“Buffy” is a Buff Orpington Pet Hen. We got her a few months ago from a person that needed to thin her BackYard Flock, so getting her was very easy, even though Buffs are a more rare breed. She acclimated well to her new surroundings, quickly fitting in to the fold of the 6 other hens we have. They are all Production layers, similar to a Rhode Island Red. We acquired them at 2 days old, so they have become a part of the family. We lovingly call them “The Girls”.
Anyone who follows this blog knows one thing about it, we are all about saving money and being self-sustaining as much as possible. So having the girls fit very well into our homesteading life-style. The rub came about 4 months after we moved the chicks to their permanent home in the backyard coop. We found that Baltimore County does not allow any backyard chickens on less than a acre of ground. We have approximately 1/5 acre. We were served with a citation from the county code inforcement officer on July 28, with the express instuctions to remove the pet hens by August 28th. Being involved in Government in a former life, we took steps to get additional time to deal with the county officials: We filed for a zoning variance.
Of course just filing for a variance never guarantees a favorable outcome, but we are doing everything possible to insure that the administrative judge at the hearing-Scheduled October 11, 2012-has proper information to make an informed decision about our situation. But let me digress to July when this began.
A complaint was filed with code enforcement from a neighbor stating that we had chickens, roosters, and that they were attracting rats to the neighborhood. The complaint itself shows the ignorance of people when it comes to chickens.
We do have hens, so there is no argument on that front. But because the hens cackled some mornings, roosters were added to the complaint. Of course, we have no roosters as they would make noise whenever they felt like it-day or night. It is a misconception that they crow only at sun-up. Also, there is no need for a rooster for the hen to lay eggs. The rooster only serves to fertilize eggs if we wanted to hatch and raise chickens, which is definitely not something we want to do. So roosters are not and will not be in the picture.
Hens make noise on three occasions: when laying, when bored, or when a predator is near. When laying, they tend to cackle as they pass the egg-ladies how would you feel giving birth…..DAILY! After the egg is layed, they will strut and cackle for a minute or two, just to let everyone know what they did. The strut is a proud walk of accomplishment!
Chickens are similar to other pets, so they want attention. When they are bored, they will cackle to get someone to pay attention to them and break their boredom. Yes you can hold, pet, and love your chicken just like any other domesticated pet. They are not as attention needy as some dogs, but they are not as aloof as some cats. So to me they are a perfect pet, as well as a “producing” member of the family.
The only other time I hear noise from them, aside from normal cooing, is when a neighborhood cat or other predatory animal, is sitting outside our fence, waiting for the opportunity to pounce. I think the thing about chickens is they have keen senses: eyesight, hearing, and smell. As any of the girls sense the predator, they sound an alarm-cackling and running to congregate with the other girls. I do truly believe they think there is power in numbers, and feel very safe when in the group.
I like to spend my mornings sitting outside while the girls run free in our yard to forage and feed. I let them out around 7am and sit at the outside table working on the computer. This is a very relaxing, enjoyable way to start each day. Some days I may sit there until 11 or 12 without ever realizing so much time as elapsed. I prefer not to have them out of the coop if I am not outside where I can keep an eye on them.
We have a 4′ fence that surrounds our backyard, which yes, contrary to popular belief, they can easily fly over. I am surprised that they have never tried to leave the perceived safety of the yard. They have jumped onto the top rail of the fence, but have always jumped back into the yard, after they have completed their visual scan of the neighborhood.
We live on a corner lot and the neighbor’s next door and immediately behind our property, love to sit outside when they see the girls out. They get relaxing enjoyment just as we do watching the fascinating flurry of activity in our yard.
Since we live in an older neighborhood, the majority of our neighbors are 50+. Many enjoy bringing the grandkids over to play with and learn about chickens. The adults sit at the table watching the little tikes trying to catch or pet each chicken. It is a true joy to watch the fascination in those little eyes of the children.
I believe I have filled enough of a page for today-gloating about my grand-chickens. I will over the course of the next few days add more about our fight to Save Buffy and Her Friends! If you have BackYard Chickens, I invite you to comment with your stories. If you could submit this post to your twitter or facebook, so maybe I can get others to join in to Change the Zoning Laws In Baltimore County.
Read more in Part 2-Saving Buffy Health Concerns