Last week I posted about my desire for backyard chickens-an idea which Yankee Bill is not a huge fan of. There was a lot of great input from you all in the comments! Since I know that many folks don’t go back and read the comments, so I wanted to call out a couple of extremely informative ones to share.
From “House-Wise” of House-wise Triks
I have had chickens for two years. We got our two girls during chick season in 2009. They were so cute, and friendly. We got a red sex-link and a leghorn (but since it was a girl, hubby wouldn’t let me call her Foghorn. Oh, poo.) They were a bit to take care of, time consuming, just like any baby. Temperature needs to be just right, food, water, keep the cat away, etc. Within a month most of their feathers were in, and the down almost gone. Still cute little buggers. My kids loved taking care of them….just got to remember to wash your hands EVERY time you touch them.
When their temperature is ready, and the nights were warm enough, outside to the coup they went. They grow FAST. We used a large enclosed dog house, built a nesting box (essentially a cat litter pan on legs), and built a 4′x4′ enclosed chicken wire run with a perch. Temporary, but it worked, and they have plenty of room. We live on a standard city plot, .16 acre.
By June they had laid their first eggs. OMG – you can really taste the difference! At first, the eggs were small, but after a few months of almost daily eggs, they are jumbo size now. The sex-link lays about 5-6 days a week, the leghorn, about 4. Throughout the winter without a sun-lamp to extend the light hours, they don’t produce as much.
They are the easiest pets to take care of. And unlike dogs or cats, they give you something in return…yummy eggs! Every morning about dawn, we go out & feed & water them. We feed them egg layer feed (which contains all they need including grit). We also every couple days give them some scratch (bird food, corn & sunflower seeds). Their coop is filled with a heavy layer of Timothy hay ($5 a bundle at the feed store) to keep them cozy & warm. About once a week, we’ll feed them kitchen scraps…oh, they love that (greens). On occasion we give them a cracked egg to eat…yes, it sounds strange, but they like it and it’s good for them.
They are VERY conversational. When we go out back, they will have a ‘conversation’ with us. It’s so cute. They are quite verbal also, but not in a bad way. When the sex-link lays her egg, she will caw for a bit. It can get loud, but only lasts a couple minutes. If you immediately go outside & ‘congratulate’ her, she quiets. No neighbors have complained. She will also bellow if she needs some more water or if there is a predator in the yard. As for stinking? Nope. Just cover the old pooped floor with more hay once a week, and about once a month clean out the coop and scatter it on your garden bed or in your compost pile. They like to ‘play’ with you when you’re cleaning out their home. Easy-peasy.
They really do make good pets. Even after two years, the kids still like to take care of them. They don’t mind being held, and will actually come to you when called.
This chick season, we just purchased three more. After a couple years, the hens will slow down on their egg production, until it stops at about 5 or 6 years old. After that, you can choose to just have the hens as pets or *cough* have them butchered. If you feed them lots of table scraps, I heard their meat is tender & tasty even at that age, though I don’t think we’ll be going that route. If some day we decide to get chickens for food, we will purchase “meat” birds, and not become attached to them as we have the hens.
If you know what you’re getting into, and is something you want to do, it is a very rewarding endeavor. Good luck with what you decide!
We got day-old chicks last spring and now have four laying hens. We’re also in upstate NY on about 1/2 acre. They live in a coop in the backyard and free range during the day. Although, last summer they were rough on the garden (at times eating tomatoes right off the vine!), so we’re going to confine them further this year. Our family really enjoys having them — the eggs are second to none. I can’t even tolerate supermarket eggs any more. Since we raised them essentially from birth, they’re friendly and docile and allow my kids to pick them up and pet them.
As for Yankee Bill’s concerns — our chickens are not loud. They cluck occasionally, but they’re much, much quieter than our neighbor’s dog who barks frequently. And chickens are easy-peasy to care for — not a lot of work at all. Let them out in the morning, make sure they have food and water, and lock them up at night. The smell is minimal. We use the “deep litter” method in the coop and spot clean frequently. And they’re relatively frugal. We probably spend less than $10 per month on food and supplies. And in return we get 3-4 fresh eggs per day and endless entertainment (they’re so fun to watch!).
All in all, having chickens has been a great experience!
Thanks again to both House-Wise & Carrie for such informative comments!