Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Chickens

Our desire to raise chickens began long before we actually moved to Aspen Springs. Backyard poultry raising is a growing trend. We love eggs - fresh eggs, like we recently had in Ireland. Firm yolks, great color, and marvelous flavor:
Fixing ourselves breakfast in Ireland this summer
So we were really excited when we discovered a "chicken palace" of sorts was part of our new home. We decided to buy baby chicks prior to our move so we could get eggs quicker (hens don’t begin laying until they are 20 weeks old.) So in usual fashion, I scoured the internet, read several books, watched a dozen YouTube videos and declared ourselves ready to become chicken farmers. (We also have several friends here who have chickens so we were really prepared...sort of.)

Our baby chicks came from Murray McMurray Hatchery in Iowa (cool video tour here). The minimum order was 25 chicks and we chose a variety of laying breeds including Barred Rock, Australorp, Rhode Island Red, Red Star, and Araucana. I received a call from the local Postmaster one morning at 6:00am telling me our chicks had arrived and that I needed to come pick them up. Of course, our girls were giddy with excitement when they discovered the chicks really did come in a box and were as fluffy as the photos they had seen.
One day old chicks...in a box

The temporary coop
With every 25 chicks, McMurray throws in a freebie, of unknown breed or gender. Our Mystery Chick is a white something, whom we have named Pat to be on the safe side. We lost one little gal who never quite survived the journey from Iowa in a small box (go figure). We decided 25 chickens might be a bit much to start with, so we sold 10 to some good friends.

Our brood grew quickly in their temporary garage quarters until we moved to Aspen Springs. I spent several long days prepping the coop.
The messy coop BEFORE
It had not been used for several years, but it is a great set up. I painted the walls and floor, added an adjustable air vent, and a light on a timer. The hens have a night room with roosting bars and nest boxes (eventually).
AFTER remodel
Their day run is fully enclosed but has lots of light and a dirt floor for scratching and dust baths. I will build an outdoor run next Spring. My favorite addition to the coop is a custom waterer I made from a 5 gallon bucket and chicken nipples (see below, hanging in the background). Chickens are insanely messy and this contraption provides clean water for them without the mess.
Breakfast time
 Grace, Pat, Laya, Rainbow, Martha, and the rest of our hens have quickly become part of our family and are a surprising amount of fun.

The girls love to hand-feed the hens feed, grasshoppers, worms or fresh grass.  The hens are curious about everything, especially if offered from a human. We are slowly learning their personalities and sounds. Our oldest daughter has really taken great leadership in their care.

#1 Daughter with Pat

We can’t wait for that first egg (which will indeed be the most expensive egg I’ve ever eaten). And it will be fun when we can let the hens out into the yard this Spring. But for now, we’re having great fun with the latest addition to Aspen Springs.

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