In the great words of Grace Hopper, “It’s easier to ask forgiveness, than it is to get permission”.
That’s the theory we are sticking with in regards to getting these chickens, anyways. Our neighbors are usually pretty easy-going, and we never had any complaints when we had our beehive in the backyard, so we are hoping for the same with these hens. Worst case, we can sell them or re-home them with a family member who has experience with hens.
- Fully Fenced yard? Check.
- No roosters? Check.
- Desirable location for the coop (far enough away from the neighbor’s yard to not be offensive)? Check.
So let’s do this.
I started off with tons of reading and watching YouTube to see just what we would be getting ourselves into. There are more than enough chicken videos to keep you occupied for days. We needed to decide on the amount of chickens we would keep, the breed(s), which coop would work best for us in terms of price and function. Would we get hatching eggs, day old chicks, pullets-young hens that are not yet egg layers, or a few hens who were already laying? And where the coop would be located?
I think my husband figured that if I’m willing to take care of a pet it may as well be something that’s going to be beneficial for us as well. Aside from the potential to sell eggs, we will have a steady supply of fresh eggs on hand so long as we are able to keep our girls healthy and happy. For someone who goes out of their way to buy the most expensive eggs available in the store, in hopes of making the most ethical and humane selection, this is a big deal for me! I also try to keep a small garden going year round, so chicken dropping will be a beneficial addition to the compost pile due to high nitrogen content. Chickens are also great for keeping insect numbers under control with their constant scratching and searching for bugs. Aside from fresh eggs, stellar compost, and a sure-fire way to cut down on some of the Japanese battles that take over my garden each spring and summer I am definitely looking forward to all the quirky little personalities these birds are said to have.
We didn’t really have any interest in hatching eggs which narrowed our choices down a bit to chicks, pullets, or hens. When trying to decide between chicks pullets or hens it was pretty a pretty easy choice for me.
Chicks! Chicks! Chicks!. . . because when it comes baby animals I just can’t resist.
Ordering chicks will also allow us to really get to know our birds well for the purpose of being able to handle them. I decided to order baby chicks vs. the other options because we wanted to know exactly where our chickens were coming from, how old they were, and most importantly we wanted to choose from a variety of good egg layers with good temperaments. Most chicks are available in local feed stores during the spring months. Well its November at the moment, and though not impossible, they are a bit harder to find locally in the cooler months of the year which lead to our decision to order from an online hatchery. Another benefit to ordering from this hatchery is that we were able to pick the breeds of chicken we wanted. I knew I wanted to get started right away so that I would be one step closer to having an omelette in the morning made from chickens just outside our back door.
You know. . . the little things my happiest dreams are made of.
I think it’s also worth mentioning that I’m also prone to swan diving straight into the deep end of situations with an all or nothing mindset when I decide to do something. Now that the seed had been planted it was full steam ahead! My thinking was that if we could tough out the work of raising chicks through the fall and winter we should be able to have laying hens come Spring time or Early Summer. So now that we had our chick breeds in mind, we also needed to consider what we were going to do as far as housing our hens after they were old enough to be put outside.
I wasnt overly impressed by the coop selections I saw online at our $200 price point for 4-6 hens. I read through far too many complaints about flimsy wood, misguided suggestions for the number of hens that could be kept in the coop, an coops that were far from predator proof. Financially, we really didn’t have much more than $200 to put into the coop itself so we decided on a coop that had the highest online reviews that was (somewhat) in our budget; the Pets Imperial Large Chicken Coop Monmouth Model. It took about an hour and a half to assemble with very basic picture directions, and a wild toddler. The materials still didn’t seem all that sturdy and our coop came with one piece that was broken, and another that was pretty warped causing issues with getting the coop locked. We turned the coop upside down in an effort to staple on a layer of hardware cloth to predator proof the bottom of the coop, and the chicken ramp hit the roof making a small hole on the underside. The coop is pretty small and only has built-in options for low roosting, so we will be making a few modifications that will allow us to keep 6-8 hens. We will be adding on a larger run, and additional coop space inside the house using leftover wood from our new fence build. We were able to score some hardware cloth to use as siding on the run for half the retail price by looking around our local flea market and reaching out to some sellers on OfferUp. We are in need of a table saw and hope to borrow one from a neighbor or co-worker soon in order to get the run and coop add-on completed before the chicks become fully feathered and it’s time to put them outdoors.
In the meantime we have set up our brood box (little nest box for chicks) and will be using a heating pad and warm water bottles as a means of keeping the chicks warm and keeping the cost and potential fire hazard at a minimum. We have a feeder and a water tray on hand as well as pine shavings for bedding, chick feed, grit to help with food digestion, electrolytes, and probiotic just in case the chicks need a little boost after their journey in the mail.
This is our first time raising chicks, so I’m sure there will still be a bit of a learning curve…and plenty of laughs along the way.
One egg-cited Mama. A husband waiting in the wings when I wave my flag for help. He’s been pretty clear about the fact that this isn’t going to be his project, but he’s sweet enough to help me when I need it. 8 chicks because that was the minimum delivery amount this time of the year for our zip code, and a two-year old that’s currently attached at the nip (breastfeeding humor for all my nursing mamas past and present). . . this is sure to be eventful!