New this year!
* live chicken health check demonstrations at 11am, 1pm, and 3pm
* special guest: Leslie Crawford, author of Sprig the Rescue Pig and Gwen the Rescue Hen (Pssst! She will bring chocolate eggs…)
* benefit sale: hens & chicks succulents, chicken forage seeds, books, and more
We live in Los Altos and share our backyard with nine wonderful hens. We started our little backyard flock with three hens, and transformed it into a micro-sanctuary by adopting rescued hens. It was the start of Clorofil, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit promoting chicken adoption and educating the public about pet chicken care.
Yes! You can adopt chickens! Like cats and dogs, there are many chickens waiting for their forever home in shelters and sanctuaries. Most of our rescues are ex-commercial egg laying hens from battery cage farms.
We put together some information that may be interesting for new chicken pet owners. After a quick intro of our hens, you will find information on why to adopt chickens and how to care for them (including details of our coops).
Come and visit our coop on September 15, 2018!
Peter & Isabelle
At 9, Ginger is the eldest of the flock. She loves her greens, especially kales and chards. When she is molting, she gets very grumpy and wants to roost in the trees instead of going back into the coop for the night.
Poppy is the biggest of all the hens, and also the fastest. She is always first to come for treats. When she was a youngster, she enjoyed chasing squirrels and birds around the orchard.
Sage loves announcing very publicly that she laid an egg. And she gets really upset when someone is in her favorite nest when it’s time to lay.
Luna, Spunky, Sugar, and Fleur
They are White Leghorns rescued by Animal Place from a battery cage farm. They are all debeaked which is a common and cruel practice in the chicken industry. They have beautiful big red combs.
Luna is our little ambassadress. She comes to Clorofil’s talks and classes, meets kids, and learned to pick out the queen of spades from a deck of cards. Watch her. It’s quite amazing!
She is a Red Sex Link, rescued from a pasture based egg farm. She is missing an eye and cannot see much from the other one, but she developed the ability to navigate quite well just by listening to every sound around her.
Peppa is our newest and tiniest resident. She is a 1.5lb 6 year old Wyandotte bantam. She is blind and is very social. She likes sitting on our laps or roosting on our wrist while we are at the computer.
Why adopting chickens?
Chickens are just great pets!
They are fun, social, cute, each has their own personality.
And they are much less maintenance than our cats and dog!
Chickens are also wonderful gardener helpers!
They eat bugs and grubs, weed the garden, and generate nitrogen fertilizer (we put their poop in our compost pile which is then used in our vegetable garden).
Rescue chickens are very rewarding.
They blossom from skinny beaten up birds to beautiful hens. It’s amazing to watch them discovering how to be a chicken: opening their wings, taking a dust bath, tasting new food for the first time.
Adopting a hen actually saves more than one hen’s life.
Not only does it allow hen rescue organizations to keep on saving hens from egg farms, it also discourages the breeding of chicks for backyard flocks.
As with any pet, realize that chickens live for many years and require an investment (food, shelter, vet…).
How to care for chickens?
New to backyard chickens or experienced keeper, come and join one of the pet chicken care classes Isabelle teaches: “Gearing up for pet chickens” and “Happy & healthy pet chickens”.
The next sections give some information about our coop and what we feed our chickens.
Our main coop consists of a hen house and a large run.
The house is 7’x3′ with 3 nesting boxes and two roosts. The run is 21’x8’6″ and fully enclosed. There is no screen at the bottom to allow the hens to scratch their heart’s content and enjoy deep dust baths. Instead a 2′ deep hex netting (1/2″ mesh) is buried underground all around the coop to prevent any critters to dig under.
We got this coop from Green Chicken Coop (which is unfortunately out of business now) and extended the A frame run quite a bit to give lots of space to the girls.
This coop is completely predator proof. The hens (and we!) can sleep tight at night.
During the day, the hens have access to our orchard (about 2500 sqft).
This area is fenced with a 7′ wood fence towards the neighbors, and with a 4′ sheep wire fence to the rest of our backyard. This protects the hens from our dog, and the vegetable garden from the hens!
Where we live, hawks are the main predators. They already killed 2 of our hens. Now we only let them in the orchard when we are outside in the backyard.
We have another coop for guest chickens. It’s a fun little coop we got from Omlet. It’s super easy to sanitize which is quite essential to offer a perfectly clean home to our guests. And it can be moved around which allows greener grass to the chickens who can’t go free range.
We added a new little coop for Peppa, our special needs resident. It’s a standard ready to assemble coop sold to host 2 to 4 chickens, but really only fits one small hen. Which is perfect for Peppa, our little blind bantam. We modified a bit to make it predator and rat proof, and increase ventilation.
We free feed our chickens with the organic layer crumbles from Modesto Milling. It’s a complete feed. We chose crumbles over pellets as we have debeaked chickens who have difficulties eating pellets. We offer a side of oyster shells to meet the calcium needs of the ex-commercial hens.
In addition to their feed, they get lots of fruits and veggies. Kales and chards that we grow especially for them. Apricots, tomatoes, cucumbers… nibbled by the squirrel thief squad patrolling our garden. And most of our leftover and kitchen scraps.
They also get scratch (mix of wheat, barley, oat, corn, and sunflower) as treats. They love it! This is what we use to teach them to go back in their coop on demand.
We are also feeding them some of their own eggs (hard boiled and crushed). It’s full of protein and calcium, and helps them compensate for the unnatural quantity of eggs they have been bred to produce.
Other things to see in the garden
There is an old apricot tree from the original orchard which still produces delicious fruits, and 3 young fruit trees.
Since the hens have access to the orchard and they love digging, we replaced the traditional basin irrigation by drip irrigation.
The vegetable garden
There are 10 raised beds where we grow veggies all year round, both for us and the hens.
When a bed is not used, we usually grow a cover crop in it (aka green manure).
There are lots of critters (squirrels in particular) who use our garden as an all-you-can-eat buffet. We built different structures to try to keep some of the harvest to ourselves!
The compost pile
Almost nothing goes to the yard waste at our home. All goes to the compost pile directly or indirectly via the hens…
There are 2 piles: one to add new stuff and one that finishes off. It’s mostly a slow composting process, although it does become hot with the right proportion of greens and browns.
The finished compost is used in the vegetable garden.
Mulch and lawn
With the drought, we removed most of the lawn and heavily mulched the soil. The frontyard is a native/mediterranean garden since 2013.
Mulch is a wonderful way to keep your soil healthy, add organic matter, conserve water, reduce soil compaction… and all while preventing weeds to grow!
The reduced lawn consists of 2 different grasses: the seashore bentgrass (agrostis pallens) which is a native cool season grass, and the UC verde buffalograss which is a warm season grass. They both require little water, fertilizer, and virtually no mowing.