Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Backyard Chickens Phase I

I must say that there is not much else that is more adorable than a baby chicken. I bought two Leghorn chicks over spring break at the local feed store. They cost me two dollars each. I was told that these will be good egg layers, which is all we want since the kids have protested the raising of chickens for consumption. Leghorns will lay white eggs--I wanted brown eggs so I held off on buying all four at once because I was told the Bantam chicks (they lay brown eggs) would be in the following week.

Having tile has been a bonus concerning the handling of these chicks--they poop a lot, and the tile is easy to clean. I let the kids exercise them every night so that the chicks will get used to being handled.

I've heard that some dogs and chickens get along, but I think my dogs want to eat them. I try to keep them separated. 

Setting up a brooder wasn't difficult. I used a plastic storage bin, lined with newspaper, and inside I placed food, water, and a heat lamp over the top. The wire screening keeps the chickens from flying out, and deters the dogs from being able to eat them. 

Having the chicks inside has created more dust around the house, but overall, it's been a simple process.

Except for the time when the power went out late one night and they lost their heat lamp and cheeped loudly into the dark. 

We almost had chicken nuggets that evening.

The coop has posed a bit more of a challenge. I would love to be able to share cost of materials and supplies, but I used mostly scraps. I followed the coop plans fairly close. I made the cuts using a miter saw, circular saw, and table saw (I had to rip a few 2x6s in half because I ran out of 2X4s). I used a framing nailer to attach the joints. 

The roosts were not mentioned in the plans, but I added them because apparently chickens like to sleep up off the ground.

There is a side door for cleaning, and a door in the front for the chickens to access the run.

After much time spent cursing at the heat, the weight of the power tools (why do they have to be so heavy?), and the project in general (remind me why I decided to get chickens again?), I decided to employ the help of my free manual laborers. Don't they look happy?

 *Yes, that's my fiancĂ©e in the background, under the shade tree, with a cold drink in hand.

I was pleased with the end results.

All that I have left to do is to attach the chicken wire.

And wait for our chicks to grow up and start laying eggs. We will gather them here.

I have started placing the chicks outside in this dog crate so they can practice scratching in the grass and getting accustomed to the outdoors. They will be ready for their coop when they are 60 days old.

Warning: In some odd cases, having chickens has made people want to act and dress up like them. (I think his sister was behind this.) I'm not sure what those things are on the top of his head--horns? Devil chicken? Definitely his sister's doing.

And remember--keep your dogs and chickens separated. 

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. I'm not an expert, but I'll be happy to help.