The Chicken Chronicles, Week Six


Go here for last week's report.

Chick collage

You guys were right when you said last week that one rarely sees teenage chickens.  So here they are in all their adolescent awkwardness: feathers half-grown out, desperate to fly off and do their own thing but not big enough to handle the big bad world or even regulate their body temperature.  Even on a sunny day they start to shiver after a few minutes outside and I have to listen to their howls of protest as I round them up and bring them back inside.

And now here are a few coop details for those of you who may be building your own this year.

Coop collage

Clockwise from top left:  the run, where they are locked up when we're away; the entrance to the coop (a door that we can close but often leave open at night since the door to the run is locked–but it is a bit of extra protection);  a shot of the inside of the shed, half of which has been fenced off to make the coop; the nesting box where they lay their eggs (for some reason they have decided the one on the right is the best one and they all fight over it); their feeders and waterers, and a raccoon-proof latch.

Somebody asked last week what you do with old hens.  You can certainly keep an old hen as a pet the way you'd keep any other old pet.  They will continue to lay eggs now and then. I have no intention of sending mine packing after a certain age–I think we'll just have old hens!

One last photo: this bad boy hung around the whole time I had the chicks out and got dangerously close to them when I had my back turned.  Our grown hens can fight off a cat if it came to that, but not my little chicks!



  1. You expect your chicks to act like chicks, expect a cat to act like a cat. You can’t fight their animal natures, only control situations.

  2. Thank-you for posting “Chicken Chronicles”. It’s been fun reading while I await my 8 chicks to arrive the first week of June. Wondering if you or one of your readers could give me an idea of how much indoor space I need to have for the chickens? My plan thus far is to just have a hutch to enclose them in at night and then just a fenced area during the day. Should I plan for more indoor space for them? There is still time for me to adjust my building plans. I live in Santa Cruz, CA Thanks!

  3. One of my cats would LOVE to try to take on a full grown chicken. And that is why she’s indoor only. We are fortunate to not have any raccoon issues since we are surrounded on all sides by large outside dogs, including our own(hence our name “Dog Island”) and the entrance to our chicken coop is in the goat barn. For some reason raccoons don’t like goats (maybe because the goats like to headbutt things their size or smaller).

  4. Cats will stalk chickens, but God help the cat who tries to attack one.

    No, the chickens’ biggest foe in the city is the dog. Our 2 cats happily lay in the sun next to the chickens, but the dogs have to be fenced off from the hens.

    Jack Russel + Hen = Tasty Buffet

  5. Amy,I love to read the chicken chronicles.For a number of reasons we are not able to keep chickens but that does’nt mean I would not love to have them.Keep us updated.

  6. My neighbor has a cat who hangs in in my backyard, sleeping up against the run in the sun. Sleeping up on top of the coop in the shade. She’s the honorary non-laying hen in my flock, and tends to guard them from the other neighborhood cats. She’s been fascinated since day one. My little dingbat Lucy, on the other hand, runs when she sees them out grazing in the yard during recess.

    These chicks are so cute, even if they’re at that awkward not-fully-feathered age.

  7. We have a stray cat visiting our yard daily. When the chickens are out, several of them chase it.

    All but one of our indoor cats were strays, and never bothered the chickens, though they were of course curious. When I have the brooder on the screened porch, they love to sit on top of the screen and watch the chicks play.

  8. Liisa, I can totally see how a Jack Russel would make a meal from a hen. Our GSD/Border Collie mix wants to herd them. Fortunately our Greyhound/pitbull mix – usually with a very high prey drive – completely ignores them (other than the occassional butt sniff).

  9. CRSunshine, most chicken books will tell you that at a minimum you need 4 square feet per bird. But–

    I would think also about the winter wind & rain in Santa Cruz that will keep them indoors. Can you have a roof over your enclosed area so they can wander around in that during a rainstorm? Is the hutch going to hold their nesting boxes as well as food and a place to sleep?

    Basically, in inclement weather they will want shelter that includes access to their food, water & nesting boxes without overcrowding them.

    Ask yourself what kind of space you feel would be appropriate for, say, 8 cats or 8 small dogs to spend several hours in. Fortunately, unlike other pets, chickens are happy to perch on a roost in bad weather and wait it out. So a tall space with roosts at varying heights gives them a way to hop up on something, perch there, and not get terribly overcrowded.

  10. Cute chicks! I love the cat’s expression: patiently waiting for you to turn your back….I have also loved the chicken chronicles:keep it coming.

  11. How much do those things smell?
    Too many in a small space is bad,if you don’t clean them right. Esp after rains. Peeeuuuuu.

    Do not put them too close to your neighbors for sure. They will hate you.

  12. If I could chime in a bit about keeping hens happy and dry (I lived in Santa Cruz five years and could not believe the rainfall), what I’ve done is throw a large tarp over the top of the chicken run which is built so that it is flush up against the coop, with a supporting pole in the middle so nothing pools on top. We’re lucky in that there’s a large tree which shelters everything on the west side, so I don’t have to worry much about rain getting into the run, but… because the girls really like their play time, I have roosts up in their run so they can hang out and be dry but still outside. They get really loud and cranky if I shut them in the coop during a downpour. I also put pallets and cardboard down in the run and pile wheat straw onto that so their feet are always dry and they can play at kicking the straw around all day even when the weather is crappy (literally hours of entertainment). As the straw gets funky or damp, I fork it out and add fresh.

  13. We have a coop and fenced-in run for our 5 old hens, but this Spring for the first time have let them out to run freely in our yard and orchard during the day (locking them up at night in the coop, which they always return to). They love running around, and I think my orchard loves their grub-eating and poop. Our St. Bernard hangs out with them all the time, and doesn’t bother them at all (he seems to know where his egg treat comes from), and in fact I think he keeps local wildlife at bay. My big question though is, can I let the chickens run through my veggie garden when it’s planted? I think they will eat everything there, including plants; but I’ve seen pictures of chickens hanging out in veggie gardens, so I’m wondering what the deal is. Anyone?

  14. Live in Colorado – was wondering how i could keep the drinking water from freezing – the tool shed where I would like to keep the hens would not have power….

  15. Mark…when I lived in Nevada, I had “heat tape” (the type you would put on a water tank, wrapped around the drum waterer. I would have occasional issues during sub-freezes when the water in the outer trough would freeze even if the water still in the drum was thawed….for that, you just have to check and chip it out.

  16. Anne, your hens will most definitely eat everything. I have to supervise heavily at recess so they don’t mow down my artichokes that wintered over, or my favas, currently. They’ll be on seedlings like white on rice if I don’t watch out, too.

    My solution for long-term is to use that 12 to 18 inch tall wire fencing that comes rolled up and people use for edging off borders, because they seem to get that they can’t go beyond that. The material lasts forever, can be bent and rebent, and is pretty weather-proof.

    My short-term solution w/ the raised beds has been to put bamboo garden stakes along those at the corners and sides, and then clothespin burlap (I get roles of it at the Home Despot) onto those so everything is walled off, which I had to do anyway to keep the neighborhood cats from getting into those and pooping. Burlap lasts really well, too. This is what I bought last spring to make tents over my tomato seedlings so they wouldn’t fry at high noon.

  17. Thanks for your info and advice, Sara 🙂 I’ll probably go with the wire fencing. I’m also very interested to see if they try to fly up and roost in our cherry trees (which they aren’t doing so far just to roost) to eat the fruit; if they do, they will go back to their pen prison until after harvest!

  18. 🙂 Mine wish they could fly… They like to climb onto the tallest compost pile next to the tool shed and just look up, up, up wistfully, cocking their heads sideways to get a really good look straight up.

    They’re too heavy to fly now. Well, they hop and flap their wings up onto their roosts, and they flap their wings to propel themselves faster across the yard, but it’s not really flying.

Comments are closed.