Deny it all you want but most of you, if you think about it, wouldn't mind raising a few chicks. I mean seriously, have you ever seen the hatching display at the farm show or state fair? Yeah...me neither...it is always too crowded! It is hard to find something cuter than a baby chick, and the great thing is that they are actually beneficial once they grow up (unlike a certain kitten turned cat in our household....don't tell Thor I said that...).
So you decide you want backyard chickens. What is next?
#1 You have to find chicks. This is easier said than done. We drove around to various Acme's and Farm stores last year trying to find a few baby chicks, a few hens for sale, but no cigar. We finally found some at Tractor Supply Store and purchased Rhode Island Red and White Leghorn pullets. Pullets are female chicks, and you definitely want to get pullets if you are trying to raise laying hens. Choose six chicks randomly and you very well might end up with 6 roosters (can you imagine?!) The only problem with buying chicks from a local store is the lack of variety. You aren't going to find the really rare and interesting breeds locally. This year, I ordered from CaliforniaHatchery.com and my chicken coop this year will be bursting from the seams with interesting chickens. Black and Buff Laced Polish Chickens, Buff Brahma, Barred Rock Plymouth Bantams and Golden Campine. Aren't their names just romantic? The great thing I found about California Hatchery is that you only need to buy 3 chickens and 2 ducks at a time (most place make you order 6 of a breed). CH also lets you mix types within a breed, so you could get 2 black silkies and 1 white. The other great thing? They actually offer hatching eggs for sale! Forget the state fair - watch your own eggs hatch at home!
#2 Once you find the chicks, you've got to choose which ones you want. This might seem like a no brainer, but I spend far too much time deciding which breeds I wanted to pick out (there are like 9 pages of rare breeds...ahh!) ...and last year when I picked out the chicks by hand? That was an ordeal too. You see, the buff, gruff worker man at Tractor Supply store didn't really feel anything emotionally towards my new baby chicks. So, when we told him we wanted chicks, he just kind of stepped his big, muddy work boots into the giant bins of chicks and started picking out chicks at random. I had to (nicely and as non-crazily as possible) ask him "Do you think I could please have that one?"...referring to the little white chicken racing around and around the pin trying to get out. I guess I connected with her because she reminded me of my boys running around and around and around the house constantly?? Anyway...I wanted to handpick those chickens and I'm so glad I did. They truly are little members of our extended family, have names and unique personalities.
#3 You have to build a coop. You can get away with a cardboard box for a few weeks, but you have to buy or build a coop that will be large enough for the chickens soon! A chicken coop is work to get together, but it doesn't have to be ugly, it doesn't have to be huge (if you only have a few chickens) and it does not have to be expensive (if you build your own!). If you are interested in building a coop, you can read further in my article on Houzz discussing coop design. Just click HERE!
#4 You have to buy chicken feed. We feed out chickens A LOT of scraps and they eat it up like little demons! However, we still need to supplement their diet with feed and chicken scratch. It costs about $10 for a giant bag of feed and a little over $5 for a giant bag of scratch (cracked corn). You can pick it up at the feed store or order online. I mix the two and they last about 3-6 months with 3 part-time free ranging chickens. They obviously eat more feed when snow is on the ground and they are cooped up vs. summertime when they are munching down on bugs in the yard.
#5 You have to buy a cute egg holder. OK, not really, but once those hens start laying, it is a little sad to just put those beautiful white and brown orbs in an ugly container or old egg carton. There is something really awesome about opening your fridge and seeing a cute little ceramic holder full of eggs from your very own backyard chickens. It's the little things....
I bought mine off amazon, but I think I saw them in other (super cute!) colors at Anthropologie. Want to support this blog with your egg tray purchase? Buy them here!
UPDATE: Thanks to one of you for purchasing these awesome Easter egg colored trays...you've got me wanting some now!!!
Some of you mentioned raising chickens in the city, and how it is a no-no. Well, not to encourage any illegality, but you might want to check out this book from the library...it is eye opening!
On the flip side of things, you might want to listen to this podcast from Comedian Danny Lobell who tells the story of sharing a backyard rooster with Ecuadorian gangsters. ...and this link is to the transcript, but you ABSOLUTELY should listen to the audio. Danny is hilarious and had me laughing out loud in my car listening to the story. JUST CLICK HERE to visit This American Life (and if you've never heard of This American Life -- you are missing out!) Happy Valentine's Day y'all!