickens are a lot of work.


I am somehow shamed by how much you do in the morning – I am lucky if I put on matching socks 🙂

therealtinlizzy - January 24, 2011

It’s certainly more work than I do for just me and the pups in the morning, that’s for sure. But it’s really not hard work, and it’s really not all that much work. And it makes it less work-like because they’re such funny little creatures to have peeping and flapping around while I work.

3. Para Selenic - January 24, 2011

Your morning ritual, while lots of stuff doing, sounds very zen. I would find that comforting, but I tend to sleep to the very last second and then have a heart attack running around trying to get wherever on time. I need to learn lessons from your chx.

I love the peeping– it gives away their chick-i-ness as opposed to chick-en-ness. Even though they look big, they still sound like babies.

therealtinlizzy - January 24, 2011

Yeah – is def one thing good about dogs and chickens, I have to build in a little time to account for them. Not that I have much in the way of morning need-to-be-somewhere-somewhen deadlines, but still yeah – no sleeping right til the last second. Which is just good for my soul anyway to have to be up.

And yeah – the peeping, so cute. Wish they didn’t grow out of it. They’re growing into clucking a little bit, which they like to show off for me when I pick them up. buk-buk-buk-BUK!

4. Stefanie - January 27, 2011

Oh my gosh, they are getting big so fast! And the peeping cracks me up. That poor broccoli never had a chance.

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