Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Fictional Chickens ... Not

In Heaven Preserve Us, two brothers are building a chicken pen for my main character, Sophie Mae Reynolds and her housemates Meghan and Erin Bly. By the end of the book they have finished the pen, the laying box, and the roosting house, and Sophie Mae has rigged a transitional incubator for the new chicks in the mudroom off the kitchen.

In Spin a Wicked Web the pullets are happily ensconced in their new home, and have grown enough that they're laying eggs. The chickens are named Molly, Emma, Spike and Henrietta (Hennie).

The hens in the books are modeled after my own chickens. The names have not been changed to protect the innocent. Here is Molly, one day old, under a heat lamp in the guest bathroom bathtub. Unlike Sophie Mae, I didn't have a mudroom.

Molly and Emma were Araucanas, or Easter egg chickens. Molly's eggs were blue. Emma's were green. Spike was a barred Plymouth rock hen, and Hennie a good old Rhode Island red. Both laid brown eggs.

The pen the brothers build in the book is the same pen my girls lived in. Yes, it was a ridiculous amount of space for four hens. Always thought I'd get more. This was the laying box. The top lifts up on hinges for easy access to the eggs. The girls enjoyed hanging out on the side roosts during the day. That's Molly, all grown up, and Spike below. (There's another barred Plymouth rock there who turned out to be a rooster. He went back to the feed store.)

The food station was under the box to protect it from the northwest rain. Only a teenager, Emma wasn't tall enough to reach the feeder, so she's standing on a "booster brick."

I love this A-frame with the criss-crossed roosts. Chickens like to be up in the air when they sleep. If the pen hadn't been so raccoon-proof, we would have shut them in every night. As it was, we only closed the door on the coldest winter nights to retain the warmth from a little light bulb inside.

When the house sold, the new owners were delighted to take over the chickens. I miss them, and hope they're still doing well.

More and more municipalities are allowing residents to keep a few hens (not roosters -- too loud) in the backyard. In the future, I'll be posting more about how easy it is to keep your own chickens -- and a few reasons why you might want to.


  1. We've had chickens before and have talked about getting some more again. I've already said we'll have to have a least one or two Araucanas. I love the idea of blue and green eggs. But I'm curious, is the yolk any different from brown or white eggs?

    Love your chicken house and the little chicks.

  2. Mason, the blue and green eggs are like any others inside. Only the shell is different. Sometimes you'll get an Araucana that lays pink eggs, too. And recently someone told me of another breed (originally French, I believe) that lays maroon eggs!

  3. That's a cool little chicken house.

  4. My grandmother had chickens. I loved gathering the eggs - and eating them. There is nothing like truly fresh eggs!

  5. I was raised on a farm and was responsible for such horrid task as cleaning out the hen house, gathering eggs from angry hens, and helping kill, pluck and gut chickens to prep them for freezing (or cooking). I would never chose to raise chickens again. Yours were kind of cute . . . but no, never again.

  6. Thanks L.!

    Shel, I so agree about fresh eggs. The flavor is amazing.

    Patricia, I think having to clean a hen house with a bunch of hens wouldn't be much fun at all. Nor the plucking and gutting. And dealing with roosters can be less than fun. Our neighbors had one, and when I'd take care of their chickens I had to practically put on body armor to go inside the pen. He was NOT a nice boy.