In the urban areas of Puyallup and South Hill, raising chickens isn’t the most obvious of hobbies. But it’s something that’s catching on, especially in today’s do-it-yourself culture. And it’s legal, according to city and county ordinances.
For Kerri McDonald, a paraeducator who lives near downtown in the Puyallup Valley, and Shawna Abel, a stay-at-home mom who lives on South Hill, it’s a way of life.
“It’s amazingly serene to watch (the hens),” Abel said Friday as she lounged on her porch in her immaculately landscaped backyard.
Bordering her back property is a 70-foot-long run originally built for her three Labradors. They brought the Labs inside when one of them died, and Abel’s husband, Brian, quipped that getting chickens would be fun.
“I didn’t know if he was joking at the time,” Shawna said.
The next morning, during spring 2012, Shawna went to Dell’s Feed and Farm Supply in Puyallup along with her 4-year-old daughter, Annabella, and they brought home six baby chicks. Within three months, they doubled that number.
Shawna said the chicks started in their dog kennels in the garage with a heat lamp to keep them warm, then they took them outside. Shawna’s father-in-law built a hen house where the hens could sleep, feed and lay their eggs.
One of the first six chicks the Abels received was a rooster, although roosters are illegal to keep because of the sounds they make. Before Shawna’s uncle adopted it, the rooster fertilized an egg, and it hatched two weeks ago.
Annabella named the baby chick Bella Baby.
“Through this whole project, it’s been great for the kids to see mothering by the hens,” Shawna said. “It’s by pure instinct; it’s nature.”
Shawna’s other two kids are Dylan, 14, and Madeleine, 12.
Meanwhile, McDonald said she always wanted a mini-farm in her yard.
“This is the closest I can get to a mini-farm,” she said.
McDonald purchased three baby chicks from Sumner Animal Grub in March 2012. At about 6 months old, each hen started to lay eggs. Each hen lays an egg a day, and McDonald isn’t shy about giving them to friends and family members.
“I pay my mother in eggs when she babysits my niece and my son,” McDonald said.
McDonald said she also gives her eggs to her sister-in-law and mother-in-law.
McDonald’s husband, Darren, built a hen house in the backyard that’s well protected from nighttime predators.
“It’s relaxing while I work on the yard,” McDonald said. “I talk to them, and they talk back to me. They’re very friendly.”
McDonald said she thought getting the hens may be an educational experience for her 9-year-old son, Sam, and it might get him to like the taste of eggs more. McDonald said the eggs are creamier, and the yolk is a darker yellow.
“It’s a whole different experience in the taste,” she said. “They taste fresher. It’s amazing the difference.”
The taste is not enough for Sam. While he was swinging in the backyard, he said he loves eggs in cupcakes, cakes and cookies.
McDonald said her son may not like the taste, but Sam will retrieve the eggs for her.
“It’s a very rewarding hobby,” she said.
On the web
Kerri McDonald and Shawna Abel say those who are interested in the hobby can learn more a www.backyardchickens.com.Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.