Bringing Home Chicks

My experience with chickens began Spring 2009.  I bought a few Rhode Island Red chicks for $3.00 each from Wilco, and a year and a half later I can’t imagine a life without them.  They virtually take care of themselves now, and all I need to do is feed & water them and gather their eggs.  Occasionally I clean out their nesting beds and put in fresh straw, and I rake out their coop a few times a year.  I’ve moved it a couple times.  The chickens were a substantial cost to begin with in terms of the lumber and wire needed to build the coop, but now they easily pay for themselves.  Oh, and I did have to buy some wire fencing and metal stakes to keep them out of my garden beds and in their own section of the yard, but now that that’s done, I think the initial investment in their care and maintenance is complete.

In Springfield the limit on chickens is 6 for 10,000 sq. feet of property, but you can add one chicken after that for each additional 1,000 square feet up to 10 I believe.  No Roosters allowed of course. In Eugene I think you’re only allowed two hens.  I have heard that Eugenians are trying to get the city ordinance changed to allow for more chickens, so hopefully they will have success with that.  I really believe it should depend on the size of your property.  Still, no matter how large your property is, you probably won’t want more than a few chickens, because let me tell you… they are a handful, especially if you let them run wild around your yard. 

I have to say that the whole chicken experience has been the most rewarding thing I’ve done yet in terms of backyard farming.   I had a good friend get me started, and he also built me a really sturdy and functional chicken coop.  The only problem I had was that I had to completely redesign my back yard section to accommodate the chickens, because I needed to keep them out of my garden.  If you have several chickens, they can destroy vegetable and flowerbeds in a few weeks.  If you ever get chickens, this is a huge priority if you love a neat garden like I do.  Let them roam freely everywhere and you will get chaos and destruction which will lead you to thoughts of roasted chicken instead of omelette’s! 

CHICKEN COUPS

If you go online, buy some chicken coop books or to the garden shows and county fairs, you’ll see a lot of very attractive chicken coops.  Some people have great ideas, but not all of us can afford to pay the price for a fancy, perfectly designed chicken coop.  The coop I have is about as simple and cheap as you can get, but it really serves its purpose.  It’s not the most beautiful design you will ever see, but it goes up quickly and it can be used for a year or two until you figure out something else that works better and looks better. During that first year, and as the chickens grow, you will probably make a lot of changes to accommodate your chicken’s behaviors and your budget.  I didn’t have the finances that would allow me to buy everything at once, but over the year I was finally able to get the chickens everything they needed.  Now, about a year and a half later I still have some final modifications to make on their nesting beds.  After that, I think it’ll be good until I get some other creative idea!

After checking out www.mypetchicken.com  I almost thought that my chickens were New Hampshire Reds which are an offshoot from Rhode Island Reds who are a bit browner in color.  It says that the New Hampshire Reds lay fewer eggs than the Rhode Islands, maybe 3 per week, but I usually get 4—6 eggs a day from my 7 hens.  These are definitely Rhode Island Reds.  That’s around 30 eggs per week, so that is at least 4 eggs per week from each hen.  Sometimes I get eggs from all seven in one day.  A few times I’ve gotten more than that!  I appreciate my hens so much and can’t imagine a life without them and the wonderful eggs they give me.  Not only that, but chickens are a lot of fun to watch!  My next post will describe my chicken coop in more detail.

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