When my wife and I started our house search she made one thing clear, she wanted to be able to raise chickens. So, after almost a year of searching, we found a house with a yard big enough to allow us to raise our own flock. Coming from the mean streets of the South Bay, I had no clue how to even begin that endeavor. To the internet! After searching through dozens of designs I decided to combine a lot of the different ideas for constructing what will be our chickens’ shelter from predators and roosting spot for laying eggs. I chose a basic A frame design for both cost and durability. Now really they can and will roost in anything that provides good enough shelter. A friend of mine has a couple that took over an old doll house.
Now came the chickens. We went over to Farm Supply in Paso and picked up a couple of Buff Orpingtons and brought them home. I didn’t realize that when that young, they need to be put in an enclosed space like a bath tub for about 2-3 months. So I gave up my bathroom to these fluffy yellow squeakers we named Hen Solo and Chewpecka, in hopes that one day the repay my kindness. Well right after we got these 2, a friend of mine at work worked out a deal with my wife and I ended up with 2 Turkens added to my first experience raising chickens ever. Newly Christened Bellachix Freerange and Princess Laya Organic, they move into the brand new coop and start laying immediately, while the 2 Buffs are content with their tub for the time being.
This is where the learning really starts to happen. First issue…POOP. So much poop everywhere. You think with a kid I would be used to this but let me tell you, everywhere you step, POOP. Constant cleaning is necessary for healthy chickens. Also, keep them out of your garden, they will destroy it digging for bugs and they have a taste for squash. Then a sad day. Chewpecka laid down to sleep one day and didn’t wake back up. This is common in the chicks. Sometimes they just don’t make it which is why they lay so many eggs. And here is another issue, They need partners. 2 chickens do way better than 1 and 3 ends up a blood bath. When we introduced Hen Solo to the other 2, they immediately jumped on her and started tearing out feathers. She was outnumbered and she knew it so she got a few beatings from Laya who has placed herself as head of the pecking order. Solo ends up living up to her name and starts sleeping on top of the coop which she still does to this day. It was apparent that I needed another coop if we were to continue growing our flock so I gathered all the scrap wood I could find and built a much larger coop than the first one which also included a raised roosting area to be up away from danger. The last big learning lesson of that first year was that chickens are terrible swimmers. We went out to find Laya Organic face down in our wading pool. We questioned Solo(since we all know he actually shot first in that bar in Mos Islay), but came to the conclusion it was an accident and no “fowl” play was involved. So I built a fence and separated them from the recreation side of the yard.
So here I am, year 2 of my chicken raising experience and I love it! We have added 4 more birds (Chewpecka the 2nd, The Lone Free Ranger, Darth Feather, and Annihen Skyclucker). To continue with our Star Wars nerd out we also named our Flock yard “the Millennium Fowl-pen”. Don’t be jealous because you didn’t think of it first. My daughter has a blast with them. She loves chasing them around the yard trying to catch them and loves feeding them. She tries to help collect the eggs(which we get between 3-6 a day) but her little hands tend to cause more damage than help but it is a great experience either way. I’ve started selling 6pks to my coworkers at Trader Joe’s and everyone seems to enjoy them. If you have been thinking about raising chickens, I highly recommend it, the amount of work put in is way less than the payoff when you are bringing in 1/2 dozen a day of free range, dark yellow yolked eggs that you, yourself helped bring to the table.