The chickens that cross the road

By Lorraine Forster, July 15, 2011

Kathy Fred holds a bucket of feed while the kids have fun feeding the brood of chickens the family has adopted.

Tseshaht — 

Cock-a-doodle-do! Wake-up! Time to get cracking! Yes, cracking all those yummy, wonderful, orange-yolked, free-range eggs courtesy of a handful of hens scratching around the yard.

Kathy Fred and her flock of children got into the chicken biz early last spring when they adopted six hens and a rooster through a "free" ad in the paper.

Shortly afterwards they brought in a second harem of hens, again accompanied by a handsome rooster guardian. So far no one has complained about rousing rooster crowing at day break.

"Every day we get six or seven eggs," said Fred. "Just enough to keep the family supplied, but not enough to start roadside egg sales.”

The chickens have a secure coop in the back yard for the night, but they have a pretty nice "free range" life as they scratch for bugs, seeds, and weeds along Mission Road.

When asked about risks to the brood by eagles or hawks, Fred said the only problem is with crows going after baby chicks. The flock was full grown when brought in to the Fred household, so the crows leave them alone. 

"We have two roosters so they protect the hens too," said Fred.

The family would like to get chicks in the future, but will have to find a way to deal with the predator problem at that time.

Young Kayleigh and Carson were enthusiastic about the whole chicken experience. "They have good eggs—this much," said Carson, gesturing broadly with his outstretched arms.

Kayleigh agreed. She liked getting the eggs.

"But I don't like smelling them. They poop all over," she said crinkling her nose.

Fred brought out a bag of chicken feed. The children spun in circles and giggled and the hens came running as the kids scattered the food. It was eggstra-ordinary fun for one and all.

For anyone who might be interested in raising their own backyard flock, here are some chicken facts from the City of Vancouver backyard chicken information page.

— Hens start to lay at about six months of age.

— Young hens lay about one egg per day. They lay less as they get older.

— A chicken can live as long as a cat or dog; up to 14 years.

— They need to have food twice a day and water needs to be kept clean and fresh.

— They need to have a cool, shaded, dry coop.

— A single chicken is a sad chicken. They need at least one buddy to be happy as they are very social.