I got a hankering for hens a few years back when I was lucky enough to pluck a fresh egg from a friend’s farm in England. I remember feeling like a thief. The egg was still warm, it was clean and smooth and it felt like I’d just discovered some sort of rural secret to happiness. I got even lustier when I discovered some of my London friends had hens in their yards and I vowed to get some when I moved back home, became a millionaire and had a backyard in downtown Toronto. I wish I could tell you the millionaire part happened but it didn’t so I ended up getting four hens for my parents house when I moved in for the summer. Here are some of the things I discovered while being a hen keeper and raising chicken in my backyard in Toronto:
Your Neighbours Will Think You’re Weird
People have no clue what hens are like, so, yes, your neighbours may think you have gone mad, but, really it’s them who get a little loopy. They might feel a little annoyed about your hen-keeping interests because they think hens are noisy and stinky. One of my neighbours came up to me and told me that they woke up at 5:30 in the morning just to see if they would hear one of my flock ‘cock-a-doodle-doodling’. FYI, in case you were wondering, that’s roosters not hens. DO NOT get a rooster. Hens are quiet but they do poop everywhere, and I mean everywhere so get those dog bags out and collect their droppings every morning to keep the stink at bay.
Chickens Are Damn Hard to Catch
Once you get the hang of catching them, you are alright but those girls can sense even an ounce of insecurity so good luck. They will eventually start to relax and you then just kind of crouch when you reach out for them. Eventually you won’t even need to catch them, they will just head into their coop to roost on their own when the sun goes down.
Chickens Have Personalities, Well Some Do.
Not all chickens are the same. Of our four, one is extremely friendly and likes being cuddled, two are pretty much what you would expect of chickens and one is salty AF. Salty Chicken has got a BIG personality. She is a nightmare to catch, and is a master at getting into things she shouldn’t like my parents manicured flower beds. If one of the other hens strays too far from the rest, she kind of leap/flies over and kicks and pecks them back into line. Salty Hen has a sixth sense and knows exactly what you don’t want her to do and then she does it.
At Some Point, You’ll Perform Surgery On a Hen
Literally the day after our hens arrived, the friendly one started limping. Being a mom, I’m definitely hyper aware of tiny changes and noticed it right away. After chasing down the chicken and finally nabbing her, I had a look and concluded it was bumblefoot. I dare you to go watch a video of bumblefoot surgery, its gross, I was gagging. Here’s what I had to do:
- Soak the chickens feet in salt water for 10 min.
- Find the blackish scab and coax it out.
- Squeeze all the puss out and make sure you get the ‘kernel’ out otherwise the infection will come back.
- Fill the hole with antibiotic cream and wrap up the leg with self adhering gauze. Repeat soaking and re-wrapping the leg for at least 5 days.
If this is too gross for you, don’t get chickens; if you leave bumblefoot to fester, your chicken will die a slow and painful death!
You Get One Egg a Day Per Chicken.
Just like human ladies, chicken ladies ovulate. You don’t need a rooster around and neither do they. The difference with hens is that they ovulate once a day. No rooster = no chicks, it’s amazing how many people don’t realise that those eggs will never ever hatch! But, you do get one delicious egg a day that you can enjoy for breakfast.
Hens are Escape Artists
In prep for our chicken delivery, my husband plugged up all the areas in the garden we didn’t want the chickens getting into. We blocked off the side of the deck with mesh fencing and any obvious holes in the perimeter fence. The chickens still found a way out. About an hour after they arrived, I couldn’t find one of them, she had dug a hole under the wooden fence and made a run for it. I ended up breaking into someones backyard and chasing her for ages, remember when I said they are damn hard to catch? Imagine trying to catch a freaked out chicken an hour after she met you and has absolutely no trust in you whatsoever!
You Can Rent Hens Just For The Summer
Yup, you read that correctly. You can rent hens for the summer along with everything you need including the coop, and enough supplies for the whole rental period. We got ours from RentTheChicken.com and if you really love the girls, you can keep them for good. I’ll be honest, our ladies are going back at the end of the season, we do love having them but it’s pretty hard finding a chicken sitter when you want to go on holiday. If you love doing strange things that other people might think are insane but lack the commitment to do them permanently, renting hens might be perfect for you. You get to satisfy your strange urge for livestock keeping and then just send them back when you are over it and not feel bad about it.
(Story by Contributing Editor, Dana Dallal)