The Chicken Chronicles, Week Seven


To read last week's installment, go here.

Ida eggs

Above:  Ida ponders one of life's great mysteries.

It is colder here than it ever should be in California.  In fact, hail is hitting the roof as I type this.  In theory, the chicks move outside in another week or two.  But I'm not sure about that–they really shiver when they're outside for even a short time.  Each week we continue to raise their heat lamp, so that now it's 70 degrees in their downstairs bathroom home–but it's 50 outside, or worse.  Hmmm.

My adult hens are laying eggs–you see here some light blue and green eggs very similar to what Miss Ida can expect to deliver to us later this year.  Good thing she has no clue what's about to happen!

A couple people have asked about the smell.  I can assure you that my chicken coop does not smell, at all, period, not even a tiny bit, until you literally walk right into it.  Then you get a whiff of what I would call a barnyard smell, which is not really a bad thing.  We keep lots of fresh pine shavings on the floor, and the pine smell works against the manure smell pretty well.  Sometimes you will start to get an unpleasant ammonia scent if their bedding is soggy–the cure for that is to rake a bunch of it out, toss it on your compost pile, and top off with more fresh pine shavings. 

Really and truly, there is no smell.  Certainly not one that the neighbors would pick up on.

Of course, my girls free-range during the day, so half their manure gets deposited around the garden, not in their coop.  That helps.  But I have to say–the longer I've had chickens, the more firmly I believe that if you're going to keep chickens as pets, you have to figure out a way to let them roam around.  You wouldn't keep a dog or a cat locked in a tiny room for their entire life, so you shouldn't do it for a bird either.  They don't need a huge space–I have a small, regular city backyard–but they need enough room so that they can have a life.

Anyway, things are going great.  I'm in denial about the fact that they are only a couple weeks from moving outside.  And to be honest, I'm not quite sure how it's going to work.  They should probably spend a lot of time in the coop and run at first so they get used to it and know where to go to eat and sleep.  But my adult hens aren't usually locked up all day.  Also, the adults get a calcium-rich food that's right for egg-laying, but the young pullets are supposed to have a lower-calcium food at first.  I honestly don't know how I'm going to work that, short of some complicated construction project that just isn't going to happen.  Hmmmm…

Ida eggs 2


  1. We don’t have any smell either. Well, we have the hay smell, that I love, but no chicken or goat poo smell. They also have a pretty big yard to call their own (pastured 20’x 50′ area). We used to let them out to roam the garden, but now that stuff is planted, and the fact that they eat EVERYTHING in sight it doesn’t work so well. They are also very fond of the holes we dug and put sand in.

    I’m in the SF Bay Area. It’s been pretty warm for the most part, except for this current storm.

  2. For people that really don’t have the space for run amok chickens they can pick from a few of the Asian breeds like Cochins or Silkies since those were bred for tiny cage lives and adapt to it well. Chickens make great compost stirers – if you design the floor of your coop with leaf litter or some other organic stuff they will stir it and poop in it and turn it into great compost. Smell problems usually happen when the surface is hard like cement or solid wood and fluids build up. People that use the packed straw method, where they just keep layering more and more straw under their birds usually only have to clean it out once or twice a year.

  3. I don’t have a stinky coop at all. I get the wood shavings they sell for rabbits and hamsters, and if someone leaves me a Mt. Everest overnight while perched, that gets raked out straight away. Even their run doesn’t get too smelly. Just smells, like Amy says, of ‘barnyard’. I keep wheat straw in the run, and they throw wild straw-kicking parties whenever I give them a fresh pile to scratch at and excavate. They’re pretty good at kicking the stale straw to one corner and that’s what I fork out every couple months, as I add fresh straw.

    I’m in the process of fencing off the areas about to be planted. They’re working for me in the evenings though, digging around and pooping in the back corner where I ran the cultivator on the weekend. We had rain so the worms were out yesterday, and they had a scratching party after they munched down some crabgrass and dandelions.

  4. I couldn’t handle the dust in the house anymore, so after two weeks out in the coop the chicks went.

    I have a portable compost bin with a 2×4 frame and hardware cloth sides. It’s amazing what it gets used for. Anyways, they’re in that with an old election campaign sign as a roof. I cut a little hole in the sign for their light, and they’re good to go.

    I’m with you, I train my guineas and chickens to free range during the day, and everyone is required to return to the coop at night. The chicks are confined to the coop for at least a month before they’re even allowed to think about going outside.

  5. Well, we do occasionally lose some, mostly it’s been to my own dogs. The guineas are smart and fly up in the trees, the chickens not so much. Our coop sits in our pasture and our flock guardian is there for the sheep, but he’s a pretty good deterrent (except for with the dogs he knows.) He left me a dead possum not to long ago. Yuck.

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