Tag Archives: raising chickens

The name game

It’s been an interesting first 2 weeks with the new chickens in their coop. We have discovered a few things- like they are amazing lawn mowers! In just 5 days they had completely cut down the grass inside their pen, which was nearly knee high in some places. They also managed to dig out their own dusting spot in a matter of days- while I am here researching online how to build them a dust bath. Guess nature doesn’t wait for Pinterest ūüôā
They really do love watermelon and spaghetti noodles, and don’t appear to be fond of radishes (I don’t blame them).
So now the kids want to name them… Which is proving fairly difficult as we can’t yet tell many apart. They want to name the hens all after Harry Potter characters, and so far we’ve got the smallest one called Ginny, the largest one called Molly, the tallest one named Minerva, and this one here is Helga- she has a crooked toe so we can spot her easily.

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Still working on a name for the coop, and already my husband thinks we need maybe just another kind– something “fancy” he says….

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Moving day!

Today was the big day – we moved the chicks into their brand new coop.

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They are just about 7 weeks old now and outgrowing the brooder quickly. One had even managed a brief escape attempt during the daily cleaning of their brooder, so my husband has been working steadily to get the coop ready.

So we are starting this first foray into raising our own chickens with 11 hens. 3 Buff Orpingtons, 3 Silver Laced Wyandottes, and 5 Barred Rocks/ Dominiques- we started with 3 of each but lost one and I have yet to figure out how to tell the rocks apart from the Dominiques. The purpose here is fresh eggs and the experience of raising chickens for our kids (well, ok for ME and the kids). So far, the girls have really enjoyed the process – getting the chicks in the mail, cleaning out the brooder each day and watching how quickly they change as they grow.

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At this point, we are hanging around waiting to see if they will get brave enough to leave the coop and come out into their grassy pen. I didn’t realize chickens would be so timid about it! Hand them freedom and they decline!? One came out, walked around in the grass for like 2 minutes and then ran right back indoors! Crazy ūüôā

Still haven’t decided on a name for the coop, although I have suggested calling it “the Nunnery”- as it we just have hens and it would make me giggle endlessly every time I tell my girls to “get thee to the nunnery” for eggs!! Sadly, at 8 and 4, they do not quite get the humor in that ūüėČ

Well, if these chicks ever get brave and GO OUTSIDE I will post some new pictures of them.


Progress…

That’s the key theme of this past week’s mini-vacation: lots of progress on yard projects. The chicken coop has walls! And a roof! And a door!!! Which is good because the little ladies are feathering up and growing quickly. They will need to move out of the brooder box pretty soon.

The veggie garden has really taken off- squash and pumpkin plants are looking good, and I added a second row of fencing for the peas. Sadly, I never did get around to planting the green beans and imagine its probably too late now.

And to top it off- we just got a compost bin built- FINALLY!!! We just used some leftover wood and plastic fencing i found out in the old shed outback- free always seems like a good way to do something! I have been after this for quite awhile…who knew I could get so happy over a “garbage bin” ūüôā

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Gotta love a productive weekend.


Spring has hatched

The chicks have arrived!! The lady that called from the post office early this morning sounded a bit surprised at my excitement upon hearing that my chicks had arrived and were ready to pick up. I promptly called my parents and left them hurried messages to PLEASE dash to the post and bring my new babies home, then rushed through the work day, eager to go get the kids and see the chicks.

Much to my surprise, and delight, all 12 of the little chicks arrived alive and peeping, and quickly took to the water dish. It wasn’t long before they found their way to the feed as well.

This was the first time I’ve ever held a chick- I still can’t believe how soft and tiny they are. It was so fun sharing this 1st with the girls, experiencing the same curiosity as they were feeling.
So, we now have 3 females each of Buff Orpington (since they are yellow we easily spot these), silver laced Wyandotte, Dominiques, and Barred Rocks. As these 3 breeds are all black and white, I have no idea how to determine which fuzzballs are which…. Guess we will have to wait and see. The kids wanted to start naming them already with the names we’ve chosen from our favorite Harry Potter characters, but I told them we need to wait a bit and see which chicks make it. Maybe that was mean, but I feel like they shouldn’t be surprised to find a few less chicks in the brooder over the next week or two…
In the meantime, we will keep hammering away at the “barn” my husband is building where their little coop began. He argues that he just knows me better than I realize and that there is no way I will be satisfied with a tiny coop and 3 hens…
It’s been a busy week or so around here- we got the garden planted finally, and helped out with shearing at my mom’s alpaca farm. That was a very interesting process, which I will try to post some pics of soon.
For now, keep your fingers crossed and wish us luck with these little chicks!

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And now we wait!

I’ve done it! I’ve placed my order for our first chickens! In about 8 weeks ( oooooh, the waiting!) we will HOPEFULLY have a chirpy box of Plymouth Barred Rocks, Buff Orpingtons, Dominique’s, and Silver Laced Wyandot hens. Pullets. Whatever, the girl kind ūüėČ

So now to hustle the hubby into readying their new home.

In the meantime, the vegetable seeds have arrived and are waiting for me to get them started: Hello seed, meet dirt….. Then there’s the garden plot to be tilled…. Which normally we never get to until around Memorial Day around here… but this year is just, as you’ve noticed… different.

I hope we are not going to suffer the brunt of some great cosmic joke in which we see the sudden return of ” the winter we never had” come April or May! We are just so ready to dive right into this spring.

Even the alpacas at my mom’s farm are eager for spring, as they eye us up and wonder just how quickly the fresh pastures of orchard grass will sprout up for them.

We even discussed getting out the lawn mower this week , and I guarantee that I have never seen grass being mowed in March in my 30+ years!

Plenty of stuff yet to be done in the meantime as we wait …. and wait… on seedlings and chicks.

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Ahoy Mateys!

Ocracoke Lighthouse

We’re back from our trip to the seashore. Ocracoke island in the Outer Banks is beautiful. The island is not quite open for tourist season yet, which meant we got a real feel for the island itself-¬†quiet and isolated. Legend has it this island was a hang-out for Blackbeard the Pirate, and the place where he was killed.¬† My daughters spent hours burying seashell “treasure” in the sand¬†to hide from the pirates… but the only pirate I saw was a weather-beaten plastic one on the front deck of a restaurant… maybe the pirates are seasonal too.

We spent hours enjoying the beaches entirely to ourselves, and had our pick of the very best seashells each morning. I’ve got buckets of shells soaking in bleach now, hopefully enough to make a shell wreath. I ALSO have a bucket of bleach way out in the barn-¬†where we are soaking 2 very stinky starfish we found washed ashore. Those were quite a pleasant surprise for my husband-¬†you can imagine how thrilled he was when I asked him to deal with that particular package. Hopefully he can manage a way to hang them to dry away from all the stray cats. Speaking of which, Ocracoke is curiously filled with cats. We saw dozens of them as we explored the island. Cats and cemetaries tiny little graveyards strewn about, each with just a handful of residents.

I also spent a lot of quiet time (and there is a lot of quiet time on an island that depends on a ferry to get on or off) trying to¬†make some decisions about my spring chicken raising project. Pretty sure I have settled on a design for the coop-¬†a 4×6 style with a fenced in area with a roof connected for pasture area. I fear we have too many loose dogs and coyotes in our neighborhood to let the chickens totally free range. I will either try to let them range about when I am home and can keep an eye on them, or may go with a chicken tractor to move them around the yard. Early in the mornings I could hear roosters crowing, but couldn’t find many coops visible on the island.


Finally, I think I settled on breeds. I’ve always wanted to raise some American Heritage breeds, but since this is my first go-round I am a little wary of investing heavily into specialized birds.¬† My plan is to order some Plymouth Barred Rocks and some Buff Orpingtons, and I’m still considering whether to get a few Buckeyes as well.¬† The Buckeye is what I had originally¬†wanted to raise, and I finally found a place where I can order just a few to start with.¬† I’m trying to stick with cold-hardy birds with reputations as good layers- so far these breeds sound ideal.

Barred Rock

Barred Rock

Buff Orpington

Buckeye

Buckeye

Next up, I have to figure out when to order these little chicks and plan for their arrival date.¬† It¬† NORMALLY is pretty cold up here into May, but this winter has been totally bizarre and not nearly as cold as normal so I’m not sure what to expect for spring.¬† I think I’m still going to shoot for a late May arrival, or possibly early June. That should give us plenty of time to get the coop built.¬† Which means I also need to decide on a location for the coop.¬† I haven’t really any idea how close or far away from the house I want these girls to be- far enough to not be smelly, but near enough to run out and do chores quickly, and maybe even let the kids go gather the eggs.¬† Yeah, I guess location is the next thing to settle upon.


Choosing a coop…

So it seems that the most logical place to start with my new chicken raising venture is to get a coop ready.¬†¬† Only problem is, as I noted before, there are a million different coop designs out there and I‚Äôm having a terrible time trying to pin down the one for me.¬† Speaking of ‚Äúpin,‚ÄĚ this past week has also brought the onset of a new addiction- Pinterest!¬† This site is completely wonderful and beckons to my inner dorm room living girl-¬†the one whose entire life and style revolved around whatever lovely scraps of art/media/recipes/notes I stuck to the bulletin board at the time.¬† A digital place to stick (and ORGANIZE!!) the many many wonderful ideas and items I find online.¬† But I digress‚Ķ.

After weeks of perusing the like of Backyard Poultry and Chickens Magazine, scouring the internet (and making a crazy list of them in Pinterest!), and snooping at neighboring farms as we drive by- I think I’ve finally narrowed the possibilities down to a few.  There’s the small, tidy, herb-garden-roofed option seen in the spring issue of Chickens Magazine.                      

Or the grand palace of chicken coops found at Chez Poulet. 

I LOVE this one, but my husband and in-laws think I may have lost my mind on this.  Literally- I got the raised eyebrow thing from my mother-in-law…but she probably thinks I am a nut anyways….

 

Then there’s this one- pretty simple design, seems very practical, cleanable, easy to maintain- except that I think we’d skip the brick edging at the bottom:

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Of course, there’s also the completely impractical, insanely fun, and illogical ones that I adore like this one at off beat home :

Or this one that looks like it belongs in Lord of the Rings. It’s fabulous, but honestly, my kids would throw the chickens out and move in to this one (and I would not blame them):

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Like I said, there are endless possibilities¬†when it comes to coops.¬† I’ve even seen a few sites that suggest “upcycling” the plastic kids outdoor playhouses in coops (and we just happen to have a couple of those kicking around the yard….).

I’m hoping to make a decision on the coop style in the next week so we can begin to figure out the materials and cost it out. Whichever design we go with, I’ll be using as much recycled material as possible which should hopefully keep the costs down. One thing is for sure, after all the work it takes to pick out a chicken coop design, I’ve realized that we will NEVER be able to build our own home from scratch- it would just be impossible to make that decision!


Hatching a Plan

I’ve done it. After years of “hen-pecking” at the hubby, I’ve finally broken him down and convinced him that we should give raising a chickens a whirl this spring!!¬† To say that I am excited is a bit understated.¬† Why so much excitement over chickens??¬† Well… over a decade ago (egad¬†where has the time gone?!?!?) we bought this rusty old place in the country with the intent of living a rural lifestyle¬†enjoying the quiet, raising our kids surrounded by nature, and learning to “do for ourselves” in as many ways as we could.¬†¬†Alas, other than¬†my yearly¬†attempts at gardening and a lot of do-it-yourself home improvement projects, we have not yet embraced¬†my ultimate¬†goal of country-living:¬† raising some sort of livestock.¬†¬† I mean, heck, we could have stayed in the city and had the DOG… why are we out here in the middle of nowhere if we aren’t going to actually do “country” things- we NEED chickens!!!

We’ve been sneaking out the door with our parents’ farm-fresh chicken eggs for years now-¬†perhaps it was guilt over not being self-sufficient enough that got him.¬† Or perhaps it was the ugly articles I shared with him recently showing that the FDA is finally admitting to allowing arsenic in supermarket chicken (ack! ugh! what?!?).¬† Perhaps, just maybe, he is just tired of listening to me going on and on about how we should do this… yeah, that’s probably it.

Where to begin?¬† Well, the coop seems like an obvious first step.¬† Do you have any idea HOW MANY KINDS of chicken coops exist?¬† It’s mind-boggling.¬† I’m pouring over internet¬†sites, books, and magazines researching coop designs.¬† On our way to church last weekend, I made him do a quick u-turn to go back and check out an Amish coop for-sale by the road side.¬† There are coop designs sketched out and laying all over the place.¬† We had pretty much decided on building plan for the coop…but that was before I found one yesterday with an HERB¬†GARDEN on it’s roof, oooh!!!!¬† Grocery shopping yesterday I found an actual magazine dedicated to chickens, and giggled like a crazy person as I added it to my cart- yes indeed, people who raise chickens certainly should have their own magazines!

This should be quite an adventure for us….


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