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.

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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.

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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 …

 

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Cuddles …

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Walnut …

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and Cheez Whiz, live a ridiculously happy life.

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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.

 


 

67 Comments

  1. 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

  2. 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!

  3. Feral Turtle says:

    I love chickens! Great post Karen!

  4. 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

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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!!

  10. 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!!!!

  11. 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 ??

  12. 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 :)

  13. Sara says:

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

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. Darlene says:

    I LOVE your chicken stories!!!!

  17. 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!

  18. 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.

  19. 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…

  20. Kathy says:

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

  21. 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.

  22. Barbie says:

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

  23. 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!

  24. 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…

  25. 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!

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