EFA: Etsy For Animals Etsy For Animals: A Chicken Ballad & Interview

Etsy for Animals (EFA) aka Artists Helping Animals,

is a team of independent artists, craftspeople,

vintage sellers and craft suppliers on Etsy.com

who are dedicated to providing charitable relief to animals

by donating a portion of the profits from their shops

to an animal charity of their choosing,

and/or to EFA's featured Charity of the Month.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Chicken Ballad & Interview

A Chicken Ballad & Interview
with Brenda of HowlingCaterpillars

I've been a proud owner of chickens since 2003. My son had a hatching project at school and we got to take a couple home for the weekend. The two that we got we named: Tom Brunanski, an Easter Egger and Jerry Remy, a Black and White mixed Leghorn.

How long do chicks stay with their mothers before they can be on their own? Chicks stay with their moms for about 6 weeks. At that time, they can eat on their own and can hopefully hold their own against the other flock members. I raised Tom and Jerry from chicks so I was their mom. We fed and watered them and looked at them...they were sooo cute. When night came I covered the box and they cried because they were lonely. So I took them back out and the little peeps chicken piled on my chest. It was a Grinch moment when his heart grew three sizes... And I was hooked. I wound up keeping them !

Tom Brunanski

Unfortunately, Tom was killed by a raccoon. Jerry whimpered and cried because he missed his flockmate. So we got two more: Obelisk the Tormentor, a Black and White Leghorn mix, like Jerry only she was almost pure black... and Slifer the Sky Dragon, a Light Brahma/ Leghorn mix.

What do chickens eat as babies and as adults? Chicks eat Chick Starter which is a small piece of food and has all the nutrition that a growing peep needs. Chick Starter comes as crumbles like Grits and medicated or non-medicated. Medicated Starter has a medicine in it so they don’t get Coccidosis, which can wipe out your whole flock. If you don’t used medicated, you have to change out their brooder box more often. As an adult, a hen will get a layer food which has more calcium so that she won’t lose all the calcium from her bones. Obelisk gets Blue Seal, but she’s also had Purina Layena. It’s a pellet style food that has lots of corn in it. Roosters don’t need the extra calcium so you can feed them Game Bird food.

What kind of housing do chickens require? Chicks require to be draft free until they’re completely feathered out. A fish tank or a large box is good. I had bought a rabbit hutch to keep Tom and Jerry in. Once they realized that was their home, they’d go in at night. An adult bird should have between 2-3 feet of space for sleeping and as much as they can to be outside exploring/scratching/dust bathing, etc.

Can they be outside in cold weather? They -can- be out in cold weather, but they might not -want- to... even though they -do- come equipped with their own down coats! You still have to keep them from getting drafts on them because they can get frostbite. Slifer got frostbite her first winter when it was below zero for almost two weeks and they were in my back porch! Obelisk did too, but not to such an extent.

Do chickens need to be bathed? They don’t usually need to be bathed… although you can certainly try! If I had a video camera when I was bathing Slifer and Obelisk for their first Chickenstock, you’d have laughed your head off. Chickens are very clean animals. They do a lot of preening and they -love- to dust bathe where they roll around like they’re having convulsions and kick dirt everywhere. lol. Some breeds with feathered feet like Silkies, Cochins, Langshans or Brahmas will need to have their feet washed if they’ve been out when it’s muddy or snowy. The only other time that you might have to wash your bird is if it’s a chick and gets pasty butt which is when their poop is soft and gets stuck to their feathers and you need to get it off. That happened to Jerry and I was washing his bum in the bathroom sink.

Jerry Remy

At one point, Jerry started crowing and a neighbour complained and I was accused of keeping Jerry in the cellar so I had to rehome my beautiful, handraised, Portuguese Sweetbread with raisins loving baby. We took him to a petting zoo in New Hampshire.

Then... Slifer started crowing. After loosing my other baby, there was no way that I was going to get rid of another bird... besides no one would take in Slifer. She wasn't nice, she could be downright mean! lol. I was the only one who could pick her up and love on her... anyways if I had rehomed her, she'd have been Cantankerous Bag of Feathers and noodles, PDQ. So, I went to the health dept, got chicken licenses for them, took a petition around and learned how to muzzle her so she couldn't crow or at least not as loudly.

Are chickens always required to be licensed? I wouldn’t say -always- but if you were going to start having birds, I would recommend checking with the Health Department (regarding noise) and the Animal Control Officer (regarding inspections). I didn’t know that I needed a chicken license… but I soon found out!

Can chickens be trained? Yes, chickens can be trained. Their little brains are the size of walnuts but... if you remember the Velociraptors from Jurassic Park, you can get an idea of how they think. Obelisk knows the words "Down" "No" "Porch" "Up" "Treats". Slifer I swear could tell time because once my DS was late coming home from school and she paced in front of the door until he came in then she chased him and bit him.

Can chickens be housebroken? Yes, they can be housebroken. I knew of a girl whose bird was able to use a litter box. Because I got Obelisk as an older bird, I didn’t try to housebreak her. You can also buy Chicken Diapers for the bird to wear so they don’t “go” on your rugs.

Slifer the Sky Dragon

Unfortunately, I lost Slifer to a staph infection 3 years to the day after Tom was killed. Someone had the nerve to say that I killed her because I didn't take her to a vet but she never would've made it out anyways... I cried and cried for weeks.

What kind of veterinary care do chickens need? Do they need regular innoculations? Chickens are usually pretty healthy. You might need to take a bird to a vet if it’s been attacked by a cat or dog or if there’s an infection like Egg Yolk Peritonitis or Bumblefoot that can’t be cured at home and needs antibiotics. No, they don’t really need any vaccinations. Chicks at the hatcheries -are- inoculated for Marek’s Disease. Unless there’s a specific disease that prevalent in your area the birds should be okay.

Obelisk was doing alright being a single bird but I felt that she needed some friends, so my son and I went to the New England Bantam Club show and I bought my first bird: Miss MoneyPenny, a Silkie/Cochin bantam. Everyone -loved- her... even my DH. lol.

Miss MoneyPenny

Miss MoneyPenny was a sweet bird until she went broody, then she became a flat screaming pancake. Obelisk tried going broody once. She sat on her egg for like 5 minutes... got up, looked at it and had a "So what?" expression on her face. lol

What does "going broody" mean? Going broody means your hen wants to sit on eggs and hatch out chicks. It’s a hormonal thing and some breeds are more likely to want to do it. Silkies and Cochins are great sitters. Miss MoneyPenny was a Silkie/Cochin mix and every couple of weeks she wanted to sit on eggs, even Obelisk’s eggs… Some breeds like Leghorns drop the egg and that’s that.

Do chickens lay eggs regularly? A hen will lay an egg a day from anywhere from 5-7 days, take a rest for a day, then start all over again. Leghorns are champion egg layers which is where you get your white eggs from. Obelisk when she was younger would lay 6 out of 7 days, then rest and start up again. And she’d lay for most of the year. Now that she’s older, she only lays from March to August and maybe 5 days a week.

Regrettably, I lost Miss MoneyPenny to a herpes virus and my resident redtail hawk. It was a blessing in disguise because Marek's disease is a really lousy way to go. It starts by paralyzing the legs, then wings, then neck, then lungs and the bird suffocates.

Obelisk the Tormentor

So... for the past few years, Obelisk has been the Queen of Everything.

How long do chickens usually live? That’s a tough question. Egg farm birds will be turned into “chicken by-products” when they’re two years old because their production slows down. Free ranging/outside birds have a much shorter lifespan because everyone wants a free chicken dinner. sigh. A house chicken like Obelisk can live for quite a while. She’ll be 8 this coming Memorial Day ! I know of a gal in Australia whose bird Goldie was 16 and still laid eggs !!!

Obelisk rides in the car and I've taken her to work a couple of times. She has her own cat carrier to sleep in and gets bites of my pizza and subs when I go to Main Street. She gets presents on her Hatchday (she turned 7 this past Memorial Day) and for Christmas. She's like a cat in temperment. Obelisk wants to be out if she's in and in if she's out. She wants to be patted and loved on, but only on her terms... But I love her and I'd be lost without her. I can't go back to think that chickens are just food, they make such great companions also.


A big Thank You

to our guest writer today

for sharing her chicken stories...

Brenda of HowlingCaterpillars

is a valued member of

Etsy's Native American team !

Also gratitude to Lisa

from theanimalsmagicshop

for introducing Brenda to us &

for creating the interview questions !


  1. Thanks so much Nicole! I love to talk about my feather babies!

  2. Long Live Obelisk =-) Enjoyed the chicken chronicles from friend Brenda.

  3. What a great post! I love chickens and really enjoyed reading this!

  4. Brenda, thank you so much - that was really interesting and the photos are fantastic! I knew pretty much nothing about chickens before reading this and didn't realize they could live so long. A lot of people in our area keep them and I can say without a doubt that if I were a chicken, I would want to be Obelisk! Thank you for the post Nicole - you always come up with something unique!

  5. this was a fun one, didn't know that many chicken facts.. my neighbor s have them and I've always thought about it, but like you wouldn't regard them as food and my dogs certainly would so best not have any for the time being..Thanks for sharing!

  6. That was a wonderful article - Ellie and I were talking today about getting chickens when she is big enough to help with them. She says she wants a "wrooster" too.

    The idea of chicken diapers gives me the giggles!

  7. Wow...learned a lot in this one! I am a duck person, so this was really interesting! So sorry about all the losses though. that would be hard. Obelisk sounds almost indestructible!

  8. I think it's brilliant that Obelisk gets to be a house chicken! It's tragic that factory farmed meat chickens are slaughtered at 6 weeks, typically, when I normal chick would just be leaving mom.

    Chickens are just amazing animals. I visited a sanctuary and was surprised to not see any chickens in the enclosure. The person showing us around pointed up...the chickens were all roosting in the trees! Pretty neat!

  9. Wow, what a neat article, I love chickens :)

  10. Great and intersting article!! Love the pics too! So pretty and handsome!
    Sorry to hear about your losses! That would be tough!

  11. OMG. This is such a fun post! I also did not know much about chickens, but they are beautiful birds. :)


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