Soooo, I’ve decided to get chickens! I’ve thought about it for a long time. Walking out my back door, greeting my chickens, and gathering fresh eggs has always been a dream of mine. But, without a farm, it always seemed like a far off goal. I always thought I needed a farm in order to have chickens. After following along on Instagram with some local urban/ suburban gardeners, I realized that I could have chickens- like, now. I don’t need to wait for a far off future of 100 acre farm. On our modest lot, I could have chickens!
I’ve stocked up on some essential handbooks and read through them diligently. I’ve followed web forums and watched dozens of Youtube videos. BUT!! NOTHING really compares to talking to someone and seeing what their journey with chickens has been like, what kind of advice they can offer, and ultimately- the gentle nudge to continue forward. A special thanks to Julie and Amanda for taking the time to answer my questions. Without them, I would not have felt nearly as comfortable making the commitment.
Julie Schreiner from @this_bountiful_life
When and why did you decide to get chickens?
Oh my gosh I have wanted chickens for what feels like forever but we never had the appropriate space for them. Two years ago we bought our current property and one of the conditions I had with my husband is that I could have chickens and the rest is history 🙂 I had heard that chickens were amazing little pets to have and I wanted fresh eggs because store bought eggs just have no comparison to farm fresh eggs.
How many chickens do you have and what are their names?
We had 8 but unfortunately last week one of our girls died suddenly. We think she was having a hard molt and may have had an underlying issue that the stress of the molt caused her to get sick 🙁 we were devastated…
On a lighter note all of our girls are named after the female characters of Game of Thrones. We have Khalesi, Ygritte, Sansa, Arya, Gilly, Brienne of Tarth, and Cersei. The one who we lost was named Scrappy. She was always a bit different and had a bunch of missing feathers when we first got her and well was quite scrappy so the name stuck.
How did you select their breeds? Which breeds do you have?
I selected the breeds based on temperament, ability to tolerate heat, good with kids, and for their various different egg colors. We have an Easter Egger, a Welsummer, a Barred Rock, a buff Brahma, a black australop, a buff Orpington, and a barnvelder.
How did you select a coop?
We needed one that could fit all the girls comfortably with the possibility of having more. I also knew I wanted one that was off the ground because I had heard of weasel issues in the area. I found the perfect coop on Craigslist that a guy in the area had built. We added automatic doors that are solar paneled and they were the best thing we ever did.
How much time do you spend on routine management?
I spend a couple hours a week on maintenance and cleaning but I really want it to be a clean space so I make sure to spend extra time on their little space than probably is necessary.
What advice would you give to an aspiring chicken owner?
Install automatic coop doors, it’s impossible to not get attached, and chickens are an absolute blast to have to enjoy the process 🙂
Amanda Haas from @forageandgrow
When did you first get chickens? What was the occasion/where did you get them from? How long have you had chickens for?
I got my first group of ladies almost 3 years ago from My Pet Chicken, which is a company that ships day old chicks from their hatchery in Ohio. I didn’t know anyone in my area who had chickens or where to get chicks locally at the time that could be accurately sexed (my neighborhood sadly doesn’t allow roosters), so I went with My Pet Chicken based on online reviews and lots of crossed fingers. Luckily everyone made it to my post office in one piece and I’ve been a happy chicken mama ever since.
I hadn’t personally owned chickens before I got my first girls, but my aunt had chickens when I was a kid growing up in LA, and I used to love running around her yard with them and scooping them up for cuddles. I thought they were such a cool novelty and loved watching them run around and attack every plant within pecking distance with gusto. She used to call me The Chicken Wrangler because I could always be counted on to catch them at bedtime to get them back into the coop safe and sound.
How many chickens do you have and what are their names?
I currently have 6 lovely ladies named Harriet, Buttercup, Clementine, Eloise, Frances, and Delilah.
What’s the biggest reason, in your opinion, to get chickens?
I originally got chickens because I really liked the idea that I could have a pet that paid rent. I mean, how cool is that?? Once the girls arrived, it only took about 5 whole seconds to realize that they would mean a lot more to me than just a bird that ran around my yard and pooped eggs every once in a while. My chickies are my feathered children and I love them just as much as any dog or cat that I’ve ever had in my life.
Besides how much joy they bring, a great reason to get chickens is for their amazing eggs. The eggs laid by a backyard, free-ranging hen that can dig up bugs to their heart’s content and attack your vegetable garden on the reg are going to taste a billion times better than the anemic-looking eggs you get from the local supermarket. You also can’t beat the look on peoples’ faces when they realize that chickens can lay eggs that aren’t just brown or white. I’ve gotten my fair share of “Why is it blue?” and “Do the green ones taste different?” over the years, but also a good amount of “So THIS is what an egg is supposed to taste like!”.
What piece of advice would you give to an aspiring, first time chicken owner?
Do your research, prepare to fall in love with your new babies instantly, know that everything wants to eat them, and automatic coop doors are a game changer. Chickens are a wonderful addition to a family and yard, but getting ready for them to arrive is so much more involved than your standard puppy or kitten. Make sure you have a brooder ready for the babies, a safe and secure coop and run for them to live in once they’re old enough, and be prepared for lots and lots of poop (aka ‘brown gold’) on every surface in the coop, run, and your yard. It will be everywhere, and it will be stinky. Invest in a good door mat now.
For all first-time chicken parents, I strongly recommend reading and committing to memory The Beginner’s Guide to Raising Chickens by my friend Anne Kuo. It’s an excellent deep dive into all things chicken keeping that I wish I had known when I started. All chicken owners are going to make mistakes, and there is never a dull moment when your pet is considered a tasty treat by all the city wildlife (I’m looking at you, coyote menaces). Keeping them safe is all about doing your research and knowing that so-called “chicken wire” should not be used for anything more than keeping your chickies out of your bean patch. Hardware cloth is where it’s at.