We Got Chickens!
The past several months have been a crazy whirlwind, but it’s been driving me nuts that I haven’t gotten this post written yet – This should have been up by the beginning of May! Oops.
We’ve been talking about getting chickens for a long time, but were never quite at the right place to do it. That is until this spring when we finally made the leap.
It was actually all very sudden and not at all the way that I would have normally gone about it. As a dyed-in-the-wool researcher and planner, I would have prepared a lot more – had a coop built, bought all the chicken paraphernalia, and read a few books and dozens of web sites before ever bringing a single chicken home. But sometimes Breanna pushes me over a ledge before I have finished all my calculations, which is probably a good thing (at least some of the time).
So we were talking about chickens this spring (again), but were feeling like it wasn’t the right time (again). I already had a long list of summer projects that needed to get done and Breanna was entering the final stretch of her grad school and was busier than ever. We eat quite a few eggs and are dedicated to getting the most healthy, humane eggs we can find, but that can prove tricky (and pricey). We knew that raising our own laying hens wouldn’t necessarily save us money, but it would ensure that we always knew exactly what was going into them and wouldn’t have to worry about misleading labels or questionable farm practices. The tipping point was when we realized that if we didn’t get chickens now, we would have to wait another full year. Neither of us was really willing to do that.
Racing Against the Clock
We picked up a copy of the “chicken bible” – Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, visited all of the local feed stores to pick out the breeds we wanted, and got a huge storage tote to fashion into a DIY chick brooder. I cut large holes in the tote that I covered with pieces of hardware cloth, filled it with bedding, and set up a waterer and feeder. I also ordered some nipple waterers that go onto empty soda bottles in order to train them to drink from nipples later on (more on that later).
We started out with a heat lamp, but felt very uncomfortable with the fire danger, especially with curious cats clambering on and around the chick brooder. We quickly returned the lamp and opted for the safer, more efficient, and more natural Brinsea EcoGlow 20. It was quite a bit more expensive than a heat lamp, but it was absolutely worth it for the peace of mind and ease of use.
Within a week of deciding to jump into chicken ownership, we had six new chicks as the new centerpiece to our living room. I knew from some online research that I managed to squeeze in that we probably had about three weeks tops before the chicks outgrew their brooder and would need to go into a coop outside – also, with nowhere but our living room to keep them, we wanted to get them out of the house before things got too crazy.
Here again, I would have researched all kinds of coop setups and probably put the best of all of them into a fully DIY chicken coop design of my own that perfectly suited our needs. Six cheeping voices told me that wasn’t really feasible though, so I went to my trusty source for most things Pacific Northwest homestead-y, Northwest Edible Life to see what they had done. That’s where I learned about the fancy and functional Garden Coop that seemed to include just about everything I was looking for in a chicken coop design.
In addition to the coop plans, I also went ahead and ordered the hardware kit. I fully embraced the idea that following existing plans and having a pre-picked box of hardware would save me a ton of time and frustration and would be worth the money.
Meet Some Cute Chicks
We decided to go with mellow breeds that were hybrid meat/layer birds. That way they would serve multiple functions pretty well as pets, egg producers, and eventually, dinner. We got two Ameraucanas (because Breanna really wanted green/blue eggs), two Black Australorps, and two Wyandottes – one silver-laced and one gold-laced.
We originally talked about not giving them names so that when we eventually harvested them it would hopefully be a little less personal. Of course within hours of getting them home, Breanna had given them each a name. So there went that idea. But I do have to say, our girls are REALLY damn cute.
Next up, I’ll talk about building the Garden Coop – a construction project that turned out to be a little more challenging than I had expected. Until then, say hello to Blueberry (named by our brother-in-law), Marjorie, Hilda, and Cleopatra.