Where exactly do I start with "Getting Started?" It's hard for me to know exactly. Maybe I should tell you about the coop we planned on rebuilding? Perhaps I should tell you about the chicks I ordered and picked up late this spring. Instead, I will start with my impression of chickens prior to my research bonanza these last few months.
Chickens were a subject that had been brought up by my husband, Mike, more than a few times. He had been raised on a little farm, brought up to be self sufficient and knew how to both work with and reap the benefits of livestock. Besides cattle and goats, he had been raised around a variety of different chickens - though he says he would be hard pressed to tell you what kinds they were. Instead he remembers their names and personalities with a smile. Pizza, his brothers favorite chicken, who could (and often would) find a place up high to fly and perch. It was nothing to look up in tree tops or on the peak of the barn roof and find Pizza up there. I think my husband's favorite was a little chicken with the crossbeak. She made herself quite memorable with her comical nature and unique look. He can rattle off at least a dozen names of the little feathered friends that graced his childhood and says that he liked them all.
My experiences were much less warm and fuzzy. The only chickens I knew came in 4 different ways: the silkie chickens at the horse barn who were more like little fuzzy cats who squawked and protested when touched. Then there were the chickens allowed to free range, who often wandered out into the country roads I travel. A honk of the horn would send them skittering back onto their property for safety and left me driving on with my heart in my throat. Never forgotten is the chicken I knew indirectly; the one that attacked my sister. Yes, while she was house sitting, she went out to do the requested feeding duties asked of her only to be thanked by a decent sized Leghorn rooster slicing and dicing her back. The fourth kind of chicken I knew, and was most familiar with, came on my dinner plate.
After repeated requests by my husband, my then 7 year old daughter decided to jump on the bandwagon. She had just started her second year as a 4-H Cloverbud and we were reviewing the potential projects she could do next year. Without any hesitation, she said she wanted a chicken. Outnumbered and slighty discouraged, I began my research. We decided that we should all have some experience under our belts before she would take a bird to show at fair next summer, so our best bet was to get some chicks this spring and get used to handling them, caring for them and (gulp) bonding with them.
Several books, multiple magazines, websites galore and a friendly facebook group (hello FED!!!) or two later, I feel a bit more educated and comfortable with the idea of chickens in our backyard. I read up on the different breeds and made a list of those said to be friendly and easily handled. From that list, each of us selected 3 breeds each of pullets (female chicks) that I would order from Meyer Hatchery, a nearby hatchery, in early June. The lineup is as follows:
- Silver Laced Wyandotte
- Red Speckled Sussex
- Rhode Island Red
- Partridge Rock
- Barred Rock
- Ameraucana/Easter Egger
The coop is finished and I couldn't be more pleased with it...unless of course it came on a bigger plot of land and doubled in size. The little fuzzies that we picked up on June 4 are all growing up now into varying shades of the birds I'd read they would become. That is another post for another time. I've got a few more weeks of chicken ownership under my belt now and I'm a bit more at ease. I still have a lot more to learn and questions arise with each new behavior or antic I witness. It is just so very fortunate that I have found some good, knowledgeable friends that are willing to share their advice and adventures with a newbie like me.