We have chickens

About a month ago, we completed construction on a chicken coop.

I decided when we moved to this house that we needed to try our hand at raising chickens.  We have a little over an acre of land, and the back portion is fenced separately from the rest of the back yard.  It is in that area that we have our vegetable garden and tiny infant apple orchard.

We eat eggs regularly – for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner – and I use them for baking and cooking when we’re not eating them straight up.  We go through a dozen eggs every few days.  That gets expensive when you’re paying $4 a dozen for farm-fresh organic eggs from free-range chickens.  I figured if we had our own source for these little orbs of deliciousness, we’d eventually save a little money.  Not to mention the great lessons for the kids about caring for livestock and understanding where food comes from.

So I found a simple plan online for this A-frame chicken coop/tractor and my husband, my mother and I all built it over the course of a couple of weekends.  Throughout the process, I was doing research on what kind of chickens would best suit our needs, and also trying to determine a source for said chickens.  In our little town, which is a suburb of Atlanta, we are allowed to keep hens, but not roosters.  You can have up to 6 chickens if your lot size is greater than 1/3 acre, and if you live on more than one acre, you can have 12 chickens per acre, up to a maximum of 36.  No roosters, though – noise ordinances.

So, I was on the lookout for young hens.  I didn’t want to purchase “straight run” chicks (that’s the term used for chicks that haven’t been sexed) because I’d heard horror stories of people who’d wound up will all roosters.  And while I’m not opposed to “harvesting” them for our dinner table, I didn’t want to run the risk of disturbing the neighbors with their adolescent crowing before harvest time rolled around.

So a month went by and the chicken tractor sat forlorn in the back-backyard, without its feathered residents.  Anytime I heard people talking about chickens (a woman I work with just got some chickens, another has a neighbor that just procured some, and a third recently purchased some for her parents) I was quick to ask them for their source.  Oddly, none of them could tell me where they’d gotten their chicks.

I checked Craigslist daily, hoping against hope that I’d see an ad for young hens (there were a few for hens that were 2 years old and older, but I’d read that egg production begins to decline after two years).  Finally, on Thursday of this past week, I saw an ad from a farm that was thinning their flock to prepare for a new round of hatchlings.  They had some 6-month old hens that had been laying consistently for about three months.

So yesterday, we drove out to My Dad and Me Family Farmand purchased three beautiful Rhode Island Red hens.  While we were there, my five year old was thrilled to get to hold a baby bunny and a tiny two-day-old kitten.  He promptly decided that he needed a bunny and a kitten (our two dogs and three cats notwithstanding), and then he named the hens Fred, Sally and Tweety.

We got the ladies home, settled them into their new digs, and within an hour, one of them had laid this beauty in their feeder.  I guess the nesting boxes that we’d provided just weren’t labeled clearly enough.

P asked me if there was a baby chicken living inside the egg, and I explained to him that these were eggs for eating, not eggs for hatching.  I wasn’t ready to really explain the difference yet (although I did have to have a little tutorial later for my husband who wondered the same thing), but he seemed satisfied with my answer.

We cracked it open to use as part of our dinner last night, and the yolk was a beautiful deep orangey-yellow color, and the white was tight and fresh.

We are thrilled with this new addition to our family.  The dogs aren’t really sure what to think (well, I’m pretty sure they’re thinking DINNER every time they see the strange creatures in the cage), but hopefully they’ll grow accustomed to their new feathered friends.

Do any of you keep chickens?  If so, what kind do you have?  We may want to add one or two to the flock, depending on how these gals do, so I’d love to hear from others who have some different breeds.


9 thoughts on “We have chickens

  1. >Awesome! We really want to have chickens but at the moment we live "in town" and can't have any. But we're hoping to fix that soon. We do buy our eggs locally and you really can't replicate that deep orange yolk you get from chickens that eat real food. I can't wait to have our own chickens!

  2. >I don't have any chickens but I would love to hear how the experience goes. I've been thinking of getting a couple of chickens for the eggs for a while but somehow it gets put off … too much to do. I was wondering how much work is involved and how easy it is to keep them clean and well fed?

  3. >Love this post, love the shots of your 5 year old holding the egg! Enjoy having your chickens and their bounty! Great job on building that coop!

  4. >we keep chickens and LOVE them. I have a RI red and an Americauna. The Americauna's eggs are a grey-blue while the RI red has nice orange-y brown. Our egg carton in the fridge now looks like Easter year round. Good luck with yours. I love the fresh eggs!

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