by Tanja Thomas, Methow, WA
The chickens I loved in the past, were the chickens grilled on the BBQ. Being a lifelong animal lover, keeping chickens was the last thing on my mind. What did I know about chickens other than the irritated loose feathered poopers, suddenly popping up, while I was training my horse in the arena?
Living remotely in the mountains of the Methow Valley with plenty of space in nature, my first thought wasn’t getting chickens. My husband, on the other hand, talked every day about chickens. He wanted to hatch some eggs or order baby chicks by mail.
Curious about keeping chickens, I placed a post on a Wenatchee animal Facebook page with the question if people had older but healthy chickens, to contact me. What could possibly be wrong with a small chicken rescue/retire haven? Within 10 minutes of the Facebook posting, a woman living in Wenatchee responded. She wanted to get rid of four chickens. We drove to pick up the chickens. She placed them in boxes and off we went with the chickens in the back of our truck. I was wondering about the ride being too stressful and my concerns were right. Arriving at home, one chicken died during the ride and another had a very difficult time and was not far from giving up. The other two acted like they traveled every day and were pecking around in the small chicken pen I made for them. Feeling awful about the dead chicken, I wanted to save the one who visibly had big troubles just to stay alive. It took me three hours to cool down the chicken with towels and water and to keep it straight up in my arms. When my husband was out of sight, I told the chicken entire stories about fighting and not giving up and gave it all the love I could give. After that moment, I was lost! Taking care of a lightweight feathered helpless animal with interesting eyes looking straight up at me had something special. The chicken survived and my love for chickens was born. With this chicken, I definitely had a connection! I called her Grumpy Blackbeard for she has such a personal grumpy face. I gave all the chickens pirate names, and soon all were following me where ever I went.
After some weeks we also got a free rooster and we put up a small pen/coop from which they had a free run into our yard in front of our window. Our morning coffee was suddenly much more interesting than waking up and only staring outside. We discovered chickens are fun to watch. Their eyes and legs look like they are from feathered dinosaurs. They have funny walks; while Grumpy Blackbeard is walking as the John Cleese character out of Fawlty Towers, others walk like fast toddlers with diapers. Their behavior and social skills are very much like a group of girls /women fighting for their pecking order at the office.
Watching them out of the window is like watching a real-life comedy soap TV series. Some people consider chickens as therapy animals. In this case, whatever you think about it, for us, they are a kind of therapy. They are distracting us from negative thoughts with their continue pecking around and funny noises. Chickens are relaxing. Chickens are not dull. In a report from two Australian animal researchers said, “They (chickens) have more than 24 different types of vocalizations as well as visual displays, they communicate in ways that would surprise you in its sophistication.”
My husband told people about the rescue of retired chickens. He told an organic store owner who said she had 35 “old” chickens to replace for new ones and wanted better egg layers. We could get them if we wanted. Just before winter we picked the chickens up and placed them in our greenhouse-like chicken coop. The next morning we saw how beautiful this flock was. It was a colorful mix; spotted ones, Americana’s in several colors, some black ones, and blonds. Some chickens were giving us even eggs during the whole winter, and every egg was highly appreciated. We let the chickens run free when they want during the winter and yes, snow chickens are a fact.
This spring they have discovered our huge yard is protected with a light wire fence against predators. The chickens run free between the Arrowleaf Balsamroot, Brodiaea Douglasii, and Indian Parsley wildflowers. Seeing them in our own valley in nature is a celebration for the eyes and our hearts. Plus, we are rewarded with an amazing amount of eggs. Their eggs have thick solid egg yolks, beautiful and yellow-rich. They are filled with high protein and are extremely tasteful. Eating eggs from chickens we love is priceless and we are grateful.
Yes! Chickens are fun in all their ways!
Thank you to our sponsors!