Thursday, October 9, 2014

Chicken keeping for beginners

One of the perks I was looking forward to after purchasing our home was getting chickens so, as is my fashion, last spring I placed an order for way more chickens than any beginner should have.

My wee chicks arrived in the beginning of April and I excitedly set up a brooder for them in the basement. About a week later this turned out to be a very bad idea, I had no idea how much dust 27 chicks can make! There was dust all over the floors, the walls, everywhere! Even though I moved them outside as soon as they feathered out, mopped and vacuumed the basement as thoroughly as possible (including the walls), my husband still complains that the basement smells like chickens.

4 day old chickies

1 week old chickies

Lesson 1: Brood chickens outside.

I ordered an assortment, so I had no idea what breed most of my chicks were, or their sexes. It's been really fun to watch them grow up and see how they turn out... until the roosters start coming into their own. You don't want a lot of roosters; they fight each other, they gang up on the girls and they can start to turn their aggression on you.

There are four roosters in this photo

One of my Easter Egger pullets

two silkie roosters

Lesson 2: Don't order a straight run of chickens (where you don't know what genders you're getting) or have a plan ahead of time for processing your excess roosters.

Fortunately, my husband does some work with an organic farmer that processes chickens and agreed to help mine through their life "transition." Thank goodness, I tried to do one myself and it didn't go well, it's a complicated process if you don't know what you're doing.

Now I'm left with three roosters, chosen for their gentler dispositions. I probably still have too many roosters, I can see the leghorn chasing the hamburg around my yard right this moment, but I'm hoping that my 22 pullets will keep them living together in reasonable peace.
brown leghorn


silver spangled hamburg
Aren't they handsome?

Lesson 3: Be prepared to get smitten with your chickens.

I got my chickens to provide food not to be pets, so I didn't handle them when they were chicks and I don't handle them now, yet every time I go outside I end up with a flock of birds swirling around me. I feel like the chicken whisperer. They also decorate my yard quite nicely, with all their different colors and shapes.  Speaking of that, they also decorate my egg cartons quite nicely; I have white eggs, brown eggs, pink eggs and blue eggs. Chickens are also super easy to care for, at least mine are. I let them out in the morning and close them up at night, make sure they have food and water, check for eggs twice a day and turn over the coop bedding once a week or so.

I'm going out to check for eggs right now!


  1. They are pretty cute. I don't think I could kill one and eat it ,though I could collect and eat the eggs. Good luck with your brood.

    1. It wasn't easy sending them away, but the rest of the flock is so much happier without them. Sometimes you have to make the tough decisions.

  2. I got 12 at the beginning of May - all girls, from breeds that can be sexed reliably, and frankly that's the upper limit of enough chickens. ;D

    Mine are for eggs only, so I did handle them as (precious) chicks, and they do follow me around everywhere now. I think I might be the default rooster?! Another bonus - the manure is great fertilizer once it's been composted fully.

    Love my girls! Still waiting for the first eggs - should be soon. How old were yours?

    1. Really I had too many to handle and I'm okay with that, I really don't want to have chickens flapping around in my lap and around my eyes. They're okay with me being next to them and that's okay with me.

      Your girls should be laying any day now, keep an ear open for the egg song and keep an eye on your hay pile if they free range. I've got one girl that only lays in my hay shed.

    2. Oh- and I'm deep littering my coop just for the compost!

    3. Too funny - heard the "egg song" and got my first egg yesterday! ;D

  3. Your chickens are beautiful! :-) My grandmother had chickens for eggs and fertilizer. As kids, visiting her in Newfoundland, it was our job to collect the eggs. I was terrified! There was one hen that would peck you as you reached under her. On the other hand, I found them fascinating to watch. And they ate anything!

    1. Thank you :)

      My husband's favorite thing about the chickens is that they eat anything! They are great for cleaning out the fridge, turn old food into more food!