This post is from a couple of Easters ago. I don’t advocate chicks as gift “just for Easter”, but this worked out perfectly for us because we did want the feathered friends as egg laying adults. :) We still have two of these chickens, since one wound up being a mean ol’ rooster and two more mysteriously keeled over, later to be discovered my husband had forgotten our agreement and used poisonous weed treatments in forbidden areas we were supplementing their diets from. Oops!! :( We’ll be adding to our flock again next spring, but for now, I’m re-sharing this for those of y’all who want chickens for the long haul and need some advice for getting started without going broken. :)
We got five fluffy baby pullet chickies this spring. Our daughter was thrilled, I was excited to have chickens for the first time in years and years, and my husband was fascinated by the whole process of raising a farm type critter. This was a new adventure for our little family!
Alot of folks get those cute Easter chickies without a clue or thought of what to do with them. I got my hens as chicks so they would be friendly backyard pets. I chose the breeds for the dual purpose of being pets and good egg layers. We got three Barred Rock hens because they are both calm and very productive layers. We got two Aracauna hens because they lay Easter egg colored eggs and are moderately high producers. We had a chicken house that we found on an online yardsale set up in our back yard before we brought them home, although they had to stay in a big box under a heat lamp inside for a few weeks. We had fencing materials and a plan for making a ramp down from the coop into the little pen, which my hubby did for me when the chicks were big enough to need the space. If you want chickens yourself, do your research, make your plans for their long term care and prepare yourself before you bring them home!
Feeding chickens could add up if you don’t do it correctly. For us, we spend about $12 on a bag of feed for our hens and it lasts about six weeks for our five chickens now that they’re full sized “teenagers”. However, the reason it lasts is because I save scraps for them every day, and have our 3 year old give them their scraps before I pour their feed in. We save things like the chopped up odds & ends from fruits and veggies, stale bread, crushed cereal leftovers, leftover plain pasta pieces, and anything else chickie friendly to chop up for them to gobble up. We also have a compost pile my husband and daughter sometimes dig up worms from to feed to them, and the two of them like to turn over large rocks and boards to collect grubs and worms to feed the feathered fowl as treats. These “extras” not only save us money on their feed bill, but it keeps them much healthier.
Another thing I am doing for the chickens is saving up eggshells, letting them air dry, and crushing them into powder. I let my little girl crush them in a plastic bag with a cup as much as she wants, then I grind them the rest of the way into powder. I’ll be adding this to my hen feed as soon as they start laying eggs, as it is a cheap way to help them get their calcium. They’re due to start laying…well….any time in the next month or so, really. :)
A misconception alot of folks have that surprises me every time is that you need a rooster so the hens can lay eggs. You don’t. You only need a rooster if you want the eggs to be fertilized so you can hatch your own chicks. A rooster in the back yard would be loud and obnoxious. Hens are pretty quiet, just clucking most of the time with an occasional cackle, and are actually less likely to disturb anyone than having a cat. My mom got our first hens while we were living in a subdivision, and all three of the neighbors connected to our back yard loved them!
You don’t need alot of time, space or money to keep a few laying hens. Just do your homework and prepare yourself before you bring them home, and you’ll do just fine. They’re cute, fun, teach kiddos responsibility, and the fresh home laid eggs are absolutely amazing and healthy. I loved raising chickens when I was growing up, and am thrilled to be able to share that with my munchkins now.
Is anyone else doing some backyard (or full scale) homesteading?
P.S. I’ve had a long gap in posting due to technical difficulties with accessing my panel on here. My tech savvy uncle gave me a few tips on things to try. I’m not actually sure what worked…but it did. Gotta love him! :)