Saturday, February 25, 2012

Chicky, Chick, Chick... Chick?

Rumpless Araucana
Among the many things I want to add to my yard and garden is a few chickens.  I know myself well enough to admit right up front that they will be pets, chickens raised for eggs and entertainment not meat.  I couldn't kill something with my own hands that I've petted and loved and nurtured and given a name and laughed at its personality quirks.  And I certainly couldn't eat a family pet.

If I'm going to do this, I want to do it right.  So I've been doing some research.  And that's led me in all sorts of directions from thinking about the broodiness traits of different breeds of chickens... to coop design... to what to feed them... to their unique benefits with garden compost and bug control... to the nutritional benefits of home-grown eggs... and even to the horrors of factory-farming.  And it seems like the more I research, the stronger my desire to add some backyard chickens becomes.  But also, I have even more questions; not just about how to do everything but about my ability to do it all.  I really dislike feeling so unsure of myself.

Here are some of my current questions:
New Hampshire Red

Do I just pick a supplier and order sexed chicks?  When?  What do I do with them after they arrive until they are big enough and the weather is warm enough for them to survive outside?

If I get 6-8 hens, how big of a coop/run do
I need?  How many nesting boxes do I need?  Where do I best site it on my property? 

Buff Orpington
Should I let them free-range at least part of the day?  Is free-ranging as important in the winter as in the summer?  What about predators?  I do see a few hawks circling in the summertime and we have racoons in the neighborhood.

How much should I plan on spending for feed?  Is feeding them a morning chore or an evening chore or both?  When do eggs need to be gathered?

How do I tell if they are getting sick?  Where do they pick up pests like fleas, lice and worms?  Do I periodically treat for these things as a proactive step or wait until there's reason to suspect an infestation?

Any thoughts, experience, advice you can share to relieve my angst?

Credit for all chicken photos and identification to

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