Wednesday, May 30, 2012

From Chicks to Chickens

Almost two months old - My how they've grown!


Tilda, Amelia, Bluebell and Tunce -
The four little chick girls, who turned out to be three girls and one boy are growing "like weeds".

We had downsized from acreage to a cottage home on a creekside and were missing all the benefits of having chickens, so . . . off we went to the feed store for some new babies.  Not to be gender favored, but after having a rooster that crowed at 3 am and all day, we were hoping to be lucky enough to pick out four hens.  Oh well, we got one rooster.  We can only hope he's the quiet type.

So what are the benefits of having chickens?
  • Fresh eggs
  • Bug control in the yard
  • Entertainment to watch
  • easy care pets that love to consume kitchen scraps
  • the clucking announcing of a new egg
I just love the girls and since we spent time holding them while young chicks, they trust us and come running to say hi when we come out to the henhouse.  Of course the bread and vegie scraps help :)

Having had a dozen chickens before, this was a breeze to set up, but for those of you who are considering chickens, I will throw out a few general tips.  If you are truly new to the world of raising chickens, you may want to check out a book or puruse the internet for detailed information.  Just know that the venture is truly worth the efforts.
One thing to consider is that even if you are in an urban area, many cities allow a certain number of chickens in your yard - not always roosters because of the noise, but often the hens are accepted. 
The thing to remember is that each chicken needs at least four square feet of space to live comfortably.  Trying to squeeze too many chickens in one area can lead to pecking on each other and other health issues.  Also, if you get your chicks as youngins, you will need to set them up in a box or large pet cage with a heat lamp until they are getting in their feathers vs. the chick down and the nights are at least in the 40's.  The cage will need to be changed regularly as being chickens, they do eat, poop and sleep - in that order, and ALOT.

Once outside, the chickens will be thrilled to discover the world of bugs and greens! 
Having a henhouse, or in our case, a converted 16 sq ft dog kennel is optimal to ward off preditors at night and for them to have a safe haven in bad weather.

We obtained one bale of hay for bedding and have more than half left over to freshen up the house.

Being birds without hooked bills, the chickens will need grit to grind their food in their guts (parrots with hookbills hull their food and don't need grit).  As chicks it is also best to buy chick food that is medicated til they are 18 weeks to ward off nasty bacteria.  There is little else needed, besides plenty of fresh water to give them a great start.
At five months old, we should be seeing our first eggs.  Russ took a tall tupperware cabinet, turned it on it's side and rigged it up on the dog pen wall (chickens like them at least 3' off the ground) for their roosts.  With wood planks to walk up to the roosts, the girls are already finding their favorite spots to settle in to.
The bottom door will eventually be lifted closed for privacy and then the top doors we will be able open to pop in and lift out the eggs.

The breeds we chose for our little flock include -
2 Bard Rocks - Excellent layers and produce the popular brown eggs
1 Ameraucana - Good layers, extremely hardy with colored eggs
1 blue Andalusian - Russ loved her coloring, good layer and self reliant w/ white eggs
Tunce is the darker Bard Rock and she had a harder start, being unsettled and pecking on the other's feet constantly.  After spending a few nights with me rocking her in the chair and providing them all with a protein snack treat, she settled in after a few nights and has been my close buddy, coming to me in a sprint to say hi and get a nice petting.  Ah . . . I love these girls (and boy :)

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