PV News/Wednesday, June 7, 2017 5:10 pm

By Karen Duncan Cutler

Growing up near downtown L.A. left me feeling displaced. I longed to live in the country, tend a garden, ride horses and raise farm animals. Years later, hubby asked what I’d like for my big birthday.

“Chickens,” I replied. “The kids are grown and I need some new friends!”

Extensive research left me feeling confident I’d be successful with a small flock. Hubby crafted a beautiful coop surrounded by an enclosed run to protect my little dears from predators. We were ready to go.

There are many ways to acquire chickens. Day-old chicks are available from pet stores, hatcheries or breeders. You can also purchase started pullets, which are young hens that save you from providing heat until they are fully feathered.

Animal shelters and local egg producers offer chickens for adoption, but it is important to quarantine new birds for at least 30 days if you are adding them to an existing flock. I opted to order eight, day-old female chicks, overnighted from a hatchery in the Midwest. My Pet Chicken and Meyer Hatchery will allow you to purchase a small number if you choose an arrival date during warmer months. Unfortunately, I lost two in transit, which was devastating, but the excitement of claiming your little peeping box from the Postal Service is indescribable.

I’ve been lucky with subsequent shipments. My flock of eight quickly grew to 12, then 16 and now 20. It’s called chicken math! There truly is a pecking order that determines where they stand on the roost and which nest box they choose. Every breed is different, demonstrated by the color and frequency of eggs they lay, their temperament and ability to handle extreme changes in the weather.

Contrary to popular belief, you do not need a rooster to get eggs, only to have fertilized eggs. Once eggs are fertilized, they can be placed in an incubator or under a “broody” hen. About 21 days later, you’ll walk in and hear peep, peep, peep! Just remember that if you chose to hatch, 50 percent will be roosters!

Yes, they are a lot of work and they can destroy your garden. They must have fresh air, water and food. I treat mine each afternoon with fresh fruit, vegetables, non-fat yogurt or meal worms. They each have their own personalities and they do become your friend!

If handled from a young age, they will sit on your lap and enjoy being stroked. They will come when called and will warn you if something is wrong. They have feelings and they mourn the loss of a friend … and you have to be prepared for the fact that some will die.

We are lucky to have a vet adjacent to Golden Cove Plaza that will treat chickens as things do happen. I have found that the joy of “chickening” and fresh eggs that I share with clients certainly make up for the moments of loss and pain. Do check with your city to determine local restrictions.

Karen Duncan Cutler, a resident of the unincorporated area of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, is a real estate agent with Cutler & Cutler/ Keller Williams. (www.cutlerandcutler.com)