Please note: This post is for Arianne because she’s very bossy when she’s packing to move and she wants to know all about our chicken-owning.
Also please note: Just Write will be up tomorrow morning and in case you missed it, there’s something new and different and exciting happening this week. In short, you get to link up in two places so your words can be read by more eyes. Coolio.
Now. For the chickens. BAWK!!!
I have fallen in love with three. One black, one brown, one yellow–all hens. We have a semi-large fenced backyard and we’re turning the play house that the boys never use into a coop. At first our baby chicks live in a really big plastic bin (you know, the kind of bin Arianne is packing her family’s belongings in to move across country). We got all three chicks, a feeder and water-er, wood chips for bedding and baby chicken feed at a local farm store. Grand total? $25.
I had no idea what was needed for a coop, but basically all you need is an enclosed space with a separate little nesting area for each bird. (These can be purchased or (in my opinion) easily built. We’re DIY-ers over here because we love the saving of the money, but if you aren’t, pre-made coops are available at many stores.) The May issue of Mother Earth magazine has chicken coop designs and layouts and more information about owning chickens. There are also a gazillion varieties of coops on a very chicken-informative site called Backyard Chickens.
Did you know that you can buy three female chickens and they will fill your life with free eggs even if they don’t have a rooster living with them?
That’s totally rad.
(Roosters are needed for creating more baby chicks, but not for eggs that don’t turn into baby chicks. Sense?)
I don’t really want a rooster because one chased my sister and pecked her and pecked her when we were kids and we’re both rooster-traumatized. I realize not all roosters are Attack Roosters, but seriously people–PTRD, Post Traumatic Rooster Disorder–we have it.
Another thing that I’m learning about baby chicks is that they really will ask you “Are you my Mommy?” if you’re not careful. I didn’t realize this so now our chickens think I’m their mommy. So basically, I have six kids now. Which is fine because chickens are just about the easiest kids you ever could have. They need food and water and a place to cuddle up and nest (yes, chickens cuddle. duh.) but that’s about it.
So. Since our chicks are addicted to me, I’m slowly weaning them. By that I mean nothing about breastfeeding THANK GOD…but rather, I’m teaching the chicks that they can be in the far end of the yard and NOT follow me back to the house to stare in the sliding glass door, keeping an eye on me. I mean, it’s cute and everything, but these chickens need to learn about independence. I mean, they will grow up to not even need a rooster for eggs so it’s their calling. You know, to be total feminist poultry. (By “teaching them” I mean that I put them really far away and then wait for them to be distracted and then I run away as softly as I can all sneaky-like.)
There is actually so much more to know about chickens than I ever imagined but that doesn’t make owning them complicated. There are plenty of good websites out there to have your questions answered:
My Year With Chickens: What You Should Know Before Getting Chickens at treehugger.com
Owning Chickens at Little House Farm
Now. For some random things I’ve learned that you cannot NOT learn or your life won’t be very full:
- It’s not easy to tell the difference between an egg-layer and a bird raised for meat while at the store or farm. Be sure to ask a knowledgeable person that works at the farm store or on the farm where you’re buying your chickens.
- There are different ordinances in different cities. Some do not allow backyard chickens at all, and some, like ours, allow up to a certain number of chickens. Here? It’s, you guessed it, THREE. (This is true of most cities.)
- Chickens can carry salmonella and other yucky germs but this isn’t something to live your life around. I wouldn’t recommend allowing a child to eat right after handling the chickens without hand-washing, but for the most part, if using common sense, I believe owning chickens is terribly safe. (Please tell my mother that.)
- Chickens aerate your yard with their pecking little beaks and they fertilize your yard with their yucky little poops.
- Chickens eat ticks and other annoying bugs LIKE MOSQUITOS!
- Watching chickens strut around pecking and flapping will make you feel more peaceful.
- And last but not at all least…if you have children THEY WILL LOVE THEIR CHICKENS! (read: hours of entertainment that will occupy your otherwise “I’m booooored” children. Enough said. (currently the boys love digging up worms and bringing them to the chicks. See? FUN.)