I want a horse, a cow, couple of pigs, a few goats but CHICKENS??? That was never on my list. But here I am at 32 raising and loving 8 wonderful chickens. Last March my husband and I purchased a home with a few acres of land. We ventured out to Tractor Supply and found ourselves surrounded by bins of chickens. “Chick Days” is what they call it when hundreds of birds are shipped in to be sold during Easter. We left that day without chicks and went home to convert the dollhouse in our front yard into our chicken coup. The following weekend we made a trip back to Tractor Supply and picked up our feed, heating lamp, feeder, water dish, metal bin and I giddily told the clerk I would like 4 chickens. “Four – you have to get a minimum of 6”, said the clerk. So I selected 5 and my husband selected 1 chick for us to take home. Thus began our life with chickens.
We raised the chickens in the garage with the heating lamp and then slowly moved them out to the coup. Once they were out in the coup we noticed that more than one looked to be a rooster. 4 out of our 6 birds were roosters and only 2 were hens!!! We knew this was not a good mix to begin our flock but we were not exactly sure what to do.
Here are a few lessons that I have learned since we began our journey of “life with chickens”.
- Chickens are sweet social birds. They are a product of their environment and no two flocks are the same. Our current flock consists of 2 roosters and 6 hens. We have added on to our flock to increase the rooster hen ratio and learned to order them online for better odds.
- There is a pecking order and you better be on top if you want to survive a rooster. Roosters are protective of their flock and their coup. If you have more than one rooster the dominant rooster will decide the pecking order for the flock. If the second rooster does not stand down and find a job, there will be trouble. We are so far fortunate that our 2 roosters have found their place with the flock – though I am told by other “chicken friends” this may not be long term.
- Integrating new chicks into an existing flock – no matter how small the existing flock is – takes time and patience to keep the new chicks safe. We spent a few months slowing introducing the new hens to our 2 roosters and 1 hen so they are now living together as one flock.
- Chicken people find chicken people. Sharing stories, photos and videos of your chickens becomes the new normal in your life. My phone now holds more pictures of my chickens than I care to admit. Non-chicken owners will have a hard time understanding your newfound infatuation with your birds.
- When it gets dark you will worry that your chickens are safe and if the coup is closed. Predators at night are real; unfortunately we lost one of our birds to an overnight attack. We quickly established better night security for the flock.
- You will find yourself looking into the sky to watch for chicken hawks like a protective mamma, ensuring that your flock is safe.
- Now when I go to the store I pick up extra blueberries for my chickens. They love to eat blueberries, raspberries, sunflower seeds and happy hen treats out of our hands. Unlike the cartoons that I watched as a kid, my chickens do not like worms but they love spiders and helping me close up the garden.
- The recent time change had me concerned about the decreased amount of outdoor time my chickens would have to free range. They put themselves to bed when the sun goes down so this limits there time on our property. We are looking to extend their run to give them more room to play while we are at work.
- The first egg is really exciting! You will share it with friends, family and on social media like a proud parent. We have several of the hens producing eggs – right now we are getting 6 eggs per day.
- When visitors come over your dogs will bark and your chickens will crow. Crowing is not only for the wee hours of the morning but also as an alert, like a built in security system.
- Chickens are a lot of work! Like any animal or pet that you own you must carve time out of your schedule to care for and enjoy them.