On Raising Backyard Chickens…

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Welsummer enjoying the grassy yard.

We have been raising backyard chickens for 5 or 6 years now. We have had as few as 5 purchased from our local feed store, and as many as 30+ which we purchased through mail order. We have had great success ordering baby chicks (and sometimes turkeys) from Cackle Hatchery although you have to order at least 15 baby chicks to get them through the mail, so they keep each other warm.

When purchasing chicks you can buy all pullets (young hens), or straight run (mix of hens and roosters). You can purchase chicks based on their projected egg laying ability, mothering skills, or meat production. Chickens can even function as a “alarm” animal – the bantam chickens are quite loud and vocal when disturbed.

 

A great resource for understanding chicken terminology can be found here.

You may have already seen my post on our hen house…Since then our chickens have been

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Proud mama!

allowed to roam freely in our yard… This has worked perfectly since they never flew over the fence, but for whatever reason actually stayed in the yard.

The Buffs, Americanas, and Welsummers all stayed put… Then we got a bunch of White Leghorns… Those birds LOVE to fly. They are scrawny birds and they wouldn’t stay put. One even built a nest and hatched a small brood in the alley behind the yard. She started out with 7 babies and we let her raise them on her own. Only 4 survived: 3 hens and 1 rooster.

Shortly after we discovered the mama had a brood of chicks running around, I found her nest which still had 3 eggs in it. Two of which were still trying to hatch although slowly and weakly. We brought them inside and created a makeshift brooding box. Now, remember this is our first attempt at raising baby chicks we did not buy, and we hadn’t planned to Picturehatch any ourselves. Originally it was just an experiment to see if the chickens would hatch their own babies. Exhausted little chick recovering…

So we managed to hatch 2, but only one survived. Strangely it was the one that had the hardest time hatching. Took over 12 hours from the time we found it in the yard to the time it was out of the egg.. That doesn’t count the time it took the poor thing to go from exhausted wet bird to happy dry bird…

Here’s Angelica “mothering” one of the chicks we hatched inside.Picture

My daughter loves being a chicken mama. We kept the little “guy” inside until it feathered out and then released it into the yard with the other chickens. To be honest, I couldn’t tell you which of the 4 surviving chickens this one was. I am not sure this one survived, because all the surviving chickens are far more wild than any of the ones we raised indoors from chicks purchased at Cackle Hatchery. You can’t get anywhere near those chickens, even with food.

So here we are on our 1/4 acre city lot amazed that in the many years we have raised chickens, and even more so in the last year or so of having roosters, that or neighbors have not called the city officials. And while we are still counting our blessings of being able to eat home grown eggs, the downside has been that every garden I tried to put in ended up eaten by the ravenous buggers. Last year, we attempted to build a monstrosity of a chicken coop that could also contain the rabbit colony we wanted, but the logistics of that project ended up not working out.

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Building a door frame from scrap lumber

 

So, finally down-scaling our flock and our grand plans, my DH and i spent the weekend building /setting up the frame for our new chicken coop. We purchased a $120 car port frame from Lowes as the main structure. We used scrap fencing that previously kept the chickens out of the garden (back when they didn’t’ fly) to create the “walls” of the coop. We filled in any gaps with several lattice panels that were also in the yard, and he used the door he originally purchased for our first grand chicken coop attempt. (I did tell you that my blog would feature all the ways we went wrong as well..) He built the laying “boxes” out of some old 5 gallon buckets and a roost from some left over lumber from another project. The feeder hangs in the middle, and tarp keep the rain off the sides of the coop.

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Mostly finished coop with laying boxes and roost.
Originally we planned to plumb a water line to the coop, but we decided it was best to take the water jugs out and clean them in the yard instead of directly in the coop, so it is pretty much all done. It works great and the chickens are finally getting used to the new roost, and the laying boxes. I am finding more and more eggs in the boxes each day as the weather turns nicer.

The chickens seem happy enough in their new home. Especially if you put a straw bale in the coop with them. We foolishly thought we could “store” the bail in the pen for use in the laying boxes… Nope!

PictureThe chickens proceeded to shred the entire bale in one afternoon and scattered ALL the contents thoroughly and completely. They found lots of nice grain, and probably more than a few bugs.

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