We've been thinking of getting chickens for almost two years now, and we finally took the leap a couple months ago. Like any new thing, it felt like there would be a huge learning curve, and the daunting task of building a coop made us apprehensive. We did a little reading up (I'll share a couple of our favorite resources at the end), Chris made some great plans for a coop, and once we brought them home it became a lot more fun than work.
We started off with ten chicks, five each of Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rocks. We didn't have the coop ready right away, but when they're so little all you really need is a small contained space to keep them in. We used a big tub with a rectangle cut in the lid and covered with chicken wire.
It was still a little cool out, so we kept them inside most of the time with a red bulb heat lamp. The only other supplies we needed to start were a watering bowl, feed and feed dish, and some hay (or some kind of bedding to keep them from slipping).
There was a slight smell in the family room while the chicks were living inside, but we cleaned out the hay 1-2 times each day and kept things tidy. We loved being able to watch them during the day--it was fun observing their sleeping and eating routines.
One of the Rhode Island Red chicks about a week old.
Chris got to work on the coop asap (although the chicks didn't move in for a few weeks), and it soon became the kids' playhouse.
About half of the wood for the coop were scraps we had on hand, but we definitely put a good chunk of money into the rest. We did get all the paint from our local Habitat Restore, though. Coops don't have to be as fancy as this, but I love the design Chris came up with and he did an amazing job.
Unfortunately we've already had a couple casualties with the chicks, but it's been a good opportunity to talk with the kids about the fragility of life. We lost one chick when one of the kids was holding her a little too tightly, and another one disappeared just a couple weeks ago since they've been living outside (we think it may have been a hawk that got it).
Of course the kids were upset about both situations. They even made a gravestone for the first one we had to bury. There was no sign of the second one, we even walked down the street and alley with a flashlight after dark to see if it had gotten loose. We like to think the second one just went off on an adventure.
In the meantime, the chicks have continued to get bigger.
And little hands have learned to be gentler.
We new the chicks were getting ready for the coop as they became more huddled in the tub, and began flying out whenever we opened the lid. The coop wasn't quite ready yet, but we let them out back for a little bit each day for some fresh air and bug hunting.
Once we moved them to the coop I definitely felt a pull on my heart-strings, not completely sure if they were ready, and we spent a lot of time all peaking in on them. (I guess this is preparation for me one day when our little ones leave their nest, too.)
The kids have always wanted some sort of pet, and although we like the idea of a dog or cat, we like the idea that chickens will help us live a more organic life even better. I can't wait for fresh eggs and the fertilizer is great for our compost. A couple of the chicks even paid a visit to Liam's kindergarten class (the kids were amazingly calm).
So, the coop is all finished now, and life with chickens has become the norm. We even started a meal worm farm to supplement their feeding (yes, I was totally grossed out when the package of 2,000 worms that sounded like Rice Krispies in their bag arrived in the mail). It'll still be a couple months before they're ready to start laying (we think one of them might be a rooster though), but we're having a great time.
Looking to get some chickens of your own? A couple of the resources that helped us get started were Ashley English's Keeping Chickens* and BackyardChickens.org. I also have a Pinterest board with all things chicken that I'm continually adding to.
Do you already own chickens? What was the biggest learning curve for you?
Stay tuned for more updates on our little chickies. I think honeybees might be something to look into next...
*Amazon affiliate link.