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Jun 30

Chickens and Other Avian Wonders

Posted on June 30, 2020 at 10:14 AM by Bobbie Clark

During trying times, it can be good to take a little break and focus on the simpler things in life. For some of us at Lewis & Clark Library that means tending to our birds—chickens for some, coturnix quails for another.  Raising chickens can be stress-relieving, produce sustenance, provide entertainment, and certainly fuel the imagination.  


“The most rewarding part of having chickens has been developing a mutual relationship with all of them, based on trust, just like house pets.  They each have a separate and distinct personality.  I often remind myself that they, undoubtedly, have rich inner lives.” 

--Kristin, Admin Extraordinaire

Chickens 1 

Meet Grizzle. Grizzle belongs to Kristin who works in the library’s administrative department.  Grizzle is a variety of chicken known as a “Naked Neck” or Turken. One noticeable trait in this breed is their featherless necks.  Visitors might claim Naked Necks are ugly chickens. Kristin disagrees. To her, Grizzle is beautiful! 
According to Kristin, Naked Necks have many admirable qualities. After getting to know several different breeds of chickens, Naked Necks are Kristin’s favorite. They are extremely friendly, winter-hardy, and have a lot of personality. Grizzle likes to imitate Kristin, doing whatever she is doing.  Whether it’s digging in the dirt or partaking in fizzy beverages, Grizzle is right there, doing the same or wanting to do the same. (Fizzy beverages are not safe for chickens.  Sorry, Grizzle!) 

Kristin’s interest in keeping chickens was first piqued while reading
How to build a Dinosaur by Jack Horner. The science of reverse engineering a dinosaur by injecting dinosaur DNA into a fertilized chicken egg was fascinating! Shortly after finishing Jack Horner’s book, Kristin serendipitously acquired four pullets and has been keeping chickens for over seven years now. Kristin never did get around to donating chicken eggs to Jack Horner’s project, mainly because she only had hens and would have needed a rooster.  
Fun fact: Did you know that the chicken is the closest living relative to the T-Rex? Chickenosaurus!!! 


Chickens 2

Having chickens is a learning adventure for children as well as adults. When Bretagne, LCL Bookmobile librarian, was young her first childhood pets were Silkie Chickens. The Silkie is a petite variety with super soft feathers and a sweet demeanor making them a perfect pet for children.  Having grown up with Silkies, they are still Bretagne’s favorite breed. 
However, after moving to Montana, Bretagne needed a hardier breed, the Ameraucana. This type of chicken does well with Montana’s cold weather and lays blue eggs! 
“They have really cute beards and muffs,” Bretagne adds.  

The best part about her little flock is how sociable they are. Her trio of hens enjoy going for walks and just hanging out in the yard together. 


Chickens 3

When Public Service Desk Assistant, Beth moved out to the Helena valley, it seemed like a good time to add a few chickens to the fold. “I’ve always dreamed of having a small flock of chickens, and I liked the idea of letting them free-range." 
After reading, Free-range Chicken Gardens by Jessi Bloom, she was inspired. It turns out chickens can help out in the yard. They eat unwanted bugs and weeds and help make compost for the garden. You can even build a chicken ‘tractor’ and your chickens natural desire to scratch will help till up the soil.  

Setbacks can occur as chickens sometimes devour plants other than weeds! 
“I’ve learned chickens love to eat bleeding-heart bushes!” says Beth. 
And last year, several of her hens fell prey to a neighborhood fox. It’s important to make sure the coop is secure and supervise free-ranging, if possible, to protect your birds from predators. 

Don’t forget about fresh eggs! It’s fun to discover a fresh egg in the coop—especially that first time. It’s also great to have an abundance of eggs to share with friends and coworkers. 

Chickens 4 


Chickens aren’t the only type of poultry popular with LCL staffers. Katy, who also works in public service, raises Coturnix Quail. Katy has been raising these pocket-size birds for several years now, a hobby she began while living in Boston, Massachusetts. After Boston, Katy moved to the Colorado Rockies and discovered Coturnix quail can thrive at 9300 ft. Here in Helena, her birds live outside in a rabbit hutch and come inside only when the temperature drops below -15 degrees. 

It’s even more intriguing to know that Katy orders fertile Coturnix quail eggs online, keeps them warm in an incubator and watches them hatch. Katy’s little son Owen is surely going to enjoy having Coturnix Quail to learn about as he grows up.  

Chickens 5          

                                                          Photo by Unknown Artist on Pixaby         

Chickens 6                  

                                                           Photo by Pezibear on Pixaby

If you’re new to raising poultry and would like to learn more, check out our book recommendations below. Click on the linkHERE below the book cover to be taken to the library catalog listing for each book. 


           Chickens 7                               Chickens 8 

              Find it in the library HERE                              Find it in the library HERE 


Do you like to build? Check out these books for some great ideas for coops, chicken tractors and more. 


                       Chickens 9                             Chickens 10 

       Find it in the library HERE                            Find it in the library HERE         

                    Chickens 11                            Chickens 12 

        Find it in the library HERE                            Find it in the library HERE                 


You may also find interest in these related books: 


Chickens 13                      Chickens 14 

                   Find it in the library HERE                                       Find it in the library HERE 




“A Glossary of Chickens” 

 There should be a word for the way 
they look with just one eye, neck bent, 
for beetle or worm or strewn grain. 
"Gleaning," maybe, between "gizzard" 
and "grit." And for the way they run 
toward someone they trust, their skirts 
hiked, their plump bodies wobbling: 
"bobbling," let's call it, inserted 
after "blowout" and before "brood." 
There should be terms, too, for things 
they do not do –like urinate or chew–  
but perhaps there already are.  
I'd want a word for the way they drink,  
head thrown back, throat wriggling, 
like an old woman swallowing 
a pill; a word beginning with S, 
coming after “sex feather" and before "shank." 
And one for the sweetness of hens 
but not roosters. We think 
that by naming we can understand, 
as if the tongue were more than muscle. 
                                                        -by Gary J. Whitehead 

                                    First published in The New Yorker 


Chickens 15HERE 







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