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2 Years of owning Backyard Chickens.
The highlights.

It was almost 2 years ago that I woke up on Easter morning to find a box of day old chicks on my kitchen counter.

I pretty much took it all in stride.  You know.  Acted real cool about it.   I know I look a tiny bit “alarmed” in the picture here.  It kind of looks as though I was thinking “Oh my GOD there are baby chickens in this box!!!!!  What am I going to do with baby CHICKENS??!!!”  But what I was really thinking was …

 

Hey, look at the cute chicks.  OMG is that the last Diet Coke you’re drinking?!

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I can see how you’d be confused though and think I’d lost my cool.  I did not.   In fact I didn’t lose my cool until a good 30 seconds later when it sunk in that I had nowhere for these things to live.   Also, I had no idea what to feed them, how to take care of them, if they needed medical shots, if they could fly away, attack me in the middle of the night, what kind of chickens they were and whether or not they came when you called them.  Among other things.

I knew nothing more than you do.  One laptop and 5 hours later I knew what to feed them and generally how long I had before they needed a house of their own.  The rest I learned with each passing day as a chicken owner.

The most surprising thing I learned was how hilarious chickens are.  And calming.  For both of these reasons it’s easy to spend hours just watching them.  And for the first few months I did.  I’d go into the potting shed where we were housing them until I built the coop, and I’d just watch them hop around.  I couldn’t get enough of watching the little fluff bums.

chicksbum

 

And neither could anyone else …

 

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Over the past 2 years they’ve gone from tiny chicks to gawky teens to what they are now, content hens settled into their routine of eating, pooping, scratching and egg laying.

chicklegs

 

There’ve only been 2 major bumps in the road. The first was Lucky.  That’s little Lucky in the picture above.  Lucky only lasted a week or two.  Lucky was a weak little chick and despite our best efforts, died.  Poor little lucky.

The next stressor  was Tuco.

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We had our suspicions about Tuco from day one.  They were confirmed on  July 16th, 2011 at 6:00 a.m.

 

 

That’s the thing about getting a box full of chicks.  You don’t know how many will live and you don’t know how many will end up being roosters.   Chickens are illegal where I live let alone screaming roosters.  By 9:00 that morning I had found Tuco a nice home where he still resides to this day.  His new owner has informed me Tuco has grown into a beautiful rooster with  a bit of a mean streak.

The other 4 chickens, Norma …

 

Norma

 

Cuddles …

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Walnut …

walnut

and Cheez Whiz, live a ridiculously happy life.

cheez-whiz

If you’ve been toying with the idea of getting backyard chickens yourself but are a bit scared, or don’t know what it involves, next week I’ll have something that could interest you.

On Tuesday I’ll be putting up a post outlining all of the basics of owning backyard chickens. From where to buy them, to how much their feed costs, to the every day tasks you’ll have to perform if you own them.

That way you can decide whether this whole chicken keeping craze is worth what you get in exchange … eggs.  And chicken cuddles.

 


 

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67 Comments | Filed Under: Everything Else, Outdoor | Tags: ,

67 Responses to 2 Years of owning Backyard Chickens.
The highlights.

  1. Therese says:

    It’s absolutely worthwhile jumping into the world of backyard chickens. We became accidental chicken owners after finding 2 big brown hens at our local park. We brought them home and fell in love with them straight away. It’s been almost 3 years, and one of the originals is still with us, and has been joined by 3 little bantams. We’ve had highs and lows too, with tears shed at the vet (by me), but we’ve had so much fun along the way. I find watching hens calming and grounding. I can watch them for hours too. It’s wonderful having fresh eggs, but that’s only one part of the whole experience. If anyone’s thinking about it, I say jump in. Keeping backyard chickens gets 10/10 from me!

  2. Christal says:

    Oh, I miss chicken cuddles. I had a banty hen named Chloe when I was in middle school and I loved her dearly…

  3. Meg says:

    I can’t wait til I have a place where I can have chickens. Until then: thank you for posting about yours. They are delightful to hear about!

  4. Barbie says:

    I just love your chicken posts! They are so cute!

  5. Kat says:

    Looking forward to that post I love reading about your chickens. I could never do it, my spoiled Jack Russel loves chickens also. Took her out to a friends and she had a great time running around with Caramel (the chicken) by the neck in her mouth. Caramel played dead but was fine after her tramatic experience.

  6. Kathy says:

    Love the chicken posts! Will there be any additional installments os Will They Eat It???

  7. Julia says:

    Great idea! I am definitely one of those nervous chicken-wishers, although I may be over-thinking the whole experience. I think.
    Will eagerly await your Tuesday post while compiling my list of ‘essentials’. Again…

    • Julia says:

      I did it! I got ‘em!! Three pullets now sleeping in the coop… One was totally flummoxed as to where the others had gone at dusk (in the pouring rain), but I managed to catch her (on my knees, one handed – guess I picked the wrong day to paint henna tattoos on the other hand) and reunite her with her more savvy sisters…
      Daughter and I are overjoyed with Florrie, Gertie and Hattie, sons are furious they aren’t named Steve, Bob and Godzilla.
      And all because I read your blog…

  8. Lori says:

    We had three Buff Brahma Bantam chickens, two hens and a rooster named Jeff Foxworthy. Bantams are amazing, resilient creatures who LOVE to forage…if you have room to let your chickens roam, you’ll benefit from their varied diet with beautiful golden eggs.

  9. Darin says:

    I’m looking forward to your next post. We have been considering it and my 4 year old son (who has helped my cousin take care of her 18 chickens) is desperately wanting some. I’m thinking more on the lines of 3-4 hens. We have the space and its legal, I just am unsure if I want the additional undertaking. I’m excited to hear what “ACTUALLY” goes into backyard fluff bombs!

  10. Darlene says:

    I LOVE your chicken stories!!!!

  11. Clara says:

    I never had any interest in owning chickens…well not true, always wanted a rooster but after reading your blog I’m now the proud owner of 8 hens and 1 rooster. They are 3/4 weeks old and we are busy building the coop on weekends. I have learned a lot looking at your blog and The Chicken Chicks blog. I look forward to reading your post next week.

  12. Mary Kay says:

    Karen I am so excited for the posts about your chickens and everything!! I have been toying with the idea for almost a year now. I think it all started when I stumbled upon your chicken coop on Pinterest over a year ago. I started reading your blog and have been a huge fan ever since. Now all I need is some serious guidance and to convince the teenage daughter (and the hubby a little) what a wonderful experience it would be to have our own chickens!! She doesn’t see it. Teenagers what do they know.

  13. Sara says:

    Another wonderful post. Thank you. I will eagerly await more information on chickens.

  14. Laurel says:

    I love seeing what’s going on with your chickens. I am flip flopping on the idea of getting some chickens myself. I live in New Zealand and we have an aviary, medium sized with canaries and finches, having to hand rear three baby canaries right now as mother passed away. :( but the babies have been awesome so far. Chickens I think would be a nice challenge, a rewarding challenge. Would much rather eat ethically obtained eggs than caged, and If I get to cuddle them, then bonus points! :D Looking forward to the info post about backyard chicken raising :)

  15. Rene Mary says:

    That is awesome. I remember when you posted the coop that you built which was beautiful by the way. But I have some novice questions: If chickens are illegal where you live how do you keep them a ‘secret’? And I don’t know that I could have chickens as pets when I still eat … chicken. Is it a mind set to have backyard chickens like that or ??

  16. Candice says:

    Okay…this is so weird how timely your post is. My husband and I have been back and forth whether or not to get chickens for a year! We’ve come so close, only to back out. We were actually going to look at coops this weekend – again. I’m sooooo looking forward to next week’s post to get a better, honest idea of what to expect. Thanks so much!!!!

  17. christine says:

    i have been dying to get some backyard chickens!! i was a part of a small co-op that bought chickens but the most i had to do was collect eggs… thats great and all but i didnt experience what its like to be a true chicken owner… no cuddles for me… i did get attacked by the rooster twice though…. looking forward to your post!!

  18. Diane says:

    I can’t wait to read next week! I have been contemplating backyard chickens myself. But…the relentless planner that I am, I don’t want to just “jump” into a box of chicks. I am not sure I am as capable as you Karen. But I am looking forward to reading your take.

  19. Meagan says:

    Karen, I saw your stunning backyard in the latest issue of Style at Home (I’ve seen all your blog pictures and was still in complete awe!) and thought it was a shame that they didn’t include your equally stunning coop. I’d forgotten about the illegal bit of the chickens :-) Congrats on the magazine feature. I look forward to the upcoming chicken posts, I’ve been surprised at how many times it has come in handy to be able to speak somewhat knowledgeably about backyard chickens!

  20. Lynne says:

    Oh geeze louise, you are tempting me with chickens.

    How do you do that? LOL

    I swore off of chickens in our barn, years ago (the smell made me want to throw up in my mouth a little)… and somehow you make me want them again.

    I need to work on my gag reflex.

  21. Ann says:

    Karen,

    I have had my oldest chickens about as long as you. And have had all the same issues. Had 1 rooster to rehome and lost a new chick at day 2. And I also love to just watch my cluckies. I still have 1 rooster and my birdies free range during the day, so I get to see how they all interact, how they forage, and get to enjoy the advantages of them going after bugs in the garden. After 3 seasons of getting new varieties of chicks, I now have hens laying blue, green, medium brown and tan eggs. This years babies should lay white, cream and very very dark brown eggs. So now when I give my eggs away to friends and family, they will be opening their cartons to a rainbow of eggs.

    I also give raising chickens a 10 out of 10. But then again, I haven’t gotten started yet with my ducks. The new ducklings will be arriving as soon as the new chicks get out of the brooder box!!! Lots of people say they are better at getting the bad bugs out of the garden and lay even better than chickens.

  22. Marti says:

    You always make it look so wonderful and oddly, weirdly fulfilling. Alas, there’s no room in my life for chickens, but I do love watching you and the Fella with yours. Congrats on two great years of fresh eggs!

    By the way, how long is a typical chicken’s “ridiculously happy” life? Not that Cuddles or Norma or the others is in any way…. typical.

    • Karen says:

      Marti – Chickens can live to be 15 years old or more, or they can up and die one morning for what seems to be no apparent reason. Go figure. ~ karen

  23. Feral Turtle says:

    I love chickens! Great post Karen!

  24. Emily says:

    I would LOVE to have some chickens but live within the city limits… I am sure the neighbors will tell on me quick. But to have fresh eggss….awww. Tis a dream. How many eggs to do you average?
    Emily

    • Karen says:

      Emily – Chickens lay like crazy in their first year. 6 eggs a week from each chicken, so 24 a week from 4 hens. Now in their second year they’ve settled down to only 12-17 eggs a week. ~ karen!

  25. Pat Kichinko says:

    Go here. Go here now. I thought of you immediately when I saw this. Go here. Go here now. Please.

    http://www.bhg.com/decorating/decorating-style/flea-market/flea-market-chic-home-accents/?sssdmh=dm17.660628&esrc=nwdiy040313a#page=27

  26. Stef says:

    I love reading your posts about chickens and look forward to reading next week’s post. I’ve been thinking about getting chickens for quite a while, but my husband & I have an ongoing argument about what will happen when they’re too old to lay eggs. Do you believe in the concept of a chicken retirement home?

  27. Susan U says:

    I was just pondering your chickens and mine, wondering how you got it all going and good resources for info for the first-time chicken farmer. I have 12 3-week old chicks brooding in my living room. Getting ready to start on our coop. We live smack-dab in the middle of town but are lucky enough to have ordinances that allow city chicks. :-) Can’t wait to read your posts next week. Thanks, Karen!

  28. Elizabeth says:

    Hahaha – they’re illegal!?! I love your brazenness in posting about them. You are too funny.

    My cousin’s had chickens a couple years ago, and I totally know what you mean. Watching them and laughing at their antics was one of my favorite things to do. You’re right. It’s very calming.

  29. Jenna says:

    Lol Cheese Whiz! What made you name her that?

  30. rev59@shaw.ca says:

    The look on Walnut’s face!! LOL

  31. LeeAnne says:

    Wow Karen, has it really been two years??? This post really took me back. I have really loved your posts, expecially the ones about the coop and the chickens. The video you did with them jumping to eat the plant was too funny. I sent it to a friend whose English is not so great. The next time we met he was howling at it so I send him all the chicken videos. He doesn’t know who the Beatles are but sure loves your chickens!
    Keep up the great posts!

  32. Kara says:

    We have also been mulling over the option of to chicken or not to chicken, but we have the extra added difficulty of a wonderful, loving, snuggle-craving, furry-faced golden retriever. Who is awesome. But also a dog. Any tips/hints on how to deal with the chicken + dog combo? Our neighbour had chickens and dog-face would just sit and watch them, but I worry about a more long term living situation (and the inevitable pee breaks in the middle of winter when I’m just way too lazy/freezing cold to put on my jacket and boots and go outside with her.). Any ideas would be helpful! And I can’t wait to read next week’s post…

  33. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    We are still pondering doing this so I will be paying attention teacher..I will tell him that you posted pictures of some cute chicks to get his attention!

  34. Debbie says:

    This has beeen a topic at our house for awhile. Myself pro,
    Husband not so much. It helped that our neighbors went ahead and purchased some when I was looking into it and love them. I would get them just for the cuddles alone and no eggs. This is not over yet…………

  35. Karen Duke says:

    Reading your blog inspired me to get 14 baby chicks 3 weeks ago. We were also taken in by the ducklings, so we’ve also got 6 of them. We’re converting one stall of the barn for the new flock and installing an outdoor run for them to use until they’re big enough to free range. I’ve researched every kind of coop design, chicken tractor, chunnel and more but haven’t found as nice a chicken palace as yours anywhere!

  36. Leslie says:

    Reading your posts about building the chicken coop was one of the major inspirations for me getting chickens. A year later I have a flock of about 100 birds, including four ducks.

  37. Shauna says:

    We also totally love our chickens and am happy to say that they are no longer illegal. When people ask about how much care they take, I usually say, “they’re easier than indoor cats, but you do need someone to do a little light housekeeping for you when you go on holiday”. We do the deep layer method and I truly am shocked how easy it is to keep hens. Yes, there is stuff you have to do daily, but if limited on time, it only takes about 5 minutes. The difficult part is leaving them in that amount of time because you’ll just want to hang out with them.

  38. Rachel says:

    We got 12 baby chicks last spring and ended up with nine roosters. NINE ROOSTERS! Your luck with a straight run was much better than mine ;)

  39. Patti says:

    It took me 4 yrs. to convince my husband to let me get chickens and he may not be as enthusiastic about them as I am, but he likes them! Just finished reading Once Upon A Flock, which I highly recommend for all, especially chicken owners. Kara, we have a 5 yr. old Golden and a 3 1/2 yr.old lab. We exposed the pups to the chicks as much as we could. Now a year later, I free range the girls and hope the dogs will want to stay outside with them to protect them from hawks etc. Our golden doesn’t bother much with the girls, but our lab loves to follow them around the yard.

  40. I’m looking forward to next week, Karen. We had chickens growing up, but now that I’m planning on getting my own (and I’ll actually have to be the responsible adult) I’m realizing that there’s still some things I have to learn. I’ll be interested to hear about your daily/weekly/monthly/seasonal/annual routines. And of course the $$$. I don’t think money will stop me in my quest for farm fresh eggs… and chicken cuddles… but I am a frugal person, so I like knowing what I’m getting into. It’s part of the whole responsible adult thing.

  41. marilyn says:

    lovin the chickens..

  42. Toronto Boy says:

    As Ren and Stimpy would often declare,”Happy, happy, joy, joy! Happy, happy, joy!” I’ve been toying with the idea of raising chickens but lack the foresight and knowledge to put the plan into action.

  43. Cathy in Colorado says:

    We have 5 chickens; one was killed by feral cats. We love them dearly and they are wonderful.

  44. Pam'a says:

    I’ve wondered for a while now… What sort of arrangements do you have to make for your girls if you’re going to be away for a few days? What are a chicken sitter’s duties?

    Someday, I may need to know such things. ;)

  45. marion says:

    Im very much looking forward to your post since I have been thinking of getting chickens for about 2 years now, only my husband does not like this idea at all …
    Now something totally differnt: tell me how you like this:http://enpundit.com/family-builds-amazing-rainbow-igloo-in-backyard/
    you could keep this in mind for a post next winter
    (if you are really bored or out of ideas)! I just love it!

  46. Rita says:

    I’ve gone from being a chicken wisher to a chicken owner this spring. We have 6 lovely little birds in their partially finished coop in the garage. All we need is to finish the coop, fix the fence and have weather warm enough for partially feathered birds to survive in and we can move them into the backyard.

  47. Lisa says:

    OMG Now I cannot wait for next week! I’ve been considering getting backyard chickens for my suburbian home. I was raised on a Quarter Horse form and want so desperately to get back to my country roots. Since I can’t keep a horse in my garage I’m begging my down home redneck BF to build me a chicken coop…..or a house in the country…..I’m thinking the coop will come first. Now I won’t have to go to my uncle’s coop and steal his eggs! lol

  48. nicole d says:

    OH YAY! thanks Karen! I’m looking forward to your tuesday post, which i had been waiting and asking for…THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

    (we have been planning out our coop this past weekend, but have NO CLUE what to do once we get the little guys. haha)

  49. Jodi says:

    I was holding up nicely today. There’s a place where I live called Jacob’s Cave and several times a year people come out, set up a booth and sell and trade. Chickens, geese, ducks, peacocks and other birds. Two years ago, my husband and I purchased our first chickens. We were hooked!! We only have five birds right now. Three bantams and two full size birds. They all live together and we love them! They are definitely worth the effort and money. Besides the eggs, they are interactive, have individual personalities and are just plain fun!

  50. Jodi says:

    I started saying I was holding up nicely, beacause Jacob’s Cave is happening this weekend and I’m trying not to get in the car and bring home more chickens! Lol! Looking at the photos of your chicks got me all nostalgic!

  51. Esther says:

    Woohoo!!! I can’t wait for the upcoming post. I am moving to a permanent residence come May and am wanting to have chickens, this could not have been better timing. Thank You.

  52. julie s says:

    You named him Tuco — of course he has a mean streak! He’s a Salamanca! I’m surprised you didn’t have two chicken cousins on your doorstep prepared to exact retribution for giving Tuco away.

  53. Nicki Woo says:

    Oh man. I mean, Oh chicken. I really, really want chickens. But. . I don’t think they are permitted in my suburbian area. I live in a city outside of Houston, part country, part suburbia, and we actually have neighbors near by with chickens, horses, and maybe a goat or two. But they have more land than we do, and I think the deal is you have to have your coup 100 ft. from neighboring houses. but, i’m not sure. . .gonna need to check into that after reading this sweet post:)

  54. Nancy says:

    FYI You can hypnotize a chicken by stroking it between the eyes. :)With your finger. :D

  55. Allison says:

    Hi Karen,
    I have followed your chicken posts for over a year now and was so inspired by your girls I got my own 4 chicks in January! Blanche turned out to be a rooster though (gave us his first crow at 6 weeks!), and unfortunately our sweet Rose got sick last week and we just lost her on Saturday :( I know I need to move on and keep learning, but it has been quite discouraging only 3 months in…

    But I do love seeing your darling flock and am always so encouraged. Keep up the great work!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Allison. I’m so sorry about your hen Rose. Don’t be discouraged though. I too had a rooster, and I too had one (albeit a very young one) die. If I were you I would build up the flock again with 2 healthy pullets. Good luck! ~ karen

      • Allison says:

        Thank you Karen. That’s the plan. But all my research makes introducing new chickens sound so tricky! Where am I supposed to quarantine new birds for 30 days?! Sheesh.

        I’ll let you know how it goes :)

        • Karen says:

          Hi Allison – 30 days is probably a good idea, but might not be necessary if you buy your birds from a very reputable source. As opposed to some random chicken seller on the side of the road. You do have to go slow with keeping them separated so they get to know each other though. Like cats. Or best friends. :) ~ karen

  56. Jody Cooper says:

    Why quarantine them from each other? I have raised chickens and guineas and rabbits around each other and they seem to do quiet well together. If the birds are raised together from the start they take on similarities of each other. For example, I bought 2 guineas, and 12 chickens all straight runs, so far we lost 1 chicken, might have 1 rooster( still watching, hasn’t crowed yet ) not laying yet, waiting for a Christmas miracle LOL . Guineas are making that funny call ( kinda sounds like , COME BACK, COME BACK!!!!!) Those are both hens no doubt, even though they resemble buzzard headed chickens, Big big girls, but eggs are supposed to be good and small in size. They are scaredy chickens, big ole bad ,not! Run like hell if a crow flies bye, funny as all get out, comedians of the yard. Best damn watch dogs I’ve ever had . My girls think they are chickens, they fan out in the sun after a good roll in the dirt. Preening and stretching, 2 seconds later they are at a dead run as fast as they can go darting about turning on a dime. These crazy things act like chickens and for some unknown reason they aren’t trying to get away or fly at all. I clipped once, but have regrown awhile ago. Time will tell I guess.

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