This is an old post I moved over from my old blog. I am still in the process of transferring everything.
For years I wanted to learn to how to keep backyard chickens. I was always a little intimidated thinking it would be too hard since I had zero experience with owning farm animals. I had visited friends and families farms growing up, but had never actually had sole responsibility for them. The thought of it was exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time. I wanted to learn some homesteading skills beyond canning and gardening and decided that chickens would be a great way to get started.
Meet Princess Ariel, Leisel, Matilda, Ninja Warrior Rooster (my son insisted she was a he) and Cordon Bleu. Our first batch of chicks. Sorry about the photo quality, this was several years ago and I just took a quick picture.
We got our first batch of chicks for Easter 3 years ago. I was so nervous the first day we brought them home. It was very cold the first night and I had no idea how much heat they actually needed. I was just sure I was going to kill the sweet little balls of fluff and cause my children grief. Thankfully they made it and turned into sweet hens with incredible personalities.
This year we decided to try a different breed after a friend recommended them. I went to my local feed store and placed my order for 8 silver laced wyandottes. Technically we are only allowed 6 hens in the city without a permit, but in my experience not all of the chicks make it. So we decided to order extras, just in case. I have a friend who offered to take the extras if they all made it. We are 2 months in and so far we still have all 8!
My version of chick daycare. They would play out here during the day and come inside during the night until we had the coop built. I found some old window screens and screwed them together to make a box and then laid more screens on top to keep them safe. As an added bonus by moving the screens around everyday I had a great built in yard fertilizer.
I have found that keeping chickens is not a time consuming activity and can be very enjoyable. The hardest part is the first few days when you have to make sure they stay warm. I wish I had taken a picture of our brooder, but I forgot. You will have to use your imagination. The first couple of days I just used the green box in the picture above. It was just a plastic storage tub with the lid off. I was able to put one of the window screens on top and place my heat lamp on top of that.
You will know if the chicks are too cold if they are huddled under the light and if they are too warm you will see them around the edges of the box.
The only other thing you need to do is make sure they have clean food, water, and bedding and you will have happy chicks.
After they grew some I moved them to a large cardboard box we had leftover from buying a new lawn mower. They lived in the box until our coop was finished.
Use your imagination when making a brooder. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. They will hang out in the brooder until they have fully feathered out. That is when I move mine outside full time. Chicks are more resilient then you think. They will let you know if they need something…very loudly.
Here are a couple of books I found on Amazon for those of you who are just starting out with chickens.
A Chicken in Every Yard: The Urban Farm Store’s Guide to Chicken Keeping
Building Chicken Coops( Storey Country Wisdom Bulletin)
Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, 3rd Edition
Destroying what is left of my tulips.
Starting to build the temporary outside coop.
We realized that we needed to get our chickens out of the box in the garage sooner then we thought. They grow SO fast! Since we did not have the time or plans finished for our permanent coop this is what we did for now.
We found a great insulated, vented dog house on craigslist for $10. The inside has a partition so they can stay warm and dry at night.
We then adde some T posts and unrolled some chicken wire around them to create a fence. We secured the wire with simple zip ties.
We realized that we would need to build some sort of gate to get into the pen. I had the idea to use some leftover bamboo poles that we had used when we made a trellis for the garden. It worked perfectly! We then zip tied the gate to the post and secured it with some wire.
The new fence and bamboo gate.
We have plans to turn part of the shed behind the old dog house/ chicken coop into our permanent coop. We will eventually need to add nest boxes. Hopefully all of this will get finished in July. I will make sure to keep you updated.
***Update*** We have since built a larger, more sturdy fence for our girls and converted part of the shed into a much needed larger coop. I will get a post together soon to show you how we did it and what we ended up using for nest boxes. I can’t wait to show you what we did and break down the cost! It was seriously WAY cheaper then I initially thought.
My little chicken herders.