We’re moving right along on our chicken raising adventure. No eggs yet since we decided to start with chicks as opposed to full-grown layers, but we’ve learned so much and even had to deal with a hard life lesson – so here’s our latest update.
First of all, thank you to everyone that responded with advice via comments or social media! We learned that starting with chicks helps to create a happy, healthy flock and a bond between the chickens and our children. Thankfully, were able to purchase eight chicks from our local farm, Maple Acres.
Since raising chickens was totally new to me, I was nervous about properly caring for the baby chicks. I relied on the books Chick Days by Jenna Woginrich and The Joy of Keeping Chickens by Jennifer Megyesi. Chick Days keeps it simple for beginners and provides a timeline for when to do certain things – I highly recommend it
All the chicks lived in the house for the first 2 weeks. After that we moved them to the garage in a huge box (thanks to a big CK shipment). I was really concerned about keeping them the right temperature; I bought a thermometer and checked on them multiple times during the night (whenever one of my human kids woke me up!). It was kind of messy in the box with pine shavings constantly being knocked all over and into the water. I got smart and put the water on old sheet pans – no more pine shavings!
After the first few weeks we named the chickens; Cruella Deville and Ursula for the two alpha females, Charlotte and Lucy (named after twins in Charlie's class) Peanut, Butter, and Jelly for our three yellow ones. And sweet Baby. Baby was the runt of the group. She was by far our favorite, but prior to moving the flock out to the coop, it was obvious she wasn’t going to thrive. Sadly, she passed away a few days before the move. We were all devastated - it was a difficult life lesson.
Then came lesson number two - watch out for roosters in the hen house. It turns out that Cruella Deville is actually a rooster! I always suspected, but once we got them outside Cruella's cock-a-doodle-dos were too obvious to ignore. Hopefully I can take him back to the farm. We're bummed to be down two chickens, but next year we plan on introducing four more chicks.
As for the outdoor coop, we converted our shed. It turns out that pre-fabricated coops can be quite expensive. Using our old shed as the main structure allowed us to have a huge ‘chicken run’ with lots of outside space. We even let a few of them hang in the yard when we are outside (a few are too hard to catch so they have to stay in the fenced area). We’ve also added a pink pool filled with dirt so they can take dust baths.
Something that has been quite funny and surprising is how much we use ‘chicken’ in our conversations and expressions. There are a few chicks that are hard to catch, and I find myself saying, "Don't be a chicken, Cassandra" as I’m trying to catch them. Now I fully understand where the term ‘pecking order’ came from. We don’t have any meanies, but for now Cruella Deville (the undercover rooster) and Ursula are definitely in charge. And…it feels really weird to tell the kids that we are having chicken for dinner. I guess we'll have to get used to that!
And please, if you have any advice or tips, please keep them coming!