Backyard Chickens are Hatching

07 Aug 2020

Domesticity inspires a new family pastime

By Elizabeth Sugg  »  Photos by Lynn McGugan

An outgrowth of our home sequestering for most of us has been quite a bit more cooking, planting a summer garden (or a more extensive one), and for some, hatching a few backyard chickens. Lynn McGugan of Southern Pines reached out about this burgeoning family activity throughout the Sandhills when she placed a call for more chicks for her coop to Aberdeen Supply and the new arrivals were already gone. Another source, Tractor Supply Company, said to come quickly because the chicks were flying out the door…figuratively, not literally. McGugan has been raising chickens for 10 years, a hobby she began shortly after she and her husband settled onto a farm in horse country, and with her trademark sense of humor named her coop Fowl Play.

“They are soothing to have around,” McGugan explains. “Taking care of them ties into farm life, waking up early, having a routine, plus they eat bugs and we have fresh eggs every day!”

Her long rectangular coop has been added onto through the years. Look closely and you will see that the structure is made of old doors and windows patched together with McGugan’s homesteading vision. Vintage style for her backyard chickens! What began as a hen house and walking area on the far left (page 56) grew into a more extensive enclosed space as McGugan increased the number of hens she wanted to raise. A longtime friend gave her the small shed on the far right that is now the hen house. Her brood of chickens is a mix of Rhode Island Reds, Araucanas which lay distinctive green eggs, black Sex-links and a few that are “supply store” hens with no distinguished family background, and they all get along well. McGugan uses her original coop area for new chicks, keeping them separated until they grow large enough to integrate with the others. She had just merged some new chicks into her flock as she has some hens who are about five and six-years of age, a long life for a chicken, and she wants to keep her number on hand around 15.

“I think with Covid a lot of people are home with their kids, and raising chickens is a great family activity, teaching responsibility and having fun with it,” McGugan says.

There are lots of ways to build a coop. Lynda Acker, another backyard chicken enthusiast, suggests a website for ideas on styles of coops, and likes their friendly approach describing the nuts and bolts of getting started. She, too, sources her chicks from Aberdeen Supply and Tractor Supply Company as well as Carthage Farm Supply. A professional landscape designer, Acker’s coop and hen houses coexist in a large, wired-in garden space with various greenhouses. Apples and tomatoes that fall or have a bruise become market fare for her chicks. McGugan agrees, “They are great recyclers!”

In addition to her own coop, McGugan shared photographs of two styles that belong to her neighbors that she thought had good bones and ideas for people considering raising chickens. A large round coop features both indoor and outdoor spaces, its circular shape adding an attractive dimension to a backyard space. Another coop is a transformation of an existing outdoor building in which the owners built lots of things to climb on and tunnels to walk through for entertainment. Rather than wooden nesting boxes, a row of large blue buckets house the chickens when they are ready to nest and lay their eggs.

You never know where this newfound domesticity may lead, but if you enjoy fresh eggs sunny side up and would find some soft clucking in the background a peaceful sound to keep you company, you may consider checking your town’s regulations and raising a few backyard chickens. To borrow McGugan’s adjective, “soothing” sounds pretty good.

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