Saturday, August 10, 2013

keeping chickens- part 1

I am so ready for fall.  August in Texas is brutal.  We all become hermits and hunker down in our houses.  It's just too hot to be outside!

This week I lost a chicken to the heat.  And one to a hawk.  We are down to three hens, so naturally, we are thinking towards getting some new layers this fall.  Which then reminded me that I have been asked several times to write a little about getting chickens and I have continually failed to do so!  But today I am carpe diem-ing the subject and getting it done!

If you are thinking about getting chickens for the first time, and live in a warm climate, the fall is a great time to do so.  You can get your chicks soon and have them at a decent size before the cold sets in.  If you would rather not care for chickens over winter just yet, then by all means, spend this time researching and preparing a coop and wait until spring.

Blackberry, our first australorp

 Some questions to get you started are:

1.  What are the laws and regulations in my area?  We live in a small, rural town with very relaxed rules about keeping livestock.  We can have as many chickens as we darn well please.  Goats?  Yes!  Donkeys?  Why not?  Emus?  But of course!  Pigs?  Now you're pushing it.
To find out our regulations, I called the county extension office.  

2.  How do you want to keep your chickens?  Do you want them to free range, or would you prefer to have them contained in a chicken tractor that gets moved to fresh grass daily.  There are pros and cons to both.  We have done both methods.  Free ranging means they get the grass and bugs they need daily.  They are able to wander and find shade when they need it, and take dust baths where ever they please! I love having my hens free range!  I miss them when we keep them in their tractor.  However, if you have an open garden, they will eat it.  I mean it!  I lost all of my squash plants to my chickens in one day this summer!  They will also poop all over the free earth.  Actually, they won't poop all over.  They seem to prefer pooping right on the porch, where your baby likes to play.  So yeah.  That's a con.  You also risk them being targeted as prey.  Like I said earlier, we lost a chicken this week to a hawk.  If you are in a neighborhood you have to consider cats and dogs as well.

If you keep them in a chicken tractor, they are out of your hair. They are pooping in properly defined areas.  They will be properly protected from predators all day.  But you have to factor in the daily move.  And you miss out on the ambiance of it all.
Poop vs. Ambiance.  

3.  Which breeds would you prefer?  Might I make one tiny plea here?  Please consider heritage breeds.  They are delightful, and in some cases endangered.  They are beautiful and unique.  They may not lay 14 times a day (ok, that's an exaggeration- no chicken lays 14 eggs a day...yet), but they have virtue and beauty, and there is something pretty special about raising an animal that your great, great grandmother could have raised!  If you are a backyard chicken keeper, or plan on interacting with your chickens daily regardless of yard size, the breeds I recommend are australorps, barred rocks, and auracanas.  They are all friendly and docile.  They are curious and hilarious!  They also lay very regularly.  Now, these are my preferences, anyone you ask will have their own.

4. How will you procure your chicks?  I have both ordered chicks through the mail and purchased some at my local feed store.  Either way is fine.  One more request (man- I'm pushy!) I would make is that if you are planning on ordering chicks through the mail, please order from a nearby hatchery.  I prefer Ideal Hatchery here in central Texas.  You likely will have one closer to you.  McMurray is a reputable hatchery as well.  Or maybe you don't want to start with chicks, but rather laying hens, how will you find them?

If you've made it this far and you're still thinking you would like to move ahead with your search, then now is the time to research!  My personal favorite part of anything!  The resources I recommend are:


Also Backyard Chickens is a great website with forums on all sorts of subjects!  

I'm going to stop here.  This is enough to get you thinking about for the weekend.  I will earnestly try to actually finish this series next week!  Next up will be chick care.


Paige said...

This is our first year with chickens and we are struggling with the 'poop vs. ambiance!' ;)Vegetable garden - nil. Poop everywhere you don't want it to be - plenty. Chickens wondering around doing their chicken-y thing - awesome. :) We definitely have some boundaries to figure out, but we love having them! By the way, research is my favorite part, too. :) Looking forward to the rest of your chicken series!

ingvild said...

love the New blog design, beauitful:-)