THIS WEEK'S FEATURED STORIES
Which came first?
By Jackie R. Broach
At the sound of sudden, enthusiastic clucking, Lindy Myers tilts her head and turns her attention to a nearby pen.
That distinctive sound is a sure sign there’s a new egg in the multi-colored, wooden chicken coop in her backyard, and she’s checking the pen in an effort to identify which of “the girls” is laying.
It appears to be Katie Jane.
“They always cackle like that when they lay an egg,” Lindy said, a straw hat shading her face. “They’re either really proud or really glad it’s over.”
Perhaps it’s a little of both, she concedes.
Lindy and her husband, Rob, are the proud owners of seven Ameraucana chickens, sometimes called Easter egg chickens because of the pale blue-green eggs they lay. There’s the proud/relieved layer, Katie Jane, plus Amelia June, Ila Pearl, Annie Eloise, Data Pauline, Leila Jean and Sadie Sue.
Lindy gave naming privileges to friends and neighbors who helped build the coop, but she had two requirements: Each hen had to have a double name and it had to sound Southern. As a result, many of the birds draw names from aunts, great-aunts and mothers, Rob said.
The hens all have different personalities, Lindy said, and her affection for them is obvious.
The couple built their coop, which a hand-painted sign proclaims The Shabby Chick, about two years ago after Lindy decided she wanted to raise chickens, adding fresh eggs to the list of items they produce at their home off the South Causeway.
The coop — blue with white trim, a green door and pink shutters — is set up next to a garden where Lindy and Rob grow tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and eggplants, along with an untamed smattering of zinnias.
“We like the idea of a working farm,” Rob said. “We like feeling we’re out in the country.”
But the chickens were all Lindy’s idea.
“I wasn’t for it, but she won me over,” he recalled.
Lindy just smiles. “I would love to have a goat,” she said, “but I’m not going to push it.”
She did a lot of research before building the coop and picking her chickens. She was aided by Marc Wren, a neighbor who designed the coop and coordinated the construction.
Lindy and Rob compare it to an old fashioned barn raising, with a lot of people working together to get the job done quickly. The bulk of the work was done in about a day, but they stretched the rest out over several weekends, according to Rob.
“I did some Dumpster diving to build it,” Lindy said. “That’s why it’s different colors.” She got neighbors to contribute leftover paint. The tin for the roof was also donated.
Rob calls the coop a “chicken condo,” sturdily built and reinforced to keep out carnivorous critters.
Rob and Lindy started with four chickens, all a few months old and near laying age. Then they added three more.
Seven is about the maximum the coop can accommodate without being expanded, Lindy said. Plus, “it’s just a good number.”
Each chicken normally lays an egg a day, but in very hot or cold weather, they produce less. Lindy said she got four eggs from the hens on Tuesday.
Other breeds would lay more prolifically, but she said she likes the Ameraucanas because of the unique color of the eggs.
“They’re pretty and it’s sort of a novelty,” she said.
Her chickens still yield more than enough to share with friends and neighbors. Rob said they barter the eggs for vegetables from others’ gardens.
“Not that we wouldn’t share anyway,” he added, “but trading is kind of fun.”
Lindy said she loves having fresh eggs every morning and knowing they come from “happy, well-treated chickens.”
Fresh eggs also have a richer flavor, she said, and they don’t have to be refrigerated until after they’re washed. Eggs have a natural coating called bloom that seals the pores of the shell, reducing moisture loss and keeping bacteria out, allowing eggs to be kept out in the open for months, though Lindy said she never waits that long.
The chickens have become a fascination for many in the area, and especially kids, who love to come and see them, Lindy said. The neighbors aren’t bothered by the noise, because Lindy and Rob only have hens.
“They’re quiet, because we don’t have rooster,” Lindy said. She and Rob didn’t want to raise chicks, or deal with crowing, so they decided that was best.
True Blue Farms in Hagley, which also raises Ameraucana chickens, had trouble earlier this year over noise complaints about their rooster.
They were saddled with hefty fines, which a judge later threw out. The situation prompted County Council to pass final reading this month of an amendment that excludes agricultural operations from a section of the county noise ordinance pertaining to animals.
“I think they’re happy without a rooster,” Lindy added with an appraising look toward her hens.
As much as she likes fresh eggs, Lindy said it would definitely be cheaper to buy eggs at the grocery store, factoring in the cost of feed and hay.
She likes to put the hay out for the chickens to scratch around in.
That, along with cleaning out the coop, should be the extent of caring for the chickens, but Rob said Lindy likes to pamper them.
Lindy doesn’t try to deny it. She enjoys looking out for the girls, she said.