Starting Down the Path of Raising a Flock
I have always dreamed of having chickens, and just four short years ago I decided to make this dream a reality on a very small scale in a residential district. In speaking with our customers at The Cheshire Horse, I have quickly realized that many of us share this same dream. I am hoping that in starting this new mini-blog series, I can help everyone realize just how much fun raising poultry can be and how simple backyard birds are to integrate into your life.
Meet the Flock
Fortunately, I live in a town that has no restrictions on backyard chicks, but I still visited with my closest neighbors to make sure that they were comfortable with my plans. To my neighbors, it was fairly important that my flock would stay in my yard and would not make too much noise (they were concerned about that infamous cock-a-doodle-doo!). Because of this, I decided to start my flock with three black sex-linked girls. These chickens are a heavy breed, and therefore are not overly inclined to fly. Sex-linked chicks also have the added benefit of being able to definatively separate the roosters from the hens based on color.
From the start, each chick had a unique personality. Hazel loved to sit in laps and cuddle for hours; on the other hand, Willow knew that she was a black beauty and wanted nothing to do with humans unless it was treat time. Finally, Olive was clever and didn’t mind occasional affection, but preferred to perch on my arm so she could decide when cuddle time was over. I soon began to see them as more than just egg layers and insect control, these sweet girls became pets that came running to greet me each time I returned home from work.
Last fall, we moved from our residential neighborhood to a three-acre farm. After four years, sadly, two members of my original flock have passed away. One of my friends gave us an Ameraucana so that my remaining girl, Olive, wouldn’t be lonely over the winter. When this new hen first met Olive, she ran to her and pecked her in the face, so I decided that I would name her Rocky. With no further boxing matches, and after one day and night of getting to know each other, they quickly became best friends.
It is so much fun gathering eggs each morning, as I can always tell which bird laid which egg. Olive lays light brown eggs and Rocky lays light blue eggs.
Now that we have additional space and more experience, we are planning to add to our flock this spring. There are several roosters all around the neighborhood, so boys are welcome, but we are only planning to add a few for our sanity. I have ordered straight run Lavender Orpingtons and Guinea Keets; I am looking forward to meeting them, learning their individual personalities, and adding them to our family.
Tools of the Trade
I realize that I am relatively new to raising chickens, but I have learned so much during my short time as a chicken farmer. By jumping into the deep-end with both feed with my flock, I needed to get up to speed quickly. My journey began with lots of reading about chicken breeds, their care and feeding, and housing options. One of my favorite resources was (and continues to be) Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens. This excellent book helped to answer any and all of my questions.
I was fortunate that I was able to speak with many seasoned chick parents, including my son and nephew who helped considerably with coop design. When it came to our coop, we referred to the Reinventing the Chicken Coop book that I picked up in the store. If you aren’t inclined to build your own coop, there are many coop and housing options available both in-store and online.
Hungry chicks love to eat! I chose to feed Purina Start & Grow Medicated Chick Feed for the first four months. There are also a number of medicated and non-medicated starter feed options. It is also essential that you have a feeder and waterer that accommodates your flock size and housing situation.
Chickens are so fun to watch, and they are simply a joy to hang out with. I never realized that it would be so rewarding, and I kick myself for choosing not to raise chicks sooner. I now know that as long as I am able to, I will continue to raise and keep a flock.
I am excited to be writing blogs for The Cheshire Horse and I can’t wait to share what I have learned thus far. Be sure to be on the lookout for my next segment, where I will be discussing the different breeds of chickens that I have introduced into my flock.