Follow along as we head down the crazy path of keeping a flock of hens in our suburban Chicago backyard.
Backyard chicken posts:
I may have mentioned once or twice that we added 3 little Araucanas “Easter Egger” chicks to our family about a month ago. We chose this breed for their hardness in cold temps as well as their large, beautiful multi-colored eggs that can be green, pink, blue, or lovely chocolate brown.
Last weekend Dave and I worked on building the coop (Mostly Dave. He likes the tools. I painted and held stuff.) and then this weekend we built the run. This morning the girls had their homecoming when the two structures were joined and they were allowed to have their run of the place. They’re having a blat.
I sprinkled some fresh basil and meal worms in the run alongside their usual feed and water and they went nuts! It never fails that not matter how many treats there are, the first one who grabs a bite get chased by the other two, even as they step all over the extras. Go figure. I just came in from sitting on a garden stool and watching them for about an hour. Their behavior is so interesting and funny.
We’re really enjoying the whole experience of owning these interesting animals.
Coop en Route
Much development on the chick front. The girls have settled in nicely, though the little chipmunk-striped one has had some ongoing issues with pasting up. Pasting up is when their poo, which is toothpaste-like in consistency, blocks their tiny little vent. It is very serious and can kill the poor things, so you have to keep an eye on them, especially if one has demonstrated a tendency for this development. It’s supposed to clear up in about 2 weeks, so we’ll be able to relax a bit after then.
For now we have them living in our basement slop sink, because it has high walls, is in a room with a door (cats!), and is easy to clean. Soon, though, they’ll have to move into their brooder. It’s been so hot that I’m a bit worried about moving them into the stuffy garage. Hmm.
After searching high and low, I found a fabulous deal on a chicken coop for our backyard. It’s crazy how expensive these things can get, so when I found a wood structure with 2 nest boxes and lots of hinged openings for ease of maintenance for $229 and free shipping, I jumped on it. I don’t think we could buy the materials for that price. Dave is going to construct a run with wire covering all sides and the bottom to keep the predators out. We’re near the zoo and forest preserve, so there are all sorts of animals who would love to make a meal out of our sweet little birds.
Just 1 more week until they can go outside!
Hope everyone is staying cool and enjoying their summer.
The Chicks are Here!
The chicks arrived today! After much oohing and aahing, they’re snug in their temporary home down in the basement slop sink. They took to their food and water right away after we dipped their beaks to show them the way. Sitting upstairs in the living room, I can hear soft little chirps coming up through the air vents.
The Chicks are Coming! The Chicks are Coming!
We just placed our order for 3 baby Easter Egger chicks. Everyone’s so excited!
2 chicks have names; Martha and Nugget. The third is TBD. Any ideas?
I got the baby chick starter kit from MyPetChicken.com, which looks like a good place to start our little darlings out. I can’t wait!
Here’s how MyPetChicken describes Easter Eggers:
These are one of our favorites! They are friendly, great layers of large blue and green eggs, and (rarely) white, creamy brown or even pinkish eggs. Their smaller body size makes them good in the heat, and their small pea comb means they do well in cold, too, because they are not as susceptible to frostbite. “Easter Eggers” are hybrids that carry the blue-egg gene of the true Araucana breed. We like to think that the pea comb is linked not only to the blue egg laying gene, but also to the “sweetness” gene, as well. Because this is a hybrid variety (not a breed), even if you have a whole flock of them, you can often tell them apart because they come in so many different colors – which isn’t always possible with other breeds. (Choosing your color is not possible because we can’t tell what the chicks will look like when they feather out.)
Other hatcheries (misleadingly) sell these as “Ameraucanas,” “Americanas” or sometimes “Araucanas;” however, only breeders can provide true Ameraucanas or Araucanas at this time.
Please note: This variety of chicken can lay blue, green, pink, white or brown eggs (or any color in between). There is no guarantee as to what color egg your hen will give. Each hen will give ONE egg color. The egg color will not change from one egg being laid to another. For example, if your hen has just laid a green egg, then don’t expect the second egg to be pink.
Live Cute Chicks Video
No, not “chicks” chicks…CHICKS! As in “peep”!
Found this live video feed of some chicks hanging out. So cute! I can’t wait until we have our own.
A Chat with Martha Stewart on Keeping Backyard Chickens
My hands are still shaking! I just had the most lovely chat with…
We had tea and chatted about keeping backyard chickens. Well, I had tea. I don’t know what she was drinking. We were on the phone. I called into her radio show.
So back down to earth. (Wait, one more SQUEAL!) Anyway…She very graciously gave some great advice on the topic of keeping backyard chickens.
Living in Chicago, how cold is too cold and what temperature range should the chickens be kept in?
Martha says that just above freezing, around 40 degrees, is fine. Be sure to have electricity run to your coop and include an electric warmer so their drinking water doesn’t freeze. Obviously a heat lamp would be in order.
With regard to kitchen scraps, is there anything the chickens shouldn’t eat?
Martha says that they will eat just about everything. She feeds her flock everything from banana peels to grass clippings and they’ll devour it all. She also mentions not to worry about keeping a balance of kitchen scraps and organic chicken feed, that the chickens will empty the feeder when they see fit. -And apparently chickens do not care for onion skins, which is fine. I don’t care for them either. Martha reminds that the girls need fresh water every single day without fail.
Our backyard is covered with pea gravel. Is this OK for the chickens?
Martha says that the pea gravel is perfect for chickens and, in fact, they love it. It cleans up very easily, just hose it down. As long as the gravel isn’t sharp or feels OK for you to walk on, then the chickens will be just fine.
Martha’s recommended reading on keeping backyard chickens:
Thank you Martha. That positively made my day week month!
PostScript: Here’s how I got to speak with Ms. Stewart. I just called into her XM radio show when I saw her Tweet that she was looking for callers. That’s it! No magical happenstance. Give it a try! And please be sure to post if you get through and what you chat about.
Chickens on the Brain
Sophia and I have chickens on the brain. All we can talk about is baby chicks, how cute they are, how much fun it will be to raise them, what breed we should get, what color their eggs will be, what to name them, and what kind of coop to get. While many of the ready-made coops we find are quite pricey, we’ve seen some people take Craigslist-found doghouses and turn them into cute coops on the, err, “cheep”.