As I weeded a patch of string beans one July morning, sadness overcame me.
The plants were loaded with beans, but the silence got to me.
My garden adjoins our chicken run. Whenever I’m planting, weeding, or harvesting, our 14 hens are my companions. They watch me from just beyond the fence and encourage my work with cheerful, expectant clucking. The hens joyfully feast whenever I toss tasty weeds or vegetable thinnings over the fence. But, on that July morning no perky hens kept me company.
Whenever we bring a pail of kitchen scraps to our hens, they race to meet us, eager for treats. When I open the pop hole each morning to let them go outside, I greet them with “good morning girls.” As they watch me gather eggs I say, “Thanks.” When I close their door each evening, they get a hearty “Good night girls, job well done,” from me. They are endearing. Is talking to chickens silly? Nope.
Word came of an ailing relative 1000 miles away. Marion and I might need to leave at short notice to help him. Neighbors and friends take care of our chickens when we give them plenty of notice of an upcoming vacation trip. That wouldn’t work for a spontaneous need to be gone for an unknown duration. We decided, for the short term, that the flock should go. New birds will fill the coop with enthusiasm this fall.
Unexpectedly I was flockless. I grieved. That seems silly for a grown man to miss a few chickens, but it was real sadness. I was heartened to know that I can order chicks from Hoover’s Hatchery this fall. So, curious friendly chickens will again greet me, encourage my gardening, eat our scraps and give us delicious eggs. In the meantime, since we’re chickenless, we can travel without needing to find friends to care for the flock.
How to Eliminate a Flock
There are many reasons why a family must eliminate their backyard flock. The spontaneous need to travel may be one, but sometimes people simply lose interest or their life situation changes and chickens can’t be in their future. Also, like all living things, hens age. As years pass, they lay fewer and fewer eggs. To maintain production, trusty old hens must be replaced by youngsters every few years.
Saying goodbye to long-held chickens is hard. They bring curiosity, intelligence, and beauty to the yard while recycling scraps and giving delicious eggs. Although not quite pets, chickens are delightful life companions who bring joy as they stock the refrigerator with fresh eggs. Saying goodbye isn’t easy but may be necessary. Here are ways to empty the coop:
- Gulp. Old hens are tasty, if tough, but few want to eat their old friends. Finding them a new home is preferable.
- Often friends are happy to add a few birds to their flock. It’s helpful to network with other families who keep chickens. Someone may cherish newcomers to the flock.
- When the decision was made to terminate our flock, I put an ad on Craig’s List. Within an hour a woman called and said, “I have a small flock and give eggs to low-income senior citizens. I’d like to expand my flock.” She picked them up two days later.
- Social media: Social media connections are effective in both disposing of chickens and acquiring new ones.
My flock landed in the yard of a woman who gives them great care and gives eggs to low-income senior citizens. They have a great new home.
Hoover’s Hatchery has good news for anyone who must temporarily end a flock. Most people prefer starting chicks in the spring, but Hoover’s sells chicks year round. Starting them in fall works well and that’s what I’ll be doing later this year.