I’m a Chicken Keeping Virgin


A raised platform for the coop on a hill sloping in two directions.
A raised platform for the coop on a hill sloping in two directions.

We’ve been talking about keeping chickens since we moved to Greenville, back to Greenville in my husband’s case, about four years ago. But I really don’t know much about keeping chickens. I started reading a few books a few years ago, and I surfed around the internet a bit, to learn what I can. But I know that if I haven’t done it before then I really don’t know anything. Practical experience is what I lack. My husband remembers his Big Daddy’s chicken coop, and he’s been “talking to people” who know something.

A solid frame will last for years to come.
A solid frame will last for years to come.

One thing I keep hearing from folks around our neighborhood is “we used to have chickens but” after which they will lament their loss to a coyote or weasel. There are also foxes, raccoons, possibly bobcats, not to mention our own two cats, three dogs, and the red tail hawks nesting overhead. With all that to think about, this won’t be a free relationship. We don’t need a chicken shack; we need a chicken fortress.


He found used windows and a door at Habitat for Humanity.
He found used windows and a door at Habitat for Humanity.

Thanks to my husband’s hard work and ingenious design, we now have what we need.  Built into the hill between the shed and the dog pen, it incorporates the dry creek bed that runs when it rains. We can lock them down at night, and let them run in a protected area during the day. There are nesting bins, a roosting rack that can be raised up when it’s time to clean the floor, and a chute to open and sweep out the waste, (farmer’s gold.) We will have some well kept chickens.


A chicken fortress with a wire covered run to fend off hawks...
A chicken fortress with a wire covered run to fend off hawks…

So now we’ve started talking about what kind of chickens we will get, and where we will get them.  I am nervous and trembling, almost ready to cross the threshold, but a little squeamish. We want eggs and meat. We have three growing boys at home. But when I buy a chicken the head and feet and feathers are long gone. The insides are all nicely packaged inside. I get my eggs in nice cartons, and don’t worry about whether I have hens that are going to “feel like” sitting on their eggs to make more meat for my freezer.

A ladder for roosting, raised up for cleaning.
A ladder for roosting, raised up for cleaning.

I’ve been growing and cooking and canning in partnership with my husband, the master gardener. But butchering is something new for me. I’ve said that nothing will go to waste. I’ve said that I’ll make chicken stock and chicken stew and package chicken parts and scramble, fry, sauté, make soufflé with all the eggs the chickens are sure to be laying. But that means I’m going to have get down and dirty with these chickens we’re going to be feeding and cleaning up after. I’ll never be the same again.

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