A Beginner’s Journey of Backyard Chickens
I love animals, always have. I’ve had dogs, cats, horses, a rabbit, but never birds. My husband and I talked about getting chickens, but I was balking because of my dogs. I didn’t want the coop in the back, I knew one of my dogs would be fine, but the other wouldn’t. But still, keeping chickens was always on the table, it was definitely something we both wanted to do.
We are only in our North Raleigh home a few years and made a lot of changes, landscaping-wise. We transformed our quarter-acre corner lot to a huge front-yard garden. We grow flowers, veggies, fruits, berries, and herbs, so chickens seemed like a good fit for our little homestead. Our property lies on a slight hill, so we were able to build up the side of our yard and have some flat area and that’s where our chicken coop went! Success!
We talked about starting with four chickens, but ended up getting six. Two Barred Rocks (Wilma and Betty) and a Rhode Island Red (Lucy) were coop-ready at 7 and 10 weeks, respectively. We also got a 3-week-old Buff Orpington (Louise), a 3-week-old Ameraucana (Hazel), and a 5-week-old Silver Laced Wyandotte (Maude). The littles, as I called them, seemed so small and vulnerable, but our Red, Lucy, made sure they were welcomed into our little flock. She was the true mother hen.
Even though we did some research, there was still so much to learn, and so much different information out there too. For instance, how do you get chickens to go in the henhouse at night? The first night we put all the girls up in the henhouse when it got dark. The older girls figured out to come out of the henhouse in the morning, but the little ones did not. So, we kept bringing them back and forth.
Then we read that we should keep the little ones in the henhouse for a bit so they figure out that was home and knew to go in there when it got dark. We left them in there for about three days (after two days of keeping them in the run) and within a week, all were going in at night and coming out in the morning. Whew, that was a relief.
That was only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to learning about keeping chickens. So, here’s some things I’ve learned in the short time of keeping backyard chickens:
- Hens are like high school girls, they bicker, a lot – one’s more popular, then she’s not and they have ever-changing cliques.
- There is a definite pecking order. (See high school reference, above) Lucy is definitely top hen.
- Chickens have very distinct personalities. While breed descriptions will give you an idea of temperament, it’s only a guide. They are all individuals, and even our Barred Rock sisters are very different.
- Chickens LOVE banana leaves from our banana tree. It was the first thing we gave them from the garden they took to right away.
- Chickens learn things pretty quickly. They know I’m ‘food lady’ and they know what a bag of meal worms looks and sounds like.
- Chickens are little dinosaurs, they are both fragile and amazingly resilient and strong. They are prehistoric, tough little birds, but also can die unexpectedly from a respiratory illness.
- The right chicken coop and run is essential. We bought an American Coop and added a pergola onto it. Let me tell you, having a run where we can stand up in is just one of the many benefits of our chicken coop. It allows us more opportunities to interact with the girls and make them more human-friendly. Huge win and incredibly worth it!
- Chickens are immensely fascinating creatures. I honestly could lose a day just watching them. (The Chicken Channel?)
- Chickens are pretty low maintenance. Especially when it comes to having pets. Our American Coop is built for the deep litter method in the henhouse and as long as they have fresh food, water, treats, and organic material for the run, there’s not a ton of work involved in keeping our little flock.
- Chickens are a joy to keep and surprisingly addictive. We are already thinking about adding to our flock. Resistance is futile.
I guess the biggest thing I’ve learned is even though I know I love animals,I never imagined how much I would love our chickens.
My husband and I are truly enamored by them and love being with the girls.
So stay tuned and thanks for following me on my journey of the joys of backyard (sideyard) chicken keeping.
Until next time,
Ingrid – Crazy Chicken Lady in Training