Monday, August 25, 2014

So you want backyard chickens...

With all this coop building and posting pictures of baby fluff ball chicks...I've had this thought that I should share some of the hard facts about chickens and not just the fun parts.  Because while I'm totally addicted to having a flock out back...there are some things to consider before buying a chicken or two...one of them being you'll need more than one...or even two. :)
 Why?  Because chickens hate being alone and if you only have two, one might die and then you've got... one.  Plus... two eggs a day is actually quite a lot for the week, but sometimes hens go broody or quit laying eggs during the winter, so having three or four is a better number.  That's quite a few chickens and you'll need a safe coop for them so they don't get eaten while they sleep in a semi-comma state.  For real.  They are so easy to eat when they are asleep.  What I'm trying to say I guess, is that you don't ideally buy one pet chicken like you would buy a cat because they are different creatures entirely.

Where is Goldie?  Another hard fact.  Goldie was pecking at the new chicks so we separated them.  That's fine for a while.  But, we plan to move all the chickens into the new coop soon and I didn't want to deal with Goldie pecking the smaller chicks we have in the brooder.  Or deal with her in a separate cage.  Another strike against her was that she was approximately 1 1/2 years old and would probably have slowed way down in egg production in another year anyway.  Chickens live for a long time but only lay eggs every day (a good laying breed) for two years.  Goldie went home with friends of ours that are very resourceful and  mostly raise or acquire/butcher all the meat that they eat.  It was more sad than I thought handing her over and we didn't even butcher her ourselves.  Sad fact, chickens die or need to be culled for various reasons.  It's a bummer.  Posting a bird on Craigslist usually takes care of finding someone to take them...but it's still a bummer. 
 When you leave for several days, you'll need someone to come over and change the water and check food levels.  not a huge deal.  A neighbor boy does this when we are away for a small sum.  But it's a detail to consider.
 a big strong chicken can destroy a garden box of seedlings if left unattended for several hours.  We had to put ours in a small dog play pen thing out back in the woods so they could free range to prevent this. They will also go crazy on mulch looking for bugs which can be really annoying because they will throw it anywhere but where it started. :)  All chickens are different though...our other hen doesn't destroy things as much as Goldie did.
 chickens are determined to make their water and food gross.  A dog wouldn't poop in it's water bowl.  A cat wouldn't scatter her food in a thin layer to look through it.  Chickens will.  It's what they do.
 Basic chicken feed is pretty inexpensive at a farm store, but you must consider that they will waste some of it if not put in a good/screened feed dispenser.  This is doubly annoying if you buy expensive organic feed for them.  We either put just what they will eat for the day in a traditional dish and/or scatter scratch grain on the ground when they free range outside their coop.  We plan to make a feeder out of PVC pipe in the new coop that prevents scattering of the feed. :)  water dispensers will freeze in the winter (in IN).  If you change the water everyday consistently, it's not such a big deal- but putting a heat lamp out in the coop all winter is a good idea if you want them to keep laying eggs and have thawed water.

But...even with all of this annoying stuff I listed (you read all that! ;), I'm out putting cedar shakes on a coop because...there is nothing quite like getting eggs out of a nest box...or even better, watching your kids or neighbor kid find them.  There is a little bit of magic in it.


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3 comments:

emilykate said...

We have a little shed in our back yard that I used to think would be perfect for chickens. But it's technically not allowed in our city. Trying to decide if we should go for it anyway. :)

L, Ann and boys said...

well... there are a lot of cities changing the ordinances recently. The www.backyardchickens.com site has info on requesting the changes and where to send forms if it sounds like fun to hit the war path on the issue. ;) A shed would be perfect, there are all kinds of youtube videos on how to use a shed as a coop and it's easier to clean a walk in building than a cramped coop. Basically cities don't want yards to look like barnyards but the urban coop movement is anything but ugly looking. :) Some people get chickens even if it's not allowed and just know that if anyone gets annoyed with their set up, they have the right to complain and you'll have to get rid of them. Not sure if you are okay with that set up. ;) Dogs are way more annoying (or have the capacity to be) than urban chickens are in my opinion. Most cities don't allow roosters within city limits for noise reasons.

And I'm sure I don't have to tell you that we have loved the chicken adventure. I think it's really good for kids to be with animals...any kind of animal. Chickens make food though and that's pretty cool. ;)

L, Ann and boys said...

and I don't want to sound like a rebel rouser or anything...I think citizens should obey laws ;) There are a lot of people questioning whether a city has the right to deny a person the right to make there own food if they think it's healthier and it's done in a way that doesn't bother others though. ;)