Keeping Chickens

"I think one of our chicks is potty training itself," I told the kids one day last week after finding a little surprise on the toilet seat in our bathroom.

Our five chicks have taken up residence in the master bathroom, which this time of year is the Siberia of our house. It's as far away as you can get from the woodstove, and neither of the kids are willing to brave the arctic conditions of the porcelain bowl in that room. But the bathroom is a lot warmer now that we have a heat lamp on 24/7. The red light which emanates from the bathroom windows all night long makes me think we should name one of the chicks Roxanne.

keeping chicks

Where's chick number 5, you might be wondering? Up on the window sill, pecking at my bottle of hand lotion. Perhaps her feet were feeling a little scaly and she needed some moisturizer. Yeah, she's the one we should call Roxanne. When the chicks started getting out of their box one at a time, I didn't mind cleaning up the little messes they left behind, but one evening while we were out, all five chicks got out of the box and collectively forgot how to get back in. Oy, the mess they made.

I'm all about personal freedom, so it greatly pained me to put chicken wire over the top of their box, but there is no way I'm going to let them defile my bathroom floor again. Hopefully this weekend, in between figuring out how our washing machine is leaking, why our dishwasher is whining, and reassembling a pulley assembly that fell off one of our vehicles, we'll also figure out a temporarily segregated and safe location for the chicks inside the chicken run.

keeping chickens

There's much to learn about keeping chickens, and while I've learned so many things just from the experience of having chickens, I've also learned quite a bit from the experience of other chicken keepers. Ashley English has written a beautiful book, Keeping Chickens, and Lark Books was kind enough to send me a copy. We've all taken turns reading it and loving it. Had it not been for the recipes in the last chapter, I never would have tried hard boiled eggs with chimichurri sauce (which is my new favorite lunch).

naturally dyed eggs

We were inspired to experiment dying eggs with natural dyes using Ashley's instructions. Frozen berries hiding in the back of my freezer became our purple dye; coffee and ground up oak galls (inspired by The Spun Monkey's Squirrel Party Handspun yarn) were used for brown dye; turmeric for yellow dye and onion skins for copper dye. For the first time in months, I bought eggs from the store so that we could experiment with the dye on white eggs. Our chickens lay such beautifully colored eggs already, we couldn't possibly improve them with dye.

Keeping Chickens also has a wonderful set of plans for building a chicken tractor. I'm working on my in-laws to build one and take a few chickens off our hands. Thirteen chickens is starting to feel like a few too many. If we had more property, I'd have thirteen times three chickens, plus a rooster, but I worry that on our small parcel, surrounded by neighbors, we might upset a few with thirteen daily jubilant proclamations of an egg well laid.

If you are thinking about keeping chickens, I highly recommend the book Keeping Chickens by Ashley English. It is one book in a series of Homemade Living books from Lark. I'll definitely be buying Canning and Preserving, and I look forward to the release of Ashley's beekeeping book.

backyard bee

Keeping bees is definitely my next pet project.


  1. My dad had a bee keeper on our ranch for many years until he passed away. It still pains Chris that we didn't take over his bee business but to be honest, the bees and such went to someone we didn't know but I am sure the bee keeper did.

    Plus - um - we wouldn't have known what to do and we'd just had a baby. But - maybe when the book comes out, I can get him a copy and he can dream until he gets his own bees.

    Thanks for sharing - I had no idea you had the chickies indoors. Happy Easter!

  2. To clarify - the bees never belonged to our family. My dad just let the bee keeper have some space - in case that wasn't clear.

  3. ROOOOOXANNE... I will not be able to get that tune out of my head now you know! : )
    Loving these sweet chicken photos!
    Your eggs look fabulous - The muted earthy tones of the natural dyed eggs are great, we made ours yesterday and my fingernails are still blueish from dyeing with cabbage. Happy, happy chicken and beekeeping dreams!

  4. I've ordered that book. I love Ashley English's blog. She's inspiring.

  5. Bees...
    GO FOR IT!!
    : ))

  6. i remember the chickens on the side of the box days - fond memories. and that last picture - wow!

  7. So you've resigned yourself to the stinky bathroom? ;-)

    That book looks great! We could definitely put a copy to good use around here. This weekend in our neck of the woods a Funky Chicken Backyard Coop tour is being held. We are so there.

  8. I want chickens so bad! Some day...
    BTW I was in your neck of the woods this morning. My hubby got some boots at Mickey's Boots. (The only place in the greater Sacramento area where we could find boots in his size.)

  9. Our chicks are in the basement right now, but I think they'll be making a move to the sunroom shortly. I'm not too sure I can trust the cat, though, so maybe not. Let alone 4 children that really want to hold and cuddle and smooch and squeeze them! :o)

    We got 10 more chicks, and I hope there are more females than males. I'll butcher if I have to, but I really don't want to.

    Bees... Something I'd like to try, but really quite nervous about. Good luck with that!

  10. we kept bees for years - get those biceps in shape cuz boxes full of honey are heavy~! :)

  11. "jubilant proclamations of an egg well laid" -- perfect!

    We should all be so proud of our daily accomplishments!

  12. I really do love the colors of your naturally dyed eggs far more than the colors of commercial dye! Today, I'm going to give berries, coffee, and onion a roll!

  13. We kept bees for a few years before our daughter was born and it was so, so much fun. You should order the Dadant and Western Bee catalogs so that you can start dreaming :) I think that once upon a time there was also a bee keeping supply store in downtown Sacto but I'm not sure if it is still there.

  14. love the natural died eggs...

  15. Lovely shots...that bee one is just too cool...did you end up getting a new lens after all?

    I will have to see if we have that book at the library, if not perhaps I will splurge. We are wanting chickens and the kids love reading up on all aspects of "farm"

    Bee keeping, how splendid! I'd make the trek to your house to be taught that skill!

    Happy weekend :)

  16. awww...more chickie butts :)
    looks like a great book, I'll have to check it out. We went and cought white eggs to dye, too. It pained me to do so, but like you said...

    and yes--more chickens, a rooster, bees...throw a few sheep in there too. I want 'em all!

  17. Ahhhh, I know about birds and their business, too. A mourning dove got into my sewing room yesterday and spent the afternoon there. It was very sweetly sitting a chair most of the time but when it finally went out the open door I discovered all that it had left behind. *sigh*

  18. this post is so sweet. I love chicks and just found out we can actually have them here in Calgary. Too bad I don't have a back yard! But one day I will. Love the bee idea too. I hear that its tricky to keep them without chemicals and weird stuff as the natural ones have been so messed up by the environment crisis. I cant wait to hear how it goes...(Oh, and I linked you on my blog :))

  19. Thanks for the post, Molly. I will have to check out that book. Our pullets will arrive at the end of the month!

    Bees are on our project list as well. It took a bit of work for me to convince my husband, but he is now on board!


  20. If you cannot do the bee thing yourself, consider Heifer! It is a wonderful organization, and you can always feel good about your gift. It is truly the gift that keeps on giving!!!

  21. That bee picture is beyond wonderful. Love it!!

  22. Love the pictures! My girls love the top one of the chicks; I love the bottom one of the honeybee. breath of fresh air.


  23. Yes, our chickies were trying out their new wings so yesterday I built an outside run for them. It is a bit small for grown chickens but perfect for the babies.

    I want to do bee keeping too. Have you seen the book 'The Backyard Homestead'? It is quite good and has alot of info on beekeeping.

  24. Sooo glad you recommended this book! I've been wanting to give a go at raising chickens and have been looking for some books on the topic to help me research! Thank you!

  25. Great post!!!

    Keeping bees is our next project, too.

    We are in rural Maine, but if any of your readers live in a city, here's a link to keeping chickens in NYC:


  26. Thank you, Thank you... for the "How to Make a Blog Header" tutorial! It is wonderful! I just finished making nine (9) Yikes, that's nine new headers for our blog! Blessings, Daryle from Woodstown Whimsies

  27. Oh, I love those dyed eggs! Beautiful!



email: mollydunham@sbcglobal.net
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