Almost two years ago we dove into the adventure of owning and caring for our own hens. In this post I share what our journey has been like with backyard chickens. Make sure you check out the cutest video of chirping chicks below.
How it Began and Barriers to My Chicken Dreams
My journey to having backyard chickens started several years ago when a small desire started growing in my heart. At that time we were not able to have chickens because our city at the time did not allow residents to have backyard chickens. Thankfully, one of my neighbors also wanted chickens and she was already working very diligently to get approval from the city council. Her efforts paid off and a trial period was approved for residents to own chickens. I hope this is encouraging to anyone else who lives in a city that doesn’t currently allow chickens, it is possible to make a change and have your city approve backyard hens!
Even with that victory and a stronger desire to have chickens, we still had some barriers to work through. At the time, our backyard wasn’t fenced in, and our neighbors really didn’t like the idea of a fence being put up between our yards. It basically felt like we had to choose between creating conflict with the family who lived next door to us, or giving up on my chicken dreams.
Thankfully we didn’t have to do either. We actually ended up moving to a new home in a different suburb. While we were house hunting I made sure we chose a location that already allowed backyard chickens (priorities!). It is pretty awesome going on walks around our current neighborhood and being able to point out several families whom I know have chickens too.
We moved into our new home in the fall and we had a few months to settle in and prepare for our fluffy chicks’ arrival. I ordered our chicks, bought supplies and a chicken coop, and read through some books on how to care for chickens. Then we waited.
The Chicks Arrived…at the Post Office!
I’ll never forget the day my chicks arrived at the post office. I was at work, an hour’s commute from home, and I received two phone calls from the post office that day. I could hear my baby chicks chirping in the background during those conversations. The post office worker wanted to let me know the chicks arrived and asked when I’d be picking them up.
During that second phone call the post office employee seemed worried that I wouldn’t make it in time before the post office closed. Of course, I wanted to drive there immediately, but I had to finish my work day first! I arrived in time and was handed an enclosed box filled with six little fluffy chicks. The box was full of little chirps and my heart was full of excitement! When we got home and opened the box I was finally able to behold the cutest chicks I ever saw. And they were mine!
The chicken breeds I chose include two of each of the following: isa browns (also called red stars), silver laced wyandottes and easter eggers. We named our baby chicks Anne, Nilly, Joder, Nugget, Lola and Rosie.
Baby chicks grow super fast! Within weeks their fluff turns into feathers and they can no longer stay indoors, but need a lot more space to run, flap their wings and jump. Their transition from fur to feathers, and their long gangly chicken legs can look kind of funny. Many people refer to it as the awkward teenage stage.
At this time the weather started to warm up by us and we were able to start acclimating our chicks to being outside. We also spent some time introducing them to their chicken coop. We bought our coop from a store that supplies chicken equipment and had to build it. I also painted it red so that it looks like a little red barn. I love how adorable our coop is! Over time we added an extension to the coop and a fenced in run to give our growing chickens the space they need.
Problem Solving with Backyard Chickens
Our journey with backyard chickens has required us to adapt and figure things out as we go. For example, in the winter we had to learn how to winterize the coop and keep our chickens happy during the below zero days. This entails putting construction plastic around the outside of our coop (and making sure the coop is still able to vent). We also provide a water heater to prevent the chickens’ water from freezing. Lastly, we put straw out for our chickens when it snows so that they are still able to free range. (Chickens do not like snow! It makes their feet cold).
Chicken drama happens too. You may have heard of the “pecking order” used as a common figure of speech. But the pecking order is a real thing among chickens. The alpha chicken is at the top of the pecking order and she reigns the roost. Unfortunately, in our flock, the chicken at the bottom of the pecking order is often bullied and pecked on, and her feathers pecked out. We started with six chickens and have had to rehome two chickens to a loving neighbor who also has chickens. This has given our four remaining chickens more space, which helps reduce some of the pecking. Since rehoming two of our chickens, I think I have finally figure out who the bully (or alpha chicken) is. Things have been more peaceful lately, here’s to hoping they stay peaceful!
Backyard Chickens Bring Joy and Eggs
Our journey with backyard chickens does come with extra work and responsibility, but it also comes with joy. One of my favorite things to do when it is warmer out is to let my chickens free range while I sit on my swing and read a book. I love watching them run around and look for tasty bugs to eat. They also enjoy sunbathing and taking dirt baths. If you haven’t seen a chicken take a dirt bath before, you really need to. It is so amusing, watching them roll around and kick dirt up around them.
It goes without saying that one of the best parts about owning hens is the eggs you receive in return for caring for them. Hens start laying eggs when they are about 5 to 7 months old. Below is a photo of the first egg I found in the nesting box, which also happened to have a double yolk inside. I like to think that was a sign of good luck.
The type of chicken you have will determine the color egg they lay. Different colored eggs do not taste different and they do not have different nutrient values.
The isa brown chickens lay the darker brown eggs you see in my photos below, and the silver laced wyandottes lay the cream colored eggs. The bluish green eggs we have are laid by our easter egger chicken.
Since it is currently winter and there is less daylight, my chickens are laying less eggs, which is completely normal. Egg production will pick up as the days get longer again. Currently we get one to two eggs per day instead of four. It is my isa brown chickens that are egg laying champions during the winter!
Our journey with backyard chickens is a constant learning experience. We’ve figured out how to provide basic care for our chickens and now we want to continue developing our skills.
One thing we would like to do is build our own chicken coop. We’d like to make our next coop out of good quality wood to make for a stronger structure. I’d also like to build our new coop upright, enabling us to walk in the coop to make cleaning and maintenance easier. This means we need to learn how to do more wood working, which is a wonderful skill I’d love to have.
Additionally, I would like to learn how to mix our own chicken feed. I like the idea of knowing exactly what my chickens are eating, and not having to rely on expensive prepackaged feed.
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If you are interested in having your own flock of chickens, here are some of the resources I have found helpful in our own journey. Also, feel free to reach out if you have any questions. I am happy to share information based on my experience with our chickens.
Where I ordered our chicks from
We purchased our chicks from Murray McMurray Hatchery. I like this company because they provide options to vaccinate your chicks to protect them from common diseases such as coccidiosis and marek’s disease. If you want a free catalog to look through click here.