The (not round) hen home

This time last year we’d just finished our first wooden yurt building workshop.  And here we are now, finishing yet another wooden home that is being figured out as we go…

This one isn’t for us, although Josh jokes (I think) that it’s really for him to move into when he starts to feel small-yurt-claustrophobia this winter.  No, this one is for 8 little girls to call home when nearby Four Season Farm does their annual autumnal retiring of year old laying hens.

We’ve wanted chickens for years, even before we left our cul de sac home where they were not allowed, but have never since had the mental or physical space for them.  We still don’t know what we’re doing, but hoping we figure it out enough by listening to friends who do and reading this very chicken-smart man over breakfast each morning:

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Part of the trickiness for me is knowing that the hen life cycle is not long or very predictable, especially when one lives plop in the woods.  We’re reinforcing this little place as much as possible, but still…before we even pick them up there’s a golden chicken named Marigold tucked into one sensitive little heart here.

Handily, our garden seems to be easing us in with small doses of circle of life lessons.

Last spring there was the delight at finding three swallowtail butterfly caterpillars on our dill.  We happily sacrificed the dill in exchange for watching them munch and plump each day.

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We didn’t see these cocoon and hatch, but all summer there have been many butterflies, especially over the purple top verbena that also hummed with bees of all sorts.

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Which wasn’t missed by a beautiful black and yellow Argiope Aurantia spider who settled a web right between the flower stalks.

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She’s slightly terrifying looking, yes?  But like most spiders (I keep reminding myself), Argiope Aurantias are completely harmless to humans.  I was happy, knowing she’d help with aphids, flies, and general garden pests.  Unfortunately, she’s not discriminating and it wasn’t long before a butterfly was wrapped in that web, and  a certain little girl beside herself, wanting to unwrap it from the web cocoon…

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It’s hard, right?  We talked about how she needed to feed herself, watched her feed herself, and noted how it wasn’t so different from us mackerel fishing for our dinner.

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Then this spider was getting bigger and bigger.  I watched her one night, completely fascinated as she worked within the center of her web.  The next morning, she was gone…  Had a bird swooped her away?  Had she died?  We wondered, and then we found her.

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On a nearby plantain plant that I’d been intending to pluck out of the walkway, there she was, busily creating.  We sat and watched her work, watched her deposit her eggs.  We kept coming back over and over, mesmerized by her process.

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The next morning, we found this:

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And she was really gone.  Children wondered.  This time I knew she’d likely died soon after laying her eggs, finishing their sac.  Aria was happy to watch over her ~1,000 babies, butterfly sadness transformed.

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Moments later, Aria discovered two more of these in the dill we’d left to go to seed.

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So many comings and goings in one summer garden.


Now I’m ready for the garden and chickens to demonstrate the life cycle of grasshoppers.  Grasshoppers who like to sit right in front of me chewing on leafy garden greens…

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Grasshoppers who are likely too big even for the army of Argiope Aurantia spiders ready to set to work next year.  Here’s hoping for some hungry hens.

And here’s hoping the even larger tomato hornworms don’t start outweighing the chickens…

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No, I’m not ready for hornworms to end up on the table.  Table?  Somewhere along the way of milling the wood for the coop, Josh came home with this he milled up from friends’ fallen pine:

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A small part of which is serving as the door from coop to run.  And a large part of which will be a future table for the wooden yurt.  Where we may eat many an egg, many a mackerel, many a tomato, many a leafy garden green.

4 thoughts on “The (not round) hen home

  1. Absolutely lovely to read and to see the chicken home go up. Thanks for taking me back to Sedgewick and a year ago. Such progress throughout the whole year. And what a beautiful way to grow up, just the way Bill thought all kids should.

    imaginedliving posted: “This time last year we’d just finished our first wooden yurt building workshop. And here we are now, finishing yet another wooden home that is being figured out as we go… This one isn’t for us, although Josh jokes (I think) that it’s really for “

    • I’ve been enjoying your Newsletters. I still remember babysitting you. I know absolutely nothing about chickens – except – when a neighbors got into my yard and literally poked holes and ate many of my tomatoes! I saw in your photos that your garden looks close to the hen house. You may want to ask someone who has chickens and a garden whether a fence is in order. You are living a wonderful life! I look forward to reading the next Newsletter.

      • Thank you Linda. I too remembering you babysitting me, and your own babies arriving. And I remember when I was babysitting for those neighbors and feeding those chickens! We have heard how much chickens like to scratch up gardens and eat what you don’t intend for them. There is a metal fence that runs around our garden, between the chickens and those tomatoes, close enough to toss over garden scraps, grasshoppers, hornworms…

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