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To Name or Not to Name

September 26th, 2012

A few folks have been asking about our new chickens, how they are doing and if we are going to name them. You know how it goes with animals like this, you run the risk of losing them to predators. It’s kind of like having outdoor cats, you don’t really want to get too attached to them. Same goes with chickens. A few hours after we were discussing this yesterday, we found out that we had lost a hen and the rooster. We found 2 piles of feathers in the woods by the coop. The neighbor has been having trouble with a fox getting a few chickens, so it’s probably the same issue here.

You may remember my love for 007. We were thinking if we were going to name them, the rooster would be named “James” and his flock of ladies will be named after all of the Bond Girls. Guess if we do name them this guy will be Sean Connery since he was the first Bond and the little lady would have been Sylvia Trench, one of the girls in Dr No. Update: this morning when I went out the coop, Miss Sylvia was there trying to get in, seems she escaped the fox thanks to the heroic efforts of James.

When we arrived last week, there was a note on the table that one of the hens was broody. She had been sitting on her eggs for about 10 days, it said. Talk about jumping in head first! If all goes well, we’ll have chicks soon. I’ve read a lot about chickens, but have never really had one. Luckily our new neighbor knows a lot about chickens and gave me plenty of great advice.

Getting a real farm dog should help. We love the resident Chiots, but she is old and has led a cushy urban life. We’re thinking a Great Pyrenees, Newfoundland or Anatolian Shepherd might be what we add next to help protect our flock and any other animals we get.

This week will find us out cleaning out the coop and setting up an area for the broody hen to keep her chicks safe for a while. Guess having a rooster hatch in this batch won’t be so bad now that we need one! Let’s hope all goes well with the broody hen and her eggs.

If you have chickens or livestock do you name them? Any suggestions on good guardian dogs for us to consider?

42 Comments to “To Name or Not to Name”
  1. Adelina Anderson on September 26, 2012 at 6:19 am

    That is the one reason I havent got chickens yet. I am to afraid to lose one – I get way too attached to critters (including the ones living in my attic). As for dogs, how about a burmese mountain dog?

    Reply to Adelina Anderson's comment

  2. Linda on September 26, 2012 at 6:23 am

    Since keeping chickens will ultimately mean needing to harvest some, if only because you have multiple roosters, I’ve thought I might name them “Scallopine”, “Parmesan”, “Marsala”, etc. to help keep me from getting attatched.

    Reply to Linda's comment

    • Susy on September 26, 2012 at 7:39 am

      Those are GREAT names. I have a friend who named his pigs Pork & Beans!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  3. Joan on September 26, 2012 at 6:38 am

    All of our critters have names, though some are not too imaginative. The chickens that we can tell apart (the aracaunas, rocks, etc…) have real names. The RI Reds have numbers, based upon tags we put around their legs. Thus we have Number 1, Number 2, Number 4, etc… Once they have names they become much more real to us and we care about them more. It hurts more when they die though.

    Reply to Joan's comment

    • louisa @ TheReallyGoodLife on September 27, 2012 at 9:15 am

      We have a similar thing – we put rings around our red chickens’ legs when we first got them so we could tell them apart, and their names derived from that (Lime, Blue, Green and Ms Mauve), and the others were tagged by their feather colour (Blacksy, Ginger, Buff etc). It’s useful to be able to identify them, and talk about them specifically, but I don’t want to get too attached to them.

      Reply to louisa @ TheReallyGoodLife's comment

  4. Sue from Ky. on September 26, 2012 at 7:45 am

    Folks around her use the Great Pyrenees dog to guard everything.We are considering getting one of our own.

    It has always been a desire of ours to let our chickens run free, but the wildlife has kept us from doing so. We let our chickens out during the day,when the garden is no longer producing,but we pen them up each night.Still there is the danger of hawks catching them right in front of your very eyes, during the day.

    Reply to Sue from Ky.'s comment

    • Susy on September 26, 2012 at 2:25 pm

      Yes, this happened in the middle of the day!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  5. Daedre Craig on September 26, 2012 at 8:00 am

    You’re going to love having chickens! Getting chickens was one of the best decisions I’ve made…I will have chickens the rest of my life.

    Can you get an electric fence and then just coop them up at night (since that’s when the majority of the mischief happens)?

    Reply to Daedre Craig's comment

  6. Ann on September 26, 2012 at 8:00 am

    I can’t help with the guard dog suggestion. Our pit bull mix would not chase off a squirrel let alone a fox!! But we have a very strong coop and run that they stay in half the day. The other half they free range but we are usually outside nearby which lessens the chance they will be predated.

    Our first chickens are named after Shakespearian characters. Hamlet, Horatio, Ophelia, Portia, and Rosilind.

    Then came set #2. They are Easter eggers with green legs so they got named after characters from Wicked. Elphaba and Nessa Rose.

    Lastly we have 2 Welsummers. They are the only 2 chickens I can not tell apart at all. So they are Cinder and Ella. Whom ever comes first when called is Cinder, whom ever lags behind is Ella.

    Our girls are only for eggs so no need to ever slaughter them. And if I ever do, my best friend will come do it for me. Isn’t that what best friends are for?

    Reply to Ann's comment

  7. Gayle on September 26, 2012 at 8:08 am

    We have lots of critters and name most of them. All the llamas and goats get names, so far all of the peacocks and most of the chickens. I don’t name the guineas because they all look alike and I’m not even sure how many there are since they free range and move VERY fast. We have three livestock guardian dogs, two Great Pyrs and one Bulgarian Karakachan. The BK is still young, but he is more excitable. The Pyrs are rock solid and would give up their lives to protect their charges. Many a cold morning I have found the baby llamas curled up to the Pyrs for comfort and warmth. They have a low “woof” of warning to all potential predetors. I sleep well because they work nights! They are loyal and affectionate and do their job superbly.

    Reply to Gayle's comment

  8. jennifer fisk on September 26, 2012 at 8:17 am

    I have 3 German Shepherds and haven’t lost one chicken to foxes or coyotes. As soon as the ground freezes, the Goshawk starts picking them off though so that adds a whole new dimension to protection. A fox did try to climb into my turkey pen last March and I let one of the dogs out. Never saw him again. My neighbors have had trouble with coyotes but the only thing they’ve gotten from me is a rabbit that got out of its cage. The dogs intervened in that but the young ran off with the rabbit while the adults entertained the dogs. As you might guess, my choice of livestock protection is a GSD.
    If you choose a Great Pyr, Maremma, Anatolian etc, you should should get one that has been imprinted on livestock but then it won’t be a companion dog for you. A Newf isn’t the right dog for the job unless the chickens are floundering in water. I really think you should go with a good working line GSD because of the versatility factor and the inbred understanding of protecting what is the owners from interlopers.

    Reply to jennifer fisk's comment

  9. James R on September 26, 2012 at 8:23 am

    I grew up with chickens and my brother currently has a few. When I have enough property, I will raise them again. In my opinion, naming them makes it tough, not only when you lose them to predators but when you have to cull them out as well (they only lay eggs really well for about 2 years). The old hens make great chicken stock and the roosters butchered at the fryer stage make a great meal.

    As far as the dog is concerned, any dog that you love will work great. Once they’re out of the puppy stage and realize that the chickens are part of the landscape and not for their amusement they will take great care of those birds and any other livestock.

    Reply to James R's comment

  10. Christine on September 26, 2012 at 8:31 am

    I second the great pyranees. I live around several sheep farmers who use them, and they’re great tempered. We also have some friends that just moved to VA to start a ranch, and they’re planning on getting one as well. Great dogs.

    Reply to Christine's comment

  11. Melissa on September 26, 2012 at 8:37 am

    We finally decided to name our ducks- it’s easier than saying- “the black headed one” when you are talking about them. My thing is- if you are going to eat them then don’t name them or name them things like what we call our pigs– porkchop, bacon and fatback! But if you aren’t planning on eating them, by all means name them- it makes it easier to keep them straight!

    Reply to Melissa's comment

  12. Jaye on September 26, 2012 at 9:16 am

    Yes! All of our pet family are named. I love your 007 idea!

    Personally I haven’t had experience with the breeds you’ve mentioned, but I know those who own the Great Pyrenees and have been very happy with them for work and family-wise. I see them everywhere here on farms, so something must be right about them. But I’m sure the others would be great too. More to research!!

    Reply to Jaye's comment

  13. Louise on September 26, 2012 at 9:22 am

    Chickens are lovely to have! We only have had hens, since we can’t have a rooster where we live. This year we did not overwinter any of our chickens and will be getting a new batch in the spring. I currently miss not hearing chicken talk in the chicken yard.

    We have named our chickens in the past, but will not do so with the new batch. Chickens have real good egg production during the first 2 years. After that it tapers off every year. If you have chickens for producing eggs; you will find yourself replacing them every 2 years. It becomes difficult to cull a chicken with a name, so from now on we do not name them any longer.

    You must be thrilled to have your own chickens now. They are an essential part of self sustainability.

    Reply to Louise's comment

  14. Lisa on September 26, 2012 at 9:24 am

    I have read that Great Pyrenees do a wonderful job guarding livestock. You might check out Ohio Farm Girl’s Adventures as she has dogs to guard livestock.

    Reply to Lisa's comment

  15. Tamar on September 26, 2012 at 9:25 am

    We use a Great Pyrenees to guard our sheep from coyotes. They are gentle (my four year old son is safe playing with him), but I have heard that they can get grumpy and snarly when they get older. One issue — these dogs run, they will chase a coyote to death. This means that they may not stay at home. We must keep him within fences with the sheep, otherwise he would be chasing coyotes all over the countryside.

    Reply to Tamar's comment

  16. Julie on September 26, 2012 at 9:52 am

    We stayed on a farm last year for vacation, and the owners had 9 Great Pyreness–they were fabulous. Not only did they protect the animals, they also served as big, fluffy pillows for our kids to flop around on. They were the sweetest dogs–but they were also great protectors. And, when hubby and I took an off-the-path hike in the mountains and got terribly turned around, the dogs led us back to the farm.

    All of our girls have names, thanks to our 11-year-old Chicken Mama. They are definitely pets, living in our suburban backyard, and they’ll be with us forever, even after they stop laying. Still, we did have a raccoon attack one of the girls last January, and it was horrible. Our vet met us at 5:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning to try to save Salt, while my girlie and I bawled. I even gave the vet the OK to try surgery–which would have been close to $400. (I know, I know.) Still–our lovely vet called me and said it wouldn’t be fair to poor Salt due to the extent of her injuries.

    We now have baby Saltine.

    So to name or not to name? I’m not sure it would make any difference for someone like my daughter. No matter if they had names or numbers, I think she would be just as devastated if something happened to her girls. And so would I.

    So sorry to hear about your rooster and hen, but wishing you the joy of many little peeps!

    Reply to Julie's comment

  17. Vicki on September 26, 2012 at 10:03 am

    We name our girls. We consider them part of the family. They give us great eggs and in return they get great tasting treats! I live in the mountains I have lots of dangerous wildlife to look out for, bears, bob cats, mountain lions, fox, coyotoes, rattlesnakes :(. I had 4 orginal girls but chubby cheeks our americuana was the first to go, she didnt like hanging out with the rest she did her own thing. So I am left with 3 Ooma, Zeta, and Peaches. I have since then gotten 6 more older girls. Slowly naming them Raggedy Anne, Mammas ( I think she might go broody on me) and Elma. Still need 3 more names, but I have to get to know them and they dont trust me yet. Anyways GOODLUCK!

    Reply to Vicki's comment

  18. Diana Holly on September 26, 2012 at 10:12 am

    Whatever kind of dog you decide to get, please please please adopt from a shelter or rescue. Some people assume that animals in shelters are all mutts or “bad dogs”. But, I work at my local animal shelter and 1 in 3 dogs that come through our doors are purebreds being surrendered by their owners who can no longer care for them. There are all kinds of breed-specific rescue groups if you decide on a specific breed. I know you are a loving and responsible pet-owner, but all this talk of breeds, I couldn’t help but mention the alternatives to getting a dog from a breeder.

    Reply to Diana Holly's comment

    • louisa @ TheReallyGoodLife on September 27, 2012 at 9:25 am


      In the UK at least, there are a lot of “working” style dogs at shelters too – because people in tiny flats/homes buy them as cute puppies then have to give them up when the reality kicks in.

      Reply to louisa @ TheReallyGoodLife's comment

  19. Jessica on September 26, 2012 at 10:21 am

    I’m for naming, even if it’s something I’m going to eat. I just think it shows more respect to the animal while it is alive (even though I realize they don’t know the difference.) I figure I’m going to become attached to the animal whether it has a name or not, and naming them is easier. Although you can always just “name” the rooster 007, I suppose.

    Lucy is beautiful. I love that photo of her. I hadn’t realized in other photos how muscular she is, even if she has led a “cushy urban life.” :-)

    Reply to Jessica's comment

    • Susy on September 26, 2012 at 2:30 pm

      She is very muscular and gets lots of exercise! Thanks to her raw meaty bone diet, she’s super healthy as well and still has tons of energy for being 10.5 years old!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  20. whit on September 26, 2012 at 11:04 am

    We are guilty of naming our chickens, and it has it consequences. Right now we are dealing with aggressive rooster issues, and unfortunately my daughter named him, so that’s made it harder.

    I try to name one chicken out of the batch after an egg dish. We have Meringue, Souffle, Macaroon…i was thinking i would name my birthday chickens i got this year after the influential woman in my life. Always a no no, eh? Maybe if i stick with dead relatives names?

    I like the James Bond theme. Great idea!

    Reply to whit's comment

  21. June on September 26, 2012 at 11:16 am

    We’ve been naming our chickens Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail for the last 5 years. The chickens keep changing, but the names stay the same. ;-) even when we have more than 3 chickens. It works for us because chickens are forbidden in our neighborhood, but rabbits are OK. If anyone asks what’s in the cage behind the garage, we just say: “Oh that’s just Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail” and leave it at that!

    Reply to June's comment

    • Susy on September 26, 2012 at 2:31 pm

      Great idea – love the naming idea to make people think they’re rabbits!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  22. risa on September 26, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Susannah, a White China goose, is a true pet, hence her name, but successive groups of ducks and chickens receive group designations. A generation of Americaunas, for example, might be the Annies. We’re scary enough to be willing to retrieve a container of crock-pot Henrietta from the freezer, but at least we don’t know who that was personally. :)

    Reply to risa's comment

  23. Margie Clyde on September 26, 2012 at 11:37 am

    I would suggest an old fashioned Collie for protection. We had one for years and she did a great job, as well as being a wonderful pet.
    I love having laying hens, but do keep them in a fenced area due to raccoons-only let them out when I am around and the garden isn’t in production. I know you will love having chickens!

    Reply to Margie Clyde's comment

  24. Denimflyz on September 26, 2012 at 11:55 am

    Generally the dogs used here in my part of Nebraska are the Great Pyres. A lot of the ranchers up in the Sandhills use greyhounds and Ridgebacks for the coyote control and patrol and sentry duty. The Pyres are wonderful and will take on coyotes here.

    Reply to Denimflyz's comment

    • Denimflyz on September 26, 2012 at 11:57 am

      My rancher where I get my free range chicken uses three Pyres to watch the chickens out in the pastures. They even keep the hawks and falcons away.

      Reply to Denimflyz's comment

  25. tj on September 26, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    …Oh dear, James Bond. *giggle*snort* :o)

    …I read this on FB and again, I am sorry for your loss. It is hard losing chickens whether they’re named or not. We used to free range our flock but lost too many to stray dogs and hawks. We now have a large covered, fenced in chicken area attached to the chicken house and that is where they stay unless we are going to be out in the yard then we let our flock out to keep an eye on them ’til the last one goes in (we’re vigilant about this). I hate to see wildlife killed off because chickens were running around loose. If you free range you’re more or less dangling a tasty dinner in front of a starved wild animal. Naturally they’re gonna go where the picking is easy. Just my humble opinion.
    I’m a big proponent of chicken tractors and feel if you want free ranged birds then this would be the route to go. Again, just my humble opinion. ;o)

    …And btw, yes – I do name my chickens but only my sweet mannered ones.

    …I am so excited for you that you’re gonna be hatching new baby chicks! I had a hen go broody this past Spring and she hatched 11 baby chicks, half of ’em ended up being roosters. Ugh. :o\ I’m putting ’em on Craigslist next week. *sigh*

    …Miss Chiots is so pretty! She doesn’t look old, whatta sweet face tho’. :o)

    …Have a wonderful day you two! Enjoy your new Maine homestead!

    …Blessings :o)

    Reply to tj's comment

    • tj on September 26, 2012 at 1:54 pm

      …Btw, how are the cats and dog adjusting to their new farm? I bet they can’t get enough of it. I know I would be roaming every square inch of it. lol… :o)

      Reply to tj's comment

      • Susy on September 26, 2012 at 2:32 pm

        The cats are doing very well and settling in quite nicely. Update on them tomorrow!

        to Susy's comment

  26. judym on September 26, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Two grandkids have each adopted a hen. One is Biggs and the other Kendra (formerly known as Bob even though a hen). The rest (11 ) have no names. They all surely have their own personalities, thoug
    h. Due to all the predators around here, we don’t free range our ladies. They have a 20×10 run which will be expanded next spring. In the end we will have a fairly large run for the girls to roam.

    Thought about a guard dog or other critter for the hens but still thinkin’ on that. So far the girls seem secure in their home. Enjoy you

    Reply to judym's comment

  27. Chris on September 26, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    I whole heartedly agree…that’s probably not two words but oh well…with the person that suggested getting a guard dog from a shelter as there are so many out there waiting for a home and sometimes mixed breeds are way better than a purebred dog with all it’s inbred problems!
    Number two suggestion….build a SECURE, enclosure for your chickens, including a cover of some sort…ie…hawks, owls, etc. and to keep anything else from climbing over the top. It’s not fun finding the remains of your chickens because of a flimsy enclosure…nor was it fun for them!! It may cost you a little more to build but in the long run…better for you and them and any wildlife that may lose their lives because of their natural instinct to hunt and eat!

    Reply to Chris's comment

    • Trish on September 26, 2012 at 6:31 pm

      I agree too with the suggestion of the pound puppy for a guard dog. When we moved out of town we had 2 lab mixes, one of whom was very territorial and protection-minded. I watch him chase off many a coyote. After he died, I asked my vet if he knew any big dogs needing homes. He had an enormous dog at his clinic who was looking for a home. Humphrey was an amazing protector, and always seemed grateful for his new country home.

      We now have a coon hound who showed up at our house a few winters ago. She patrols all night and nothing gets by that nose. And she is the sweetest-natured dog. The dogs are also great for keeping critters out of the garden.

      Reply to Trish's comment

  28. KimH on September 26, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    My family has named many of its farm animals, but we always knew they were destined to be eaten.. one way or another..

    Reply to KimH's comment

  29. Rocky on September 27, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    We have 12 chickens in our backyard for eggs but not as pets. Since they are layers and not for meat, they have been with us for a while. The older five hens have been with us for 3 years now. Other 7 for 2 years. We intentionally did not name them for the fear of becoming too attached to them as we often do to our own pets. I will likely to cull all five of older birds before this winter, for they really aren’t laying much eggs any more. You do need to think about what you are going to do with them when they get old. Chicken can live up to 10-12 years. So, my suggestion is, if you are planning to keep any of them as pet, go ahead, name it. If not, don’t get attached to it so much. However, they do have a name, kinda, not an individual one but only one name for all chickens. They are all Kokko-chan, which is an affectionate calling name for a “chicken” in our native language.

    Oh, we also have 7 Khaki campbell ducks. Although, females are great layer, they are more of our yard pets, so they have individual name to them.

    Reply to Rocky's comment

  30. Heather on October 15, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    I’d recommend considering a Queensland Heeler. Annabelle keeps our flock safe from all predators in our area; hawks, possum, racoons, and snakes. With the added bonus that she herds the chickens on occasion – quite a sight! And, yes, we named our chickens up until this year. My daughter put her foot down and said any chickie girl or dude destined for the dinner plate definately does NOT get named. So nobody this year has a name. None of the chickens seems to mind…

    Reply to Heather's comment

  31. Myra on November 18, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    A little late with a comment but I only just discovered your site this week! We have 4 buff Orpington ladies collectively named “Cora”. Our eldest hen, a Rhode Island red, is the last of 6 that were named “Harriett.” Our rooster, also a Rhode Island red, is Jake. Every rooster we’ve ever had has been Jake.

    Reply to Myra's comment

  32. Amie on November 25, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    I name mine, The breeds I chose are not super for eggs or meat, but are calm and intelligent! I did not expect it, but some of mine are as friendly as a parrot! They will follow me around and come hop on my lap if I pull up a chair near their hen house. (Easter eggers, d’uccles, bantam cochin, orpington; I want to try russian orloffs and silkies)

    I have found them to be a great way to unwind after a long day, their antics are always amusing. As a bonus, i get eggs (occasionally, but always a cause for celebration). I have found the quality of the eggs to be far superior to those in the store.

    I keep mine in a run when i’m not around to watch out for predators, a covered run really is best. A few bushes in there for shade and cover. ( I have a fenced off little flower garden in mine, provides interest for the birds and guests; though if anything grows out of the fencing it promptly gets eaten!) When I’m gardening or just relaxing on the lawn I let them out and usually they will camp out not far from where I’m resting, they like the safety and the shade of the woods and around the bushes.

    I have not lost any to predators, though i did have a close call once with a very large hawk that did not see me sitting there!

    Reply to Amie's comment

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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