Part two of my chicken raising research led me to Jill G., a mother of three (almost four) who lives in the "big city" from where I live. She lives in a neighborhood, and estimates her property to be a quarter acre, maybe less, which includes the front yard and house. (Think normal, everyday neighborhood!). She ordered some hens, built a coop, and raises the chickens in her backyard. Her adventure seems VERY doable. I might be ordering hens sooner, rather than later. She was kind enough to email me, and she even took the pics for me!
Why did you want to get chickens?
I actually had a few chickens growing up and lived next door to a chicken farmer, so I have always been a little familiar with them. But, the real reason was that whole proposition thing in California that was going to put all the rules on the egg ranchers and make our eggs cost millions a dozen. We thought it would be fun to raise our own chickens and have our own fresh eggs. Easter was coming up and we thought it would be a fun treat to get all our kids their own yellow chick from the Easter Bunny!
How many did you get? Which kinds? After I researched a TON we found a breed that was the most child friendly, and also a good layer. They are Buff Orpingtons and are actually really pretty birds. "Family Fun Magazine" published an article about chickens a couple days after I made my order and they told of a family who had also purchased Buff Orpingtons for their son with Autism. They praised the birds and so I was super excited to get them and see for myself. We ordered five hens because the company warned that some might not make it through the mail system and we didn't want one of our children to end up with a dead chicken for Easter, but all survived so we have five.
Our city ordinance says you can have up to twelve chickens as long as they are not a nuisance to the neighbors. So we of course didn't get any roosters (that and they are mean!). We stuck with just the hens.
How many eggs do you get a week?
From the five hens we get 3-4 eggs a day, averaging 25 eggs a week.
How much feed do you use? What do you feed them?
We buy our feed from the local feed store and purchase a 25 lb bag of "laying pellets". It costs about $12 and lasts about a month. (So in doing the math if we get 100 eggs a month and it costs us $12 in feed ... it is about 0.12 an egg or $1.44 a dozen ... stores charge at least $4 for a dozen brown organic eggs) We do give them a few vegetable scraps from the kitchen but not enough to take into consideration any costs.
What is the biggest reward for raising chickens?
We are a little closer to being self reliant. If something happened and we ran out of food ... we could always eat eggs! Another reward is that the kids love them. The chickens are so friendly, don't mind being held, and love to hand feed from the girls. They really are fun to have.
We have them in our backyard on our grass and their coop is on wheels so that they don't destroy or permanently occupy one part of the yard - so everyday we go out and move the coop. Its not hard or really a challenge, but just something that needs to be done so that grass stays nice. They have to be fed and watered everyday and some might think that is challenging but everyone else in my life has those same needs so its no biggy! We do have plans to set them up with automatic watering soon.
Any special considerations for close neighbors?
We live relatively close to our neighbors but since we just have hens and they really don't make much noise at all we don't have any problems. The most noise they make is when they see me coming up to the coop with something in my hands they think is for them. There baulk gets a little louder in anticipation for their treat! (Just like kids!)
Any funny/not so funny stories about your chicken adventure so far?
We LOVE digging up a worm and watching the chickens play "chicken football" and we have had a couple instances where one would poop while being held ... adds a little drama to the hour but nothing a little detergent and soap and water can't fix. There was one day when one of the hens was particularly interested in the buttons on my 18 month old's sweater. She kept pecking at them to see what they were and my daughter wasn't too excited about it but no tears or blood was shed - we just chased her away and all was safe in the world again. Thankfully nothing major has happened like getting attacked by roosters or anything. ;) [Note from Karrie- MY 18 month old was attacked by a rooster- with a little blood. Dad handled that one, and luckily she's not afraid of them. Just more cautious.]
How are the girls with the chickens, and vice versa?
The girls love the chickens and the chickens ... put up with the girls. ;) They don't run away when you walk up to them and they squat when you reach down to pick them up. If you are calm they will let you hold them forever but if they sense anxiousness or nerves they will flap their wings until you let them down. They really are a great breed.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to raise chickens in their backyard (in general), and especially with small children around?
Our chicken coop "tractor" is really a great idea for someone who doesn't really have a "place" for chickens. I designed it myself and it costs about $100 to build. The maintenance is relatively simple. I move it every morning to keep the chickens from digging and/or eating the grass down too low, rake the grass to pick up the bigger droppings and dump the manure in the garden. Then spray down the spot to put all the other smaller pieces into the grass.
As with kids, just make sure that if you want them to be a "pet" you pick a breed that is kid friendly and give them regular attention so they don't become scared around people or children. We let them out of the coop when the kids want to play with them and they love the attention and the chance to scratch other places of the yard.
~To visit Jill's blog, click HERE. She also has an Etsy store, HERE.~