I knew that my dear chickens had to be my first blog post, but I struggled with where to start their story. In order to fully introduce you to my backyard flock, lets take you all the way back to the beginning!
Let me formally introduce you to my babes…
Pasty, Roxie, Little, Big Mama, & Peeper
As you already know, Matt and I really can’t wait to be in the country. Having lots of different kinds of animals is something we most definitely want to fill our land with. With land so far away, we decided we wanted to start raising a small amount of chickens to get the feel for it as well as benefit from all the eggs!
Where to start: We started our journey with a LOT of research on breeds and coops. There are big debates on whether or not to put a heat lamp inside the chicken coop. Many people do it and many people advise against it. As it might appear obvious, heat lamps very easily cause fires. Also if you have a heat lamp then your chickens will become dependent on the heat losing their cold hardiness. We didn’t want this to happen and we also didn’t want them to stay in the coop under the heat all winter. Because of all this, we decided we did not want to heat the coop. Instead we would need to be sure the breeds of chickens we purchased were going to be cold hardy. This was our top search for the best egg laying backyard chickens that could handle a midwest winter. I found a great website that listed the best backyard chickens and gave a description of what the breed was all about. We decided we wanted to get all different breeds to have a variety and get a feel for what we will want more of in the future. We decided on: Welsummer (Big Mamma), Speckled Sussex (Peeper), Plymouth Rock (Roxie), New Hampshire Red (Mr. Marley), Black Australorp (Pasty), and Red Sex Link (Little).
Pick Up: We needed to find where to get these little chicks because our local Tractor Supply did not carry all the different breeds we were searching for. We chose Columbus Feed and Hatchery as suggested by a friend who had chickens growing up. We called ahead to make sure they had everything we had wanted (we had to switch one of the breeds) and then set a sate to come pick the chicks up!
Preparing for the chicks: It was time to set up their “nursery”! We used our metal dog crate and lined the bottom and sides with cardboard. Leaving a lip going from the bottom up around the sides to make cleaning a breeze. We hung a heat lamp carefully on the inside, set up a dish of food and water, and filled it with pine chips! It is important to use the right kind of chips as the dust can be very bad for the little chicks respiratory system. I had no idea that I would some day want to share with the world our process of raising baby chicks so I unfortunately did not get the best pictures of everything from the start. In the future when we get more chicks, I will be sure to document it!
We decided that it was best for this set up to be in the garage. We didn’t want a huge dust mess in our house and our crazy dog, Dexter, would be sure they didn’t last a day inside. We got everything set up, picked up our chicks in Columbus on March 19, 2016 and headed home to start our lives with chickens!
Aren’t they so cute and tiny? It’s hard to believe these little fluff balls turned into big feathered girls! Most of the chicks were only a day or two old. One of them, Big mamma, was around 4 or 5 days old.
Chick Days: The chicks spent their days in this contraption under the heat lamp. As they got older, they would venture out from under the heat for longer periods of time. I visited them every day before work and several times after work. It was important to me that my girls were handled and close to me so that they would grow up to know who I am and be ok being touched and handled.
They all grew close pretty quickly and would climb onto my foot if I had it against the cage. They also loved climbing all over me, which I couldn’t get enough of. I wish they had stayed little a little longer, they grew very quickly & lost that fluff all too soon.
When they got old enough we started taking them outside for fresh air. We created a little pin for them to run around in and soak in the sun and fresh air. They absolutely loved being outside! During this time, Matt had been working on their chicken coop. I’ll share pictures of it in a later post!
Coop: Once the coop was done, we introduced them to it and let them hang out in there. We would still bring them inside at night because they weren’t big enough to fly up onto the roosts quite yet! You’ll notice egg cartons in the nesting boxes. Until they start laying, it is important to not let them access the nesting boxes. They are still learning that they sleep on the roosts and if they can get into the boxes, they will start to sleep in there. When they get older, they will naturally know to go in to the boxes to lay!
The chickens transitioned outside very smoothly and absolutely loved being able to forage and run around free. We did not clip their wings and haven’t had a problem with them escaping our yard. They can only fly a short distance and don’t get much hight so can’t make it over our 6 foot privacy fence.
Mr. Marley: You will notice before I mentioned our Mr. Marley, the New Hampshire Red. Once the chickens were finally outside, they started to mature and get bigger. One day we heard a REALLY strange noise coming from the chickens and had no idea who it was coming from or what it was. One day I finally pin pointed that it was Marley making all the racket! Every day her noises got louder and longer. I started to question the possibility of her being a he because of this noise, spurs that were a little larger than the others and a LITTLE bit bigger comb. I didn’t know for sure because her attributes weren’t crazy leaning towards a rooster. I took a couple pictures and posted them on chicken forums and everyone confirmed that our Mrs. Marley was actually a MR. Marley! Being in the city limits of Omaha, we aren’t allowed to have roosters due to noise. I would have loved to be able to keep him around to protect our chickens and give us little chicks, BUT I don’t think we would have gotten away with it. He was a smart chicken and would come to Matt to eat worms. He started to be a tad aggressive towards us, but nothing too extreme. We sent Marley off to a farm to run free with other chickens. Hopefully Mr. Marley is still going strong, but I dare not ask how he is doing afraid of what the answer might be.
All of the attention I gave the chicks when they were little paid off. Feeding them scratch might also help 😉 They run for me when they hear me outside and love to climb all over me, still!
It was so fun to raise chicks and watch them grow. I could hang out with the chickens all day because of how strange of animal they are! I will continue to share chicken information and stories about my girls in the future!