Chickens!

My husband and I have been discussing raising chickens for a couple of years. I decided that this was the year we were going to make it happen. Fresh, minimally processed eggs from local farmers have many health and financial benefits. I buy fresh eggs from local families who have chickens, but I’m paying between $3 and $3.50 per dozen, and my family eats close to 5 dozen eggs each week. Since we don’t eat fast food, hard-boiled eggs, along with a salad or fruit, make a quick, easy, healthful, and portable lunch for the days we’re not home.  The chickens themselves are great for insect control and their droppings make excellent fertilizer for the garden.

Everything I’ve read suggests you need approximately 2 hens for each family member in order to meet the average egg requirements. There are 5 of us at home, and so we need at least ten hens for meet our needs.  You don’t need a rooster in order to harvest eggs from hens, but I’ve read that flocks with at least one rooster are happier, healthier and safer. Based on that information we decided we wanted one rooster, maybe two. After a lot of thought and discussion we settled on 18 as our “magic chicken number.” The plan was 16 hens and 2 roosters. So, when Spring started to show itself I started pricing chicken coops. I’ve heard a lot about “chicken math” and so wanted to be able to house 24 chickens if needed. I compared a ridiculous number of chicken coops designed to house 18 – 24 chickens and really didn’t find anything I liked at a price I was willing to pay.

Last Wednesday my daughter and I took a trip to the local farm store to see the chicken coops they had in stock, then we were headed to look at coops offered by a few local chicken coop builders.

We didn’t make it that far. Our second stop was a chain farm supply provider in the next town. They had 2 day old chicks for sale. My daughter and I watched the chicks for a few minutes before I decided our flock was coming home with us. We talked about getting a couple turkey babies, too, but I decided against it simply because of my lack of experience caring for chicks. My daughter picked out 12 chicks that had been sexed as female, and 6 unsexed chicks. We’ll find out if they are boys or girls as they age. They are a mix of breeds used for egg laying. The sales woman told me which breed each chick was most likely to be, but I’m not familiar with breeds of chickens and the names didn’t stick.

Here’s a picture of the chicks in the box they came home in.

Chickens in a box

 

Once we got them home I put them in a plastic tote to keep them safe, contained, and warm. They’ve been with us almost a week now and are doing well. Most of the yellow chicks have wing feathers coming in now, and the biggest yellow chick has all her wing feathers. The black ones are small, and some of those are just starting to get in their wing feathers.

 

 

The chicks in a big tote.

Since it’s been warm here, I set up an impromptu chicken play pen in the space that will be my garden and let them run around for exercise and to forage. When they are bigger, they will be allowed to roam our property and forage for most of their food, so I want them to learn to find bugs early. The chicks loved their first outside adventure so much that I felt guilty when it was time to bring them back in. In the picture, the pen is made of cinder blocks, but I built them a proper chicken pen last Friday. They spent all day Saturday, Sunday

The chicks in their first playpen.and Monday in their pen and loved it.

 

The chicks have only been with us for a week at this point, but I’ve already learned a lot. Most importantly, chickens are pretty easy to take care of. My dogs required much more care as pups than these chicks do. Right now I put them outside in the pen with the heat lamp in the morning, and bring them in before it gets dark in the evening. The chicks sleep in a tote in my bedroom. Every time I take them out of the tote I change the pine shavings. As long as they have food and water they are fine.  The chicken coop is almost finished. We need to put wire over the windows and attach the door. I finally decided to build a coop from scratch with recycled materials, but that’s another post.

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