My Pet Chickens from My Pet Chicken July 24, 2016 No Comments
I’m a customer service rep here at My Pet Chicken, which means I’ve held the hands of countless beginners. I’ve laughed at your stories. I’ve helped you troubleshoot. I’ve placed hundreds of chick orders for you. I’ve assured you your breed selection is a good one. (You can hardly go wrong, after all!) And I’ve mourned with you at the occasional passing of a chick.
You might think that because I work here, all things chicken-ey have lost their sheen, or that getting a new batch of baby chicks isn’t as exciting as it used to be. You might think that losing a chick of my own might feel more like a dull ache than a sharp pain—but you’d be wrong!
When I get the call from the postmaster saying “Your chicks have arrived. Can you pick them up?” my internal monologue goes something like: “Can I pick them up? YOU BET I CAN PICK THEM UP! OH. BOY. OH. BOY. OH. BOY!” … and my bewildered husband is left to stare in awe at the streak of flames I leave stretching out across the house as I run to my car and head to the post office.
My My Pet Chicken Chicks
(Say that three times fast!)
This last shipment, the post office was speedy and delivered my chicks arrived a day earlier than normal, so I wasn’t expecting them. Read the rest of this entry »
3 ways to Choose Your Best Chicken Breed July 22, 2016 No Comments
If you’ve never kept backyard chickens before, you may wonder what the best way is to choose the best chicken breed for you. As we often explain, there is no One Best Breed for everyone. Some people may want only the best layers, while others prefer only the friendliest… or those that are the most cold hardy… or those that lay amazing colors like blue, olive or chocolate, and so on. So how do you choose?
The truth is there are a few ways to go about choosing the best chicken breed.
3 ways to choose the best chicken breed for you
1. Dream over a hatchery website, book, or catalog. When you like window shopping, this method is probably for you. Especially if you like the ultra rare or unusual, Read the rest of this entry »
Chicken feed supplements and your flock July 15, 2016 No Comments
Recently we’ve been asked about a pretty sensational story: whether the deaths of some chickens purportedly caused by necrotic enteritis (NE) were due to using feed or chicken feed supplements mixed at home. We think there must be some confusion somewhere in the chain of information, a misunderstanding that should be cleared up.
Let’s get this out of the way first: No, the simple fact that your feed or chicken feed supplements were mixed at your home has no effect on whether your chickens get NE. NE has ZERO to do with where your feed is made.
Farm insurance: 4 good reasons to get it June 14, 2016 3 Comments
If you sell or give away your eggs, or have friends and neighbors over to visit your chickens — and you don’t have farm insurance — you could find yourself in hot water. (Hint: if you don’t know whether you have farm insurance, you don’t have it.)
If you’re like most chicken keepers, you’re an unabashed show-off. You’ll pull anyone who shows the slightest interest into your kitchen to wow them with your insanely vibrant eggs; you’ll Read the rest of this entry »
Nancy Luce – Pet Chicken Folk Hero April 8, 2016 11 Comments
Nancy Luce may be the most important pet chicken lover you’ve never heard of–called “The Madonna of the Hens.” She lived and died in the West Tisbury area of Martha’s Vineyard in the 1800s—and she adored her pet chickens, which were a solace in her hard, troubled life. She loved them so much, in fact, that she wrote books of poetry about them, which she sold to tourists who visited the island. She also commissioned photos of herself with her beloved birds, and peddled those to visitors, as well.
The Life and Death of Nancy Luce
Nancy Luce lived a rather solitary—even a lonely—life. Born in 1814, she was an only child of a farming family at a time when it was common for agricultural families to rely on their many children to help run the farm. When her parents grew ill, Nancy found herself in charge of the entire, struggling farm, as well as being the caretaker for her ailing parents. As Nancy grew older and her parents sicker, the task of caring for the family fell completely to her. Her parents, she explained in her writings, had many complaints and “lose their reason dreadful fast.” She took comfort in her flock of pet chickens. She seems to have suffered from depression most of her life, and surely the weight of all that responsibility on her shoulders didn’t help. However, she managed well selling groceries and dry-goods… until about 1840, when she grew ill herself. After that, she struggled terribly.
Even so, she found outlets for her creative spirit through care for her pet chickens, painting, and writing.”I think it is best for me to try to make a few pictures if I can to take up my mind so that the medicines have a chance to help if possible…” Nancy Luce wrote to her supplier. “[S]end me a box of water colors & charge to me one that has gay colors in it bright yellow and light yellow and orange and light red & other gay colors & a brush or two if you have them & if you havnt any brushes send me the box if you are willing,” she requested, also pleading to keep the special package for herself secret.
While her paintings no longer exist, the books she created were illuminated with lovely block lettering and a beautiful hand.
We can’t know for sure what she suffered from, but some contemporaries referred to her own illness as neurasthenia, which was essentially a catch-all description nervous disorder that we might refer to now as chronic fatigue syndrome. Neurasthenia was blamed upon the pressures of modern life and an overly active mind… and surely few people had as many pressures as Nancy Luce did.
It’s possible also that she suffered from lupus, or multiple sclerosis, both chronic conditions which would have accounted for the migraines, digestive issues, depression, pain, cold sensitivity, and difficulty in getting about… as well as the intermittent nature of her illness. Nancy Luce wrote about the sporadic suffering in 1845: “Some of these years that I undergo the most, then I cannot do the leastest morsel to a picture, nor write not any, I undergo so much, & some part of the year, when I feel a little better, then there is only some days, & some part of the day, that I can do a little picture, or write a little…”
In her community, Nancy Luce was ostracized and mocked. The fact that she was in trade was seen as unusual for a woman… and the way she doted over her animals was certainly an eccentricity and a sign of a disturbed mind. In Consider Poor I, Walter Teller wrote that she was derided as “sick and strange” and that some described her as having a “raggedy and half-starved” appearance. She may well have been actually half-starved. Her symptoms included nausea, and an inability at times to have anything more than milk pass her lips.
After her father’s death, two neighbors petitioned to have a guardian appointed for Nancy because of “insanity and imbecility.” Her doctor and some of her relations successfully opposed this, thankfully, and she was permitted to continue managing her own affairs. But surely this left her feeling even more as if she was surrounded by enemies, and alone, with only herself to rely upon.
Nancy Luce eventually died in April of 1890. She had been living alone with just her hens and cows, so when she fell on a Saturday, she laid unable to get up for several days before anyone came to check on her. One hopes her little hens found their way to keep her company—and perhaps keep her warm–until she was discovered. April on Martha’s Vineyard routinely drops into the 30s overnight, and Nancy would have suffered terribly from the cold due to her illness.
Although she was found alive on Monday, Nancy declined into unconsciousness and died that Wednesday, April 9, 1890. Artist Dan Waters created this touching illustration of Nancy Luce several years ago:
The Pet Chickens of Nancy Luce
This hard life is the backdrop against which we must see Nancy Luce’s love of her pet chickens–chickens which she gave whimsical names like Ada Queetie, Beauty Linna, Lily Laly, Phebea Peadeo, and Lebootie Ticktuzy. She recorded her chicken names—40 of them in all—in her first book, Poor Little Hearts, excerpts of which are available in the book Consider Poor I, available for purchase from Martha’s Vineyard Museum.
Nancy’s poetry, which she sold for her living along with the photos she commissioned, chiefly concerned her pet chickens, her own suffering, and her sorrow at the deaths of her beloved pets. Her heart, she wrote, was “consumed” by the death of one hen, Ada Queetie.
She had more than common love
And more than common wit
Her heart was full of love for me
Now every time I compose a few lines, I have a weeping spell.
But not all of the verses are maudlin and sorrowful. In fact, when it comes to writing about her pets, much was touching and funny–and certainly familiar to today’s pet chicken keepers. Some of the tales she tells about her hens are the sorts of tales we hear about nearly every day here at My Pet Chicken:
When I used to go out of the room
And left them both together, and come in again
They would speak to me, they was so glad I came in again,
And if I was gone too long, they would both call me
To come to them.
Another of her anecdotes reminds me of my hen Hildy… Nancy Luce’s hens were spoiled enough that they wouldn’t eat treats if they fell off the plate onto the floor, she wrote, explaining “They must have their cake out of my hand or plate.” Chicken lovers will understand the endearing and persnickety demands of a spoiled pet hen.
The hens of Nancy Luce were her friends, when she had few others.
Called “strange” by her neighbors, she was bullied ruthlessly at times. Groups of young boys would even gather together outside her house to bang pots and pans and make a racket because they knew it disturbed her nerves. But when it came to her hens…
When I used to say pretty babes
They would both run to me at a dreadful swift rate,
When I used to say make haste, or come here,
They both did it quick
Is it any wonder poor Nancy Luce valued the companionship of her hens over that of humans? She felt herself friendless in human society (save for her doctor), but wrote many times that her hens had compassion for her when she was poorly, staying by her side and chatting with their little sounds. She could not understand why people were opposed to her compassion and regard for the creatures in her care.
Some folks against my keeping hens, & against my feeding them, & against my keeping them warm, they don’t care how much poor hens suffer with hunger and cold, stop my having eggs to help myself with. I cannot live without hens.
Not feeding or providing chickens with shelter sounds especially cruel to modern ears, but truthfully Nancy Luce was far ahead of her time. In her day, it was fairly common to keep chickens without even a coop. The bantams would roost in the trees as they could, without cover. There was no commercial feed until 1910, which was two decades after Nancy’s death. So most chickens would have lived off what they could forage buoyed by the occasional kitchen scrap or tossed scratch or grain. At that time, Nancy Luce was caring for her hens in the same thoughtful ways pet chicken lovers do today. She was giving her hens shelter to keep them warm, making sure they were fed well, providing them with calcium supplements for laying, and cooking for them as we often do, with warm porridge on a cold day, or even little cakes. (In fact, our book My Pet Chicken Handbook contains a collection of recipes for hens, in addition to egg recipes for people.) It certainly must have been odd to her contemporaries. She may as well have been instructing them to allow squirrels to nest in the kitchen cabinets.
But Nancy Luce cared so much about her hens that she even wrote to the editor of her local paper, explaining how much better hens will produce eggs if treated well. And she recommended care then that was fairly revolutionary for the time: offering oyster shells, keeping clean water and food, taking the chill off water in the winter time, cooking them porridge, making sure they had good shelter—and that sunlight was available in the shelter, and so on. Nancy Luce reported that with these innovations, her hens beginning to lay as early as 4 months, and producing an amazing quantity of eggs for chickens of that era, more than twice as many as usual.
“Be good to your hens, not cruel,” Nancy Luce pleaded.
What will also be familiar to chicken lovers–as well as to the Facebook friends of chicken lovers, let’s admit it–is that the doted over pet hens learned to communicate back to Nancy Luce. It wasn’t just a matter of their learning to respond to Nancy when she called. They also learned how to “speak” back to her. Her pet hens would ask her for things, and had the ability to make their desires known.
For example, if they wanted fresh water, they would “pick on the lower button of the door.” This is a story we hear over and over here at My Pet Chicken from our customers: pet chickens come and knock at the kitchen door for treats! And Nancy Luce also shared other tales of communion between her and her favorite two little hens:
When they used to see some flies up on the window
They would stand side by side, and look at me, and call me,
To help them to them flies.
That brings to mind my hens who “help” me garden by waiting patiently beside me when I work, because they have learned they’ll be tossed the occasional cutworm or unearthed grub. Nancy Luce knew then what science has proved over and over: chickens are startlingly smart. One expert characterizes chickens as “smarter than toddlers“—chickens can count to five—and possessing “many hidden depths.” And it’s true… people who keep pet chickens are often startled at just how smart and affectionate their chickens are, seemingly regardless of breed. This is something Nancy Luce discovered many years ago: the affection and intelligence of hens.
History records that Nancy Luce kept bantams. The breed/s she kept has not been noted—the APA didn’t begin standardizing breeds until 1873—but based on existing photos of her hens as well as what types of chickens would have been available at the time, her little birds most likely would have been either game bantams of some sort, (first described in 1850), or Nankin bantams, which have been around for time out of mind. Another early type appearing in the US, Pekin bantams—similar to today’s Cochin bantams—didn’t appear here until about 1860, and from the photos, none of Nancy’s hens appear to have possessed the feathered legs that would identify them as Pekins.
Nancy loved her little feathered friends so much that she had tombstones made for them when they died.
Nancy herself was eventually buried in West Tisbury, out of concern that if she was buried on her farm, her grave would be disturbed if her land fell into the hands of callous people.
Nancy Luce today
Tomorrow will be 126 years since Nancy Luce died. Let’s all–all of us modern chicken lovers–take a few moments today or tomorrow to remember Nancy Luce as a pioneer, a patron saint of pet chickens. Nancy Luce provided humane care for her hens before anyone really understood why “lowly” chickens should be fed and sheltered.
We’re giving away a copy of our book, My Pet Chicken Handbook, along with a package of chicken Party Mix (a treat for your chickens) to one commenter, who will be randomly chosen April 22, 2016. The chicken names Nancy Luce created are so quirky and sweet; we’d love to see a revival of names like Ada Queetie (or even just “Nancy”) in remembrance of pet chicken folk hero Nancy Luce.
- You must reside in the US.
- One entry per person.
- Comment here on this blog post with your vow to name a hen in remembrance of Nancy Luce.
- Let us know in your comment what name you chose and why!
- Entry period ends April 21, 2016 at midnight EST.
- The winner will be notified by email, and must respond within seven days (or another winner will be chosen).
Chicken Dream Job-12 Best Reasons to Work at MPC March 30, 2016 162 Comments
My Pet Chicken is hiring! (Update: we are not taking any more applications at this time.) Have you–or has someone you know–been fantasizing about a chicken dream job? Do you want to leave your current job and getting paid to keep and talk about chickens all day? Are you looking for a way to help support your family with your beloved flock? Or perhaps you’re a budding writer looking to blog about your flock? If so, your chicken dream job may be right around the corner with My Pet Chicken.
First, let’s talk about who we are and why My Pet Chicken might be the place to find your chicken dream job.
12 best reasons to work for My Pet Chicken
- You have a super-easy commute. This is because you commute from your bed to your computer for your chicken dream job. You will be telecommuting. That means no traffic! No gas money! No wear and tear on the car! No scraping snow off an icy windshield or getting into a sweltering vehicle!Roll out of bed two minutes before you start, if that’s your thing.
- You can work in your PJs. Or your comfy pants and favorite T-shirt with all the holes. We really don’t care what you wear to work for your chicken dream job. Bad hair day? No one will see it. No one, unless you have neighbors, and you feel like bringing your laptop and working from your porch on a beautiful day. And heck, that sounds appealing, too!
- You can be at home caring for a child without having to call off work. Snow day? Easy. Teacher work day? No problem. If you’re a single parent, or if you’re in a household where both parents work, having a child home from school can normally create all sorts of logistical problems! Well… consider those issues SOLVED.
- You have the best office coffee in the world! Well, depending. This presumes you make good coffee. But whatever your coffee-ing skills may be, telecommuting means you don’t have to choke down someone else’s weak brew and stale beans. You can brew it just how you want it, fresh, when you want it.
- You can keep pet chickens when you work here. In fact, you MUST keep pet chickens! You may be wondering why you wouldn’t keep chickens when you work at a hatchery? Well, if you work directly at a hatchery location, you actually can’t keep your own flock due to biosecurity concerns. But employees of My Pet Chicken won’t be going back and forth from a personal flock to the hatchery flocks or incubators, so you can enjoy your personal flock of pet chickens to your heart’s content.
This is probably one of the most compelling reasons working for My Pet Chicken is really a chicken dream job. How depressing would it be to FINALLY get that job at the hatchery… only to discover you have to get rid of your own beloved flock? And incidentally, if you have other pets in addition to chickens (such as a dog), this is a great job, too. You won’t have to worry about any separation anxiety, or rushing home from work to let your pup out. He can simply sleep at your feet–or even in your lap–and go out when he needs to.
- You will be working among the foremost pet chicken experts in the country. Everyone here is a little–okay, a lot–chicken crazy. That’s part of having a chicken dream job! My Pet Chicken can hire the smartest, chicken-craziest people from all across the country. We don’t have to hire just from the area physically closest to our hatchery, so we really get The Best people. At places where customer service personnel have to work directly at the hatchery location, the employees don’t have personal flocks, and may never have kept chickens personally. At your My Pet Chicken dream job, all your fellow employees get just as excited as you do when your new pullets start laying, or your broody has a successful hatch.
- You get to talk to other people who love chickens all day long. And you get paid for it! Do you enjoy “virtually” talking with other chicken lovers like you might on BYC? Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could make a living doing that? Well, if you feel that way, this is definitely your chicken dream job.
- You can take egg gathering breaks at work. We don’t know of any other workplace in the world where this would even be possible. Need to get up and stretch your legs? Feel free to go out to your coop, say “good afternoon” to your flock, and gather any eggs. Pet a hen, turn eggs in your incubator, check the chicks in your brooder. Talk about awesome!
- You get an employee discount on chicks, chickens, coops, eggs, supplies… Actually, this may be bad news if you suffer from Chicken Math. (If so… well, sorry about that.)
- You will be eligible to blog for My Pet Chicken. Our employees blog for us–and get paid for it! Are you a budding writer, dying to write about your flock, your farm, your chicken-keeping lifestyle? Do you have lots of DIY projects to share? Well, working for My Pet Chicken at your chicken dream job is the perfect opportunity to get started.
- You get the chance to raise some of our exclusive breeds before anyone else! My Pet Chicken now has the largest number of chicken varieties of any hatchery in the country, because we have so many varieties exclusive to us! When we develop a new variety, we often need additional feedback–and good photos of the birds. You will sometimes have the opportunity to raise these new, exclusive varieties so you can contribute to the breed description–or even blog about them.
- You can pitch your favorite hybrid “designer” bird. For instance, I developed Favaucanas for My Pet Chicken, combining the best qualities of two of my favorite breeds. Other employees have dreamed up amazing varieties like Naked Neck Olive Eggers and Silchins–and we now sell those varieties, too! This is because we work closely with our hatchery –so much so that they hatch the special varieties we design exclusively for us, and we even have input about bringing in breeders and lines to improve stock.
The Egg Strike Is Over – We Have Eggs! March 8, 2016 6 Comments
Eggs, oh the wonders of eggs! Egg souffle, homemade puddings, baked goods, and the simple joy of my egg basket overflowing with the stunning variety of color laid by my sweet feathered ladies. I hate the annual chicken egg strike.
But like all ladies, the hens need a break sometimes, much to my woe-is-me. It’s a cry that is echoed around the world by all chicken owners when the annual chicken egg strike hits.
It comes in winter… that time of year when, no matter what you do to compensate, you find yourself with fewer eggs and, in some cases, no eggs… yes, the dreaded egg strike. After a summer filled with nearly pulling out your hair trying to find uses for all of your eggs, suddenly, almost overnight, your hens just stop producing and you have to do the unthinkable… You go to the store and you buy eggs.
The winter in the south-east has been pretty mild, but even so the short days means my ladies go to bed early. I am not particularly fond of adding a light in winter to keep production going although many do so. I tend to approach my hens with the thought that they need a break and will be healthier for it in the following months. I’ve never personally seen any harm by having a light added–not when you add light to your coop the right way! It just makes me happy, I guess, to see them have a well-deserved break after faithfully laying most of the year. In any case, we make sure the coop has ample light as soon as the sun rises and until it sets, so as soon as the days get longer the hens begin to reward my patience.
Captain Munch, my sons pet Easter Egger, was the first to start laying regularly again. She is an “old hat” at this and loves her job. I can hear her while I milk the goats; she lays her egg and then boasts proudly to the whole world that she laid the best, most beautiful egg ever created. It’s good that she’s so boastful about it, since she’s also a professional at hiding the eggs. Her boasting helps me find the nest!
Within a couple of weeks our erratic egg numbers jumped, literally overnight, from 1-4 to 7-9 a day! I am having the most fun looking at the range in egg colors this year with our pretty Silver Cuckoo Marans and their dark, almost orange-tinted eggs, to the rose colored one with white speckles (I have no idea who is laying that, we shouldn’t have rose with speckles!).I also get delicate shades of brown from the Buff Brahmas and the Cochins.
And then we have Munch’s eggs, an especially delightful find after the end of the winter egg strike. I know Easter Eggers are not supposed to have shell color changes, but she must be special. Normally the eggs of all hens will fade gradually over the season, but her changes are more sporadic, and so much fun! Ranging from a pastel blue to a deep, sage green, her eggs bring me the most joy as I wonder what tint I will find. They stand out from all of our brown eggs and are always the favorite of our guests and children.
So, as I write and look at my counters covered in overflowing baskets of eggs, and all I can think is “Wow, the egg strike is over; what am I going to do with all these eggs?!”
What is your favorite way to use extra eggs? Do you sell them? Do you give them away? Or do you find ways to store the eggs for the next slow season? We would love to hear if your hen’s egg strike is over and how you plan for the next one!
Winter musings on backyard gardening February 20, 2016 No Comments
It’s February, and time to get the backyard gardening blood rousted and roiling full tile boogie!
I must somehow confound my husband into delivering and distributing several loads of chicken poo infused pine shavings over our potato bed. Read the rest of this entry »
Rebuilding the coop February 13, 2016 6 Comments
We spent the first three years in our new house looking out our kitchen window at an abandoned old coop, which must have been sitting empty for at least a decade before we were here. Structurally solid, but inching its way down the hill with each freeze and thaw of winter. Covered in cracked rolled roofing and tree sap. Its potential was obvious to anyone wearing rose-colored glasses.
I spent those first three years hatching a plan to fill that coop with pretty, feathered inhabitants. First, it had to be emptied. It was full of the fun things you might expect to find in the abandoned outbuilding of a man who built and maintained his own home and property. Once we scavenged the place for its neat old gardening equipment and its eclectic collection of rusted springs, squeaky hinges, and random metal objects, it was time for a good cleaning.
Years spent as nothing more than a spare tool shed had left the place Read the rest of this entry »
Chicken Consultant: Top 10 FAQs February 11, 2016 6 Comments
You may be new to chicken keeping or an old pro but beginners and experts alike all end up having a question at some point. Hi there, my name is Shannon, and I’m a professional chicken consultant. *Waves* Yup, chicken consultant. That would be me.
You may be wondering how much my services cost. The answer is: ZERO. I and my colleagues will answer your chicken questions for free. My job is to pick up the phone 50 times a day to help chicken people from all walks of life, and that are at all levels of ability when it comes to keeping their beloved poultry. I am a chicken consultant just chicken consultant -ing around. It’s a dream job, right?
When I say “How can I help you?” the questions come pouring in. I’ve been talking “pet chicken” with people across this country for nearly five years now, and I still hear some never-before-asked questions that can stump me. However, there are also the top questions that, as a chicken consultant, I hear daily.
Many are beginner questions, but they are GOOD questions—that’s why they get asked so often! They are things you should know if you keep chickens, so I’m happy to hear people ask them. That means, don’t call me and say “I know this sounds stupid, but…” because it’s NOT stupid. It’s something you want to know, and we agree you should know it! This is why you called the professional chicken consultant, right?
Here are the top ten most frequently asked questions I receive regularly as a professional chicken consultant, and the answers I hope you’ll find enlightening!
Top 10 FAQs for a Chicken Consultant
1. Can you sex a chick while its still in the egg?
The short answer is Read the rest of this entry »