09 March 2010

Chickens, Part One

Having had enough of expensive free-range eggs and not having any truck at all with factory-farmed eggs, we have decided to set ourselves up with some laying hens.

JD has wanted chickens for a while but never had time to set up a coop/henhouse. I like eggs alright but having bird-phobia, having chickens will be a bit of a challenge for me. I'm hoping that being around them on a regular basis will wear some of that down. For the time being, I told JD that I would do all the egg-cooking activity if he'll take care of the chicken-keeping activity. I think I'll be able to feed them from outside the coop but he'll definitely have to clean the henhouse and collect the eggs.

We've been reading up on chicken-husbandry and visited the chick room at Burns Feed Store in Orient, Oregon this weekend. Well, JD visted the chick room. I stood outside and watched the chicks safely separated by the plate glass window. They were pretty cute, I have to admit. Especially the one who had fallen asleep tipped so far forward that he was resting on the top of his head.

The woman overseeing the chick room was very knowledgeable and gave us lots of good information. She suggested building the chick box first, then, during the couple of months they are growing up, we build the coop.

So yesterday morning, we built the starter home for them. We didn't have to buy any new materials for the box. We built it all out of scrap lumber or bits we already had on hand - hurrah!

We used some of the cedar fencing panels we scavenged off Craigslist a few years ago (the same that we used for my garden boxes) and some other scrap 2x2s and 2x4s we had from various other projects.

Here it is, in all it's cobbled together glory:

JD even thought ahead suggested we create a removable divider to contain the little ones in a smaller area and separate them a bit as they grow.

We aren't sure how we'll set up the heat lamp. Apparently it needs to be around 90F for the brand new ones. I think the lamp on the rod as we have it will be too low. There's a beam overhead and JD suggested we hang the lamp on a wire so we can adjust it more easily and keep the temperature where it needs to be.

While I was at work yesterday afternoon, JD picked up a feeder, waterer, a little food and a red bulb for the heat lamp (which is supposed to be calming). Now all we need is bedding and some grit and we'll be ready for the new arrivals! We aren't sure what kind we'll get yet. Since they are strictly for egg-production, JD's been reading about all the good laying breeds. And I requested breeds that tend to be docile. We both like the Plymouth Barred Rocks (the black and white checkered ones) as well as the Rhode Island Reds and New Hampshire Reds. There's also a heritage breed called a Wyandotte which is a really burly looking - round and plump - that JD likes. We read that chickens can get agitated around other chickens that look too different (or are different sizes or ages) so we don't want to get too diverse.

The most important aspect, for me, is that they come from a reputable and humane breeder. The whole point is to make sure our eggs come from chickens that are treated well and it would defeat the purpose to get the chicks from a factory farm. I'll have to do a little research before we make a final purchase. I like supporting Burns Feed Store but I want to find out where they get their chicks from first.

I'll post pictures of the girls as soon as we bring them home.


  1. I guess it's okay to check for breeds with a docile nature, but I've found that just handling the little gals every day will ensure friendly relations. Each bird has her own personality, and some will definitely tend to talk to you more, or be the first to run up to demand a treat, or will be the most comfortable sitting on your shoulder. They're kinda like dogs. Just treat 'em really nice and make allowances for character, and you'll make some lovely little friends.

  2. Awww, baby chicks are almost the cutest thing ever. Baby ducks hold my #1 spot. We had both at the science museum and I loved to play with them.

    Since chickens can't even fly -you should consider them exempt from your bird phobia. (I live with a parrot, so I never make fun of bird fears)

  3. @Kat - Thanks for you comment. I'm sure you're right. Each individual animal will have his/her own personality. And I'm sure that we'll get along eventually. It will be a while before I can have them sitting on my shoulder - yikes!

    @DuhBe - Thanks for your comment, too. The funny thing is that I used to be fine with birds. I had two pairs of ducks and a pair of bantam chickens when I was little. I'm not sure when the phobia set in. A dorm-mate in college had a little parakeet that I was eventually able to hold on my finger so I'm hoping constant exposure will help.

  4. Re: chicken sitting on my shoulder-- ha ha. That'll be the day and I'm not even afraid of chickens. An acquaintance used to put a cracker ON HER HEAD for her parakeet to nibble one. Once she forgot and went to the grocery store with cracker. I don't remember if someone informed her that the cracker was on her head or if everyone just enjoyed the sight.


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