Perfectionist’s Guide to Raising Chickens

We are pleased to share a guest post written by Liz Jenkins. Liz is a Certified Professional Organizer and owner of A Fresh Space, a firm that specializes in residential and small business organizing, home staging and simple living in the greater Nashville area.  Find Liz at

Last year, our family decided to start raising chickens. They were going to be pets for our daughter (she was 8 at the time) and we’d get some eggs. Simple, we thought. Then I started researching. Being a Professional Organizer (really) and being somewhat Type A about making sure things are done properly, especially when it comes to animals, it turned into be quite the production. When you combine my propensity for preciseness with my husband’s perfectionist tendencies (he’d be the one building the coop), yikes! But we got it all figured out. There’s a ton of great information out there.  And we read it all.
So from our perspective, here’s what you need to know:
•    If you are free ranging, don’t spend so much time worrying about how big your run is. Because the chickens never go in there.
•    A green roof looks really cool, however once the hens learn to fly, it becomes a buffet. A very messy, dirt strewn buffet.
•    Chickens like spaghetti. And grapes. And bread. And cocktail garnishes.
•    Introduce your dog early to the baby chicks. Get them used to being around each other so the dog understands that the chickens are part of the family. And the chickens learn to get out of the way when the dog chases the ball.
•    Grown chickens are not to come in the house.  They are messy. And poop on your keyboard.
•    Do not get just one chick. This is how we ended up with Marshmallow. Don’t participate in egg hatching projects at schools. This is how we ended up with Buffy the Worm Slayer and Gallifrey.  Other people obviously didn’t do their research.
•    When you let your daughter pick a chick out of a big tub of chicks on a whim, you are guaranteed to get a rooster. Ivy/Alvin now has a new home.

I wasn’t sure that I’d really like the hens. I’ve never been a big fan of birds. But I love them. It’s like having a fish tank in the back yard. Fish that lay eggs. The girls have become part of the family, and we now have a total of 8. It’s a mixed flock that includes two Golden Laced Wyandottes, two Easter Eggers, a red sexlink, a Buff Orpington, a Dominique, and one incredibly spastic Polish.
On a serious note, when looking at backyard, urban chickens, do your research on local ordinances, clear it with your neighbors (gifts of eggs are very helpful) and be aware of possible negative reactions from those around you. Be aware of the work and expense involved. And be prepared to care for them as long as you might for a dog or cat.  We are urban backyard farmers living in a downtown area within walking distance of city hall.  We compost, garden and raise our hens as part of our family.  We did our research and made it happen for us, to live the way we want to for our family.  I hope you do the same.