In a beautiful Northwest neighborhood live three bodacious bantam hens. They are owned by Charlie Grist and Terri Moore. I decided to ask them a few questions regarding their chicken ownership and glean any information they can impart on us.
Q 1. Why do you have chickens?
Terri: “I grew up with chickens. That nostalgia and I enjoy their look and their clucking. I especially get a kick out of them laying eggs.”
Charlie: “Originally got them as pets. Grew to love them as backyard ornaments. The full story is that the kids wanted a pet. Dogs are too much responsibility and restrict you from traveling. Cats I find creepy and smelly. Terri suggested chickens 20 years ago, before the recent backyard chicken craze. We searched for bantams and found some Plymouth Barred Rock bantam chicks from a hatchery. I found them very entertaining. I also noticed that we have many colloquialisms we use that are based on chicken behavior, for instance, “why are you looking at me cock eyed?” and “hen pecked” . The eggs are just a bonus, they are not my prime motivation for keeping hens.”
Q 2. How long have you had chickens?
Terri: “Consult the door [door has list of all the chickens]….since 1996.”
Charlie: ” 20 years pretty much continuously.”
Q 3: Any tips you have picked up with your chicken experiences?
Terri: “I recommend picking interesting breeds of chickens. In my perspective bantams are ideal chickens for the backyard. Lastly don’t get too attached as chicken deaths are common.”
Charlie: “If you have a small backyard bantams are easy to deal with. They don’t take up space, don’t rip up garden, don’t scare kids. The small egg size is another bonus. Chicken nipples. A fabulous invention, makes watering easy and clean. I spent about a half hour teaching them how to use it. I kept toying with the nipple with my finger to show them how to use it. Finally they pecked a juicy drop off my finger and figured it out.”
Q 4: Favorite Portland chicken resource?
Q 5: Food type? Bedding type?
Charlie: “For food type we get all types of scratch and wheat berries. My favorite bedding is coconut husk. It comes compressed so doesn’t take up much room to store extra. I use it on the floor because Its very absorbent and it keeps the smell low . For the nest boxes we use whatever I have around. Right now we are using Easter basket material.”
Terri: “Chicken scratch and oyster shells. I usually get whatever the people at Linnton’s recommend. We have tried everything; peat moss; currently our favorite but slightly environmentally unfriendly, coconut husks and pine shavings.”
Q 6: Describe your coop.
Terri: “Used to be a small Victorian coop. First designed as a playhouse and then the girls realized it was too small. So it was converted to a coop. When we expanded the flock we needed to add a ranch house extension. I really love how many windows it has. Shag carpeting is for soundproofing. The coop is a constant work in progress. We have moved it around the yard. It unfortunately used to be better angled so we could watch through the window. I really enjoy watching them cluck away in their coop.”
Charlie: “Split level 2-story L shaped ranch house. Wooden floors, all cedar.”
Q 7: Describe your chickens.
Charlie: “2 wyandottes 1 modern game hen. Over the years we have had many chickens. Some are remarkable some aren’t. My favorite was a little old english, she was very smart. She would knock on the back door (which is glass) for food, to play or to get us to open the coop.”
Terri: ” Currently have 3. Named after the spirits in the Tempest; Ariel (Modern Game Hen), Ceres and Iris. I enjoy the way Ariel walks. The wyandottes are very beautiful and unique. Ariel is easily picked up due to her age. She also loves to follow Charlie around the yard. Ariel was hand raised. The wyandottes we got as pullets. Ariel loves to come to the window and look in. She is both friendly and high strung. They are just such low maintenance pets, they are good for the garden and we get eggs. Perfect.”
The executive summary
The best advice I think they gave was to get interesting breeds of bantams for backyard chickens. I recommend you go try to find some unusual looking hen that will keep you laughing and still give you great tasting eggs.