How To

Homegrown Stories: Raising Chickens

This is a guest post from Nikki Steele. Nikki is a freelance writer and editor that runs, a blog about pairing wine and beer with books in order to show how one can make the other so much better. When she’s not writing, you can find her in the kitchen, cutting vegetables and creating stock, or roughing around outside with her two mutts. Connect with Nikki on Twitter @BookPairing.

From the front, my house looks like any normal suburban house in Arizona. There are some manicured rocks, carefully thought out boulders, and a mesquite tree that is green no matter how hot it gets.

In the backyard, however, we’ve got our own personal flock of zombie apocalypse food machines, otherwise known as chickens. (They’re not really anti-zombie apocalypse. I mean, they’d be great for it, with all that protein, but I’m going down at the first hard sprint anyways.)

chickensI got into chickens about a year ago, after reading some of the horrifying stats on the food industry and decided to become an active participant in getting some of the food to my table. I went for chickens specifically, because I have all of these vivid childhood memories of following my grandpa out to the barn, watching chickens scatter around my feet, and pocketing the still warm eggs from the coop.

Now, I’m not going to go all granola on you—it’s okay if you don’t want to deal with backyard chickens. They do poop a lot after all. But, you should know that my flock of four are some of the easiest pets I’ve ever raised. Do you have dogs? Easily five times as much work as chickens.

You throw the chickens some food, some water, maybe some greens if you’re really nice, clean up after them twice a year, and then reap the rewards of protein-packed, farm fresh eggs. If you’re buying pasture-raised, organic eggs as it is, you’ll probably save money as well.

That being said,

  • Take the time to talk to local chicken owners for advice about your own area
  • Don’t name your chickens—when Billy Holiday left us, I was absolutely wrecked ten different ways
  • Don’t become the crazy chicken lady; they’re out there and you won’t even be able to defend yourself to the crazy cat people
  • Create a well-thought out coop and space for them before you buy your chicks, pullets, or layers

One of the best books on the subject, Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens by Gail Damerow, can fill you in on more of the technical aspects, but I’m here to say: do it.

eggThey’re easy to raise and you’ll have eggs with yolks that are afternoon sun yellow that rarely break when you go to fry them. You’ll learn new recipes for getting through all of them and make new friends at work who will be more than happy to take the extras. If you’re lucky, you’ll find the eggs that the companies leave out, like the quarter sized egg that I found from one of my new layers.

Most importantly, you’ll be able to look down at your omelet, French toast, or Shakshuka and know exactly what went into raising the chickens that laid those eggs, what they eat, and how they live. It means for more work, but at the end, also a heightened level of connectedness that can be absent so often from the food that we eat.


  • Jacquelyn Pascucci

    I was reading this at work and one of my students came up to the computer and said, “You’re not thinking about getting chickens are you?! Every time I go to feed ours they peck at me! I hate it!”
    Do you find that your chickens peck at you often?

    • Nikki Steele

      I haven’t had that experience whatsoever, but I think a lot depends on the breed that you get. I go with Rhode Island Reds, because they’re normally a lot more relaxed than some of the more irritable breeds, like Leghorns.

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