backyard chickens, authenticity online and our new course… Instagram Branding Brilliance

did I ever tell you about the time I got chickens?

If you’ve been in the Dear Handmade Life community for a while, you might even remember when I built a coop in my suburban backyard, sprinkled straw on the floor with one hand like I was shooting dice at a craps table in Vegas and brought our three chickens, Carol, Carla and Red home.

This decision to get chickens could only be justified by selective memory impairment of my lifetime of regularly trying to fake my excitement when people expected me to gush over their cat or dog and declare myself “not really an animal person”. Why then did I get chickens? I wondered that myself as my memory of who I was and had always been, someone who generally liked but didn’t usually love animals, rushed back as I cleaned the coop while holding back a gag, and discovered the spot where the eggs come from is the same as … you know what, I’ll save you from the litany of reasons why it took me less than two weeks to regret getting chickens.

What on earth got me to go against my nature and try to be an urban farm person? I blame Instagram. Those urban chicken women made it look so easy and crafty and fun. It was none of those things for me.

This was 2013 and social media was different than it is now. People actually posted photos of their feet, over processed shots of food, and blurry selfies with friends. But, we had yet to have that conversation about authenticity or show the difference between Instagram vs reality.

If only just one of those women farming and raising chickens in their backyards a few blocks from a Target had told me the truth, “don’t do this unless you have a strong gag reflex regarding smells and sights.” But no, I did what I “thought” I wanted to do, took photos, posted them online and in a blog post and tried to force myself to be an animal person.

It did not work. It never works to try to force a square peg into a round hole or in my case an “I’m not really into animals” person into an amateur chicken farmer.

I said I blame Instagram but I know it was my fault for letting my junior high self who wished for a smaller nose and a less bossy personality make that chicken decision for me. Junior High Nicole was like, “if we want to be a cool Instagram crafty business lady, we need to get chickens.” My inner 7th grade dork considered them the modern day version of jelly bracelets and Caboodles (both must-haves for cool 80s girls).

It took time (the chicken debacle was a decade ago) and lots of fumbling around Instagram (full disclosure, I still fumble) to find myself, my place, my voice and my purpose there. The chicken debacle was a lesson I hadn’t expected in authenticity online. While I can’t say that I never zhuzhed up my hair, swept dirty dishes breakfast away or moved other bits of reality out of sight before snapping a photo or shooting a video to post on Instagram, I can say that I’ve become very aware of what content doesn’t feel good to me and tried my damndest to stay far away from it.

It took not just that embarrassing lesson and those trial and errors but also my own feelings about social media (truth be told i used to HATE ALL social media) changing.

What changed?

I’m not going to get into the whole story but during my pregnancy I was in a dark space and found myself in a hospital room frantically Googling #pretermbaby and other similar terms looking not just for hope but also to feel less alone. I found both of those things through posts from brave women who posted on Instagram about their experiences with things like what I was in the middle of with no filters and a mixture of tears and joy. I never posted a comment or even a like on those posts. I was too hungry for help to make time to give anything back.

When that chapter of my life turned into “a newborn during a pandemic” chapter, I thought about those women and their posts. I knew that the best way to thank them was to push myself out of my comfort zone and try to give someone what they had given me.

Cut to 2021, eight years after that chicken post and I posted this image. The first ever photo of myself in a bathing suit (let alone a bikini) publicly. I was terrified to hit post on that photo. I knew about trolls and wasn’t sure my fragile newfound body positivity would emerge victorious from a battle with them. But, I did it anyway.

I did because sometimes you have to do scary stuff anyway. Sometimes you have to tell your inner critic to shut up. Sometimes even as dumb as it sounds, posting a bikini photo alongside words about self-love when you’re at your heaviest is courageous. Not as courageous as 1.2 million other things but nonetheless it takes guts.

Why am I telling you all of this about chickens and bikinis?

Because I want you to see how far it’s possible to come. I started unsuccessfully miming the people I thought I should be on Instagram and ended up finding a way to use my experiences to make other people feel seen.

It’s not just the type of content I share that has changed. The way I plan and create it has evolved from hours of shooting complex videos and writing mini-novel captions to being able to plan a month of content in a few hours and transferring everything I’ve learned about efficiency in my two decades running my own businesses into how I run our social media.*

I used to DREAD figuring out what to post and now I actually look forward to it.  And I want that for you.

I want you to not just feel good about what you post on Instagram but to also have a strategy, the tools and a plan to get your marketing goals.

That’s why I’ve gathered all that knowledge for you and because you shouldn’t have to have a degree in marketing, share your deepest secrets and personal life or dance and point at text bubbles to make a living with your creativity.

Creating content for your Instagram feed while you’re doing 1.2 million other tasks for your creative business is no small feat and that’s why I created…

In this course, I break down EVERYTHING you need to know and do to start seeing social media as an opportunity to organically share your passion and engage with your community, ignore “the rules”, be creative, and play to your strengths.


Plus, you’ll create a month of posts and get the tools to define your brand, create engaging content, and craft a plan to grow your community and creative business on Instagram.


Say goodbye to asking yourself, “What am I supposed to post on Instagram today?” again!


If you’re ready to get started now, grab my FREE 30 Instagram Content Idea Prompts, your ultimate source of inspiration to infuse your feed with creativity and captivate your audience.

Here’s to all of us making and sharing content that doesn’t make us feel gross, furthers our goals, and serves our community. That’s what it’s really about. That, and of course not committing to the care and feeding of other living creatures (or doing anything that doesn’t make your heart sing) because it looked so cool on Instagram. 

In case you were wondering, I didn’t abandon my chickens. I served them the finest organic feed, regularly gave them berries and watermelon snacks, cleaned their coop regularly (without gagging thanks to gloves and mask) and was grateful for every glorious egg they created. I know I said I wasn’t an animal lover but there was a part of me that truly cared for our three ladies. Carol, Carla and Red, wherever you are, thanks for eggs and of course the life lesson.

*BTW: Although I managed our social media solo for many years, now I have help from our amazing team, KatieMac who laid the foundation for and helped create the project management system we use and Lauren our social media manager who posts and helps create our content and more.

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