Caroline Phillips with one of her chickens
Caroline Phillips with one of her chickens

Caroline Phillips started raising chickens because of Martha Stewart. Yes, that Martha Stewart. Really. That’s the way Caroline tells it.

Caroline is 16. She’s a junior at Holy Spirit Preparatory School. She was born in Australia, but her family moved from Melbourne to Chicago when she was four. They thought it was too cold there, she said, so they moved on to metro Atlanta. Caroline’s lost her Australian accent, but her parents have kept theirs.

Now they live in the panhandle of Sandy Springs, in an area of big, riverfront yards where Caroline likes to go kayaking and where she says, no kidding, you can occasionally spot an otter. They have pet dogs and they keep a couple of beehives. “I just look at them as insect pets,” Caroline said.

None of that fully explains the chickens, however.

The chickens are there because Caroline is a big fan of Martha Stewart, the queen of do-it-yourself home furnishings, home decorating, home entertaining and just about anything else that happens around the house. “I really like Martha Stewart,” Caroline said. “She’s very interesting.”

Martha Stewart, Caroline says, raises chickens. That was enough for Caroline. “They seemed like fun,” she said.

So, in her best Martha Stewart style, Caroline turned suburban chicken farmer and raised five pet chickens of her own. They live in a fancy chicken coop in the middle of her garden in her back yard. “Actually,” Caroline said, “the coop is the same one as Martha showed on her show.”

After all, Caroline’s chickens are not just any old broilers. These are showy birds, exotic chicks from breeds with names such as Silkie or Mille Fleur. Caroline has given them names — Mildred, Carmen, Pecky – to match their breeds or moods.

She introduces one bird as the inquisitive one. Another, she said, was the bossy one when they all were chicks. “They all have personalities,” Caroline said.

Getting started with chickens wasn’t easy. She had to convince her parents, who weren’t overly keen on the idea at first. “She did have to talk us into it,” said her dad, Cliff.

She developed a plan. “I started plotting to get chickens,” she said. “My parents don’t let me keep weird animals, so I started coming up with responses for their objections.”

Once she convinced her parents to let her try her hand at chicken ranching, she ordered a half-dozen birds off –where else?—a chicken-fancier website. Soon, a bunch of feathered puffs arrived. After a while, she returned one that turned out to be a rooster, she said.

Everything’s worked out fine with the others, so far, she said. Her dad agrees. “I think they’re great,” he said. “I really like them.”

So Caroline’s plotting to order another half-dozen in the spring. The hardest thing may be convincing her friends that she really does raise chickens out back. “A lot of people don’t believe me,” she said. “They say, ‘I don’t believe you have chickens and bees at your house! You Photoshopped them!”

She may have better proofs to offer soon. Carolina thinks her birds soon will start to lay fancily colored eggs. When that first batch appears in the egg boxes in their coop, Caroline’s hoping for eggs of robin’s egg blue or deep chocolate brown or the color of terracotta.

What’s she plan to do with them? “I guess cook a lot,” she said.

How very Martha Stewart of her.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.