Raising chickens here in Spencertown is one of my favorite things!
Funny story actually… I never really liked birds of any kind, nope not even one! Then one day, not long after my husband, Mike, and I and our two sons, Ren and Finn, moved to Spencertown, a friend of ours called and asked if we would take four of their chickens…
Four years ago, spring of 2017, our son’s friend, Hayden Bennett, was in Mrs. Feller’s and Mrs. Williams’ 4th grade class at the Chatham MED. The class was learning all about chickens; they incubated some fertilized eggs and hatched their very own chicks! Those chickens went home with a few of the kids that wanted them that year (with permission slips of course).
Mike and our boys helped our friends build a chicken coop when their son volunteered to bring some home. After about a year they asked if we would like their chickens – we simply ate more of their eggs than they did! I was hesitant at first but after much convincing from my boys and our friends, I caved. I do love farm fresh eggs!
Our chicken journey began in fall of 2018, when those four chickens from our friends started paying rent here. When they started to follow me around like little dogs, they started to change my ideas about birds. We call them our Golden Girls. Ren and Finn said they like me because of my big curly hair…personally, I just think they like me.
The Golden Girls
In spring of 2019 we decided to get ten more chickens. Unfortunately, that summer something killed all our spring chickens and one of the Golden Girls. As sad as that day was, losing is part of it all sometimes. Especially here in Spencertown. Three of our Golden Girls survived, happily, not quite sure how but they did, and they are still laying and enjoying their golden years.
So, in spring of 2020 we ended up getting 12 more chickens, two being roosters – eeek! They were rehomed after some super territorial incidents! One of them would literally puff up so big and chase whomever entered straight out of the coop everytime. It got to the point where the boys were scared to go in. To be honest, my husband and I were just as intimidated. However, they both were very protective of their flock and just doing their job. Either way it was time for them to go. Luckily we found good homes for both.
A few months ago, we got a call from another friend asking if we would take their five chickens – of course we said yes! We currently have sixteen chickens all living their best life! I often call our home “Sharps’ Chicken Sanctuary.”
Each spring when we decide to get more chicks it can be a bit of a process, being they are so small they cannot just go out to the coops right away. We keep them in a hand-built pen made by my husband and boys in the garage. We bring them out for some grass time and sunlight daily, kind of like having a baby. When they become a little bigger, we introduce them to the coops and other chickens and, little by little, they become adapted.
The chickens have been so beneficial for us all! Hanging out with my chickens is a wonderful stress reliever to me; feeding them snacks, petting them or just watching them take a dust bath is calming. When I call for them, “Hey ladies!” they all come waddling over, it’s super cute! They have taught the boys responsibility, respect and given them an educational footprint they will never forget.
Chickens are also great for the environment; their manure is loaded with nitrogen, which is a great fertilizer for gardens. Chicken manure can be added into your compost to increase its fertilizing properties. Chickens can till your garden beds, eat grubs, insects and TICKS!
And we are provided with farm fresh eggs daily! (I will be honest… I am a bit of an egg snob now. I have been known to BYOE – bring your own egg.) We do give eggs to family, friends and sell a few dozen as well, during the laying season, when we have an over abundance. Sunlight plays a big factor in the amount of eggs daily.
Raising chickens is pretty simple here in Upstate NY. They require fresh water, food and a simple “hey girl” daily. Some people just feed scraps and that is fine. We stick to a daily regimen of egg layer crumble mixed with mealworms, oyster shells and corn. However, we limit the corn in the summer months and add more in the winter. Corn helps boost their energy in the winter months to stay warm – as we all know, it gets a little chilly up here. We do give scraps also such as fruits and vegetables. As a treat, they love cottage cheese, yogurt and bread. Watermelon is their absolute favorite!
Our chickens free range occasionally; if we open the gate, a few “fly the coop” daily by choice. Although, each and every one knows just where to go when the sun goes down. “Free range” doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone as it does me. Factory farming is terrifyingly cruel.
We also raised our first flock of meat chickens last summer. That, too, had a learning curve. I did my best not to get attached to them like I am to the hens. They, too, ate well and lived their best lives, a little different diet for them but they still enjoyed treats occasionally. The hardest part was watching them leave for the butcher, but there is something so rewarding about filling your freezer with things you raised!
I honestly cannot imagine not having chickens. They may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I certainly didn’t think I’d love them this much. But here we are four years later, and I’m the chicken lady!
So, whether or not you’re thinking of getting chickens for meat or for eggs, they can be a sustainable part of your life with so many great benefits! Having a few chickens of your own or buying from your local farmer is reducing the demand for factory farming. We did a ton of research and so happy we did! It has been a great learning experience for us all!
“I just want to work in my garden and hang out with my chickens.”