Sunday, October 10, 2010

Raising Backyard Chickens, Part I

I've been wanting to jump on the backyard chicken band wagon for a while now. Well, actually, I didn't realize it was what the Jonses were all doing until I started researching it. Now I know I am not the first thirty-something mom, driving a minivan, with no 4-H experience, who wants to raise backyard chickens for their fact, it's the latest trend! But none-the-less, I am intrigued by farm fresh, organic eggs, every morning. Have you tasted an egg that was just laid that same day? If you haven't, you must! The first time I mentioned this to DH he told me I was crazy but to do a bunch of research (really? come on! it's more fun to jump in and learn as you go....also you won't get nervous and change your mind before buying them, but one of us needs to be practical in each situation) and let him know what I find out. So I did a bunch of on-line research. I looked into what they eat, how much they poop, and how long you can be out of town before having to ask someone if they can "can you please take care of our chickens while we're gone?" Oh, and then the legal stuff, like if I'm even allowed to own chickens where I live; geez, do we need to bring the law into everything?

Ok, it seemed easy enough. Here's what I found: they eat organic chicken meal and/or graze from your yard...hey, DH won't have to mow the lawn ever again- he's sure to agree now! You give them an auto-water thing that attaches to your garden hose. They need a coop to live in, protect them from the elements and to lay their eggs in. They also need an attached run, some space to run around outside the coop (unless you are going to give them free-reign of your yard, which Sunnie (our 11 year old dog) wouldn't necessarily be too thrilled about after all these years as queen. At any rate, I figured we could leave for about 4 days without having to ask someone to check in on them...and since we haven't been gone for more than 3 days at a time in the last 3.5 years, I figured that's no problem. And lastly, in my unincorporated part of the county, I can own up to 11 chickens, no roosters. Phew!

So, now it's time to shop!! Look at these chicken coops. So cute! I'm sure any one of these would look so great in my backyard, don'tcha think?

I reported back to DH with all my info and told him of my excitement and that I really think this could happen! I promised to be the one to take care of them, clean up the poop, and cook the eggs. I started showing him the adorable chicken coops. The hefty price tags were of slight cause of concern, he even said at one point, "I can make you a chicken coop." Really? Ah, nah...I'd rather have board and batten in the family room. He also suggested checking Craigslist for coops. However, still a bit weary of it all he suggested I ask a couple of friends who have raised chickens before.

Ok, back to work. I send out an email to a friend who has a lifetime membership with 4-H. She's raised every farm animal known to man, she'll tell me how easy it is and put DH's mind at ease. And then I went on to search Craigslist for weeks looking for just the right coop. I finally heard back from my 4-H friend, who in a nutshell, told me to "go for it.....and if it doesn't work out, you can always sell your coop and chickens on Craigslist"!! Not exactly what I needed as amo to convince DH. And then I found it, THE ONE. The most adorable, red wooden chicken coop. It had a shingled roof, 4 nesting boxes, room for up to 6 chickens, was 2-story and had a 6 foot long run off one end. I ran out into the yard and measured my spot, perfect fit. It was on Craigslist, from San Francisco, for the low low price of $150! I emailed the seller right away....and then emailed DH, "If we're gonna do this, here's the coop we need to buy!" That evening, DH sat down with me for one of those serious talks. He appreciated my excitement and then reminded me of all the living things I am responsible for keeping alive already each day. He isn't completely opposed to raising chickens, he just is a bit fearful that I will be taking on so much that it will put me over the edge (OH, that's so sweet, he doesn't think I'm already over the edge). He suggested that we wait until spring. If I'm still super excited about it in the spring, perhaps we can re-visit the idea. Ok, he's got a point.

So I emailed a good friend the link to the most adorable, perfectly sized, perfectly priced chicken coop. I told her that I am going to wait a bit and that she should buy this coop for her family (she and her husband were also thinking about jumping on the band wagon). She too thought it was the cutest coop she'd seen and was shocked I was not already in the car on my way to pick it up. She sent the link on to her husband...and his reply, "Why don't you wait until Celeste has had chickens for a while to see how it goes for them before we decide to buy some ourselves." Guess they'll be waiting until spring, too.

By the way, if you want to do a little of your own research, a great place to start is They have a great website packed with information. There is also a forum you can browse through to get great ideas for coops, see what other people's questions are, and learn about many cool tips from those who actually have chickens!

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