Many years ago, my husband and I decided that *someday* we would keep chickens. *Someday* finally arrived one month ago when eight yellow Buff Orpington chicks arrived in a tiny cardboard box by Priority Mail to our local farm store. We were asked to pick up our new backyard chicken flock within the hour!
We keep the chicks in a dog crate that I’ve converted into a chicken brooder. I zip-tied garden fencing to the bottom half, clipped a red heat lamp to the outside, and keep the inside clean and dry with fresh wood shavings.
To prevent boredom and bullying, I give the chickens enrichment through a “garden tray” to scratch and peck, as well as sticks to roost on. In addition to their chick feed, they enjoy chick grit, vegetable scraps (they LOVE Sugar Snap Peas!), and insects (freeze-dried and recently deceased Black Flies from my arm – ewww!). I take the chickens outside everyday to a small pen so they can scratch, roll in the dirt, fly, hop, catch bugs, and eat plants. It’s fun to watch them explore and just be chickens!
We chose Buff Orpingtons because of their reputation for being cold-hardy and gentle, and because they are strong, year-long layers of light brown eggs. My family easily consumes 24+ eggs/week, so our flock will give us that, as well as surplus eggs to sell (fresh eggs sell for $2.50-$3.00/dozen in our town). Eggs are nearly the perfect food (they lack only Vitamin C); it feels good to have a nutritious food source that my family could survive on if need be.
The chicks have already given my children great lessons in empathy and responsibility. Each day, Colin looks forward to “babysitting” the chickens while they are outside and Owen helps me freshen their feeders. The boys have enjoyed watching the chickens grow from fluffy yellow balls into awkward teens, as “their big girl feathers come in.” Colin has been working very hard to train the chickens to come when he calls by sprinkling chick grit into his hand and saying, “Chicky chicky chickens! Come here!” We have one especially friendly chicken that immediately jumps into our hands to be petted. Honestly, the rest of the ladies could take or leave the petting sessions, but we have been taking care to handle them daily.
If our first experience keeping chickens is successful (and it has been thus far – they are healthy, happy, and thriving!), we plan to expand our chicken operation next year by raising chickens for meat.
Do you keep a backyard chicken flock?
How has the experience shaped your family?
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