Animals

Owning Chickens For Dummies

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At the beginning of this year we acquired some chickens. Friends of ours moved and couldn’t take their chickens so we agreed to owning them. After researching about chickens on pinterest and making a plan for what they needed, we had two days to get ready before they came to their new home. Of course, the day I started building their living space, I tripped in the driveway and sprained my ankle pretty bad.

But I wasn’t going to let it keep me down. It was a rainy week and these chickens needed a roof over their heads!

The first thing I needed to figure out was a house for them. I’d seen a lot of great chicken coop plans online, but I didn’t have the time to build it in two days, and because it was raining off and on that week, I really didn’t want to be soaking wet trying to build it. Chicken coop kits are expensive for our budget so I couldn’t just go buy one.

I ended up using this old brick shed in the backyard that had no purpose.

It was holding dried tree branches for emergency fire wood in case of a natural disaster. We pulled those out  and swept out all the dead bugs and spider webs.

Then I decided it needed a wall. I didn’t want to use the sheds old door. It was pretty warped and I wanted there to be some kind of air flow during the warmer months so they didn’t over heat. Using 2×4’s I built a frame for the wall, leaving a space for the door. I cut fence boards for the bottom half, just to make it look cute and covered the frame in chicken wire.

The door was actually more simple than I thought it would be. I measured the opening of the frame and cut 1×4’s to fit. I used brackets to assemble them and stapled chicken wire to the back to finish.

Adding the hinges was a bit tricky. The door had to be held off the ground to line up perfectly. I had my helpers hold it for me while I put those in. What I didn’t realize was I didn’t take into account the space from the coop door to the sheds door frame. And the door can’t open all the way. oops!

Now that I had a living space for them. I needed nesting boxes. I had a couple of old dresser drawers from a previous project that worked perfectly and fit the space I wanted them in. A cut up pallet keeps them off the ground.

Chickens also need a roost. A place where they can climb and sit and sleep. I had an old bunk bed ladder and cut that up. It’s not very high, but our girls don’t seem to mind. It’s their favorite place to be in the evenings.

 

When the chickens arrived, our friends had given us all their food and pine shavings for the nesting boxes. They had built a feeder and waterer out of pvc pipes which have come in handy. I just added those to pieces of wood and attached it to the frame.

When we first got our girls, they were free range. Our dog got used to them quickly, but we had to watch him each time he went out. They are all best friends now. Those chickens showed him who’s boss.

After a few weeks, we decided to fence them in because they pooped everywhere! Our patio and the kids play area constantly had to be cleaned. Our chickens are pretty lazy so they stay in the area we fenced off for them, even though the fence is really low, about 3 feet. If you want to fence your chickens. I’d recommend at least a five foot fence. Two of our chickens can fly over the fence, but they always go back after a few minutes. Our third chicken is  too fat and lazy to try. We had started out with four chickens, but our Rhode Island Red caught a cold and died the next day. We were pretty sad. Rest in peace, Drumstick.

Our chickens eat lay pellets. It’s a very simple food source that has all the nutrients they need. Every once in a while, we give them scratch. We use it as a treat because it’s like candy to them. Mealworms and dried shrimp are a great boost for their protein. Did you know that they eat egg shells for calcium? Just crack an egg and throw the shells back out to them. Whenever we have leftover fruits and veggies, we give them those too. Our chickens love lettuce, grapes, and watermelon. They will eat it straight from your hand.

You should NOT give chickens citrus, avocado, fruit seeds (like apple seeds), raw beans, green potatoes or green tomatoes, or any type of food with mold. We stick to basic fresh fruits and veggie scraps and give them nothing processed.

   

Two of our chickens are brown egg layers. Their yolks are darker yellow, sometimes almost orange. Frances, the black and white chicken is a silvered Wyondottie. The tan one is Sandy and she is a Buff Orpington. Our smallest chicken, Hei Hei, is an Easter Egger.

She lays light blue eggs.

They are smaller than the brown ones, but it’s pretty cool to show off our blue eggs. People have a hard time believing that some chickens lay blue eggs!

Now that it’s summer, we have to make sure the chickens have plenty of shade and water. They can overheat pretty quickly. We have them set up under our apple tree and it’s their favorite spot to be in the afternoon. That’s pretty much my crash course on chicken owning. If you have the chance to own chickens, I recommend it. It was pretty chaotic at first getting everything done and getting the birds used to their new home. But now they are really easy to care for. The downside is picking up the poop and mulching it, but I think owning any pet comes with the responsibility of cleaning up after it( much to my girls dismay). The fresh eggs every day are totally worth it. You can definitely taste the difference between fresh eggs and store bought. Its been a great experience for the kids to experience chickens and I can’t wait to add to the flock!

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