Steve & Jeanne's
Back Yard Chicken Adventures
In late 2007 my wife got me to read “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver, about her family eating only local food for a whole year. I was really impressed with the book, but what caught my attention was the author's daughter ordering chickens through the mail so she could make a business of selling eggs. Hmmmm. “I’d like to do that” was going through my mind. At Christmas Jeanne gave me two wonderful books on raising chickens, “Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens” by Gail Damerow and “Living with Chickens” by Jay Rossier. I was on my way. Jeanne and I live in Charlotte, NC in a suburban neighborhood on a half acre lot. Seemed like enough space for a few chickens and one little poodle . .
Looking through all the websites at the various breeds was amazing. So many choices. I was surprised to find out that the city of Charlotte allows chickens as long as you register and pay a yearly fee. Not all backyard chicken operations bother with the official process. Our first concern was that the neighbors would be warm to the project. When I talked with them about our project they were all very excited, so the path was clear. We received the official OK after the Animal Control lady came by to check out our backyard. However, the City of Charlotte says you cannot sell your eggs. No problem for us since we have family and neighbors willing to help with eating the eggs :-) I found the right plan for a home for 8 chickens on the internet at: http://www.buildeazy.com/chicken_coop_1.html . One major hint I picked up from our books is that the chickens need a secure home and outdoor area to protect from the usual assortment of suburban suspects such as dogs, cats, opposums, raccoons, muskrats, hawks and owls.
Then I ordered my 10 chicks from Shook Poultry in Claremont, NC, about an hour away from home. http://www.shookpoultry.net/. I ordered a couple of extra chicks to allow for the possibility of a few early deaths. Three Ameracunas for the blue/green eggs, two silver Wyandottes, three Buff Orpingtons and two Plymouth Barred Rocks. All hens. Waited about 3 weeks to pick them at the farm. Jeanne and I drove up with our boxes and water ready to become poultry people. Mr. Shook greeted us with a small box with 14 chicks in it – a few extra just in case. I forget to tell him that I had already considered that factor but we couldn’t turn down our chicks so off we went with 14 chicks back to Charlotte. They were really small.
Watching chicks grow is a great experience. And they grow fast. In seven weeks they were in the new house. One did pass away in the first week and we found a customer at our hardware store that was willing to take 3 chicks. He had quail before and was excited to try chickens. A win for all of us. So our now flock of 10 moved into the new Hen House and most important - out of our house! After awhile we did notice that two of what we thought were Ameracunas, were looking a lot like Rhode Island Reds. So I emailed a picture to Mr. Shook and he confirmed the new breed to us. Only one Ameracuna in our flock now but that does may her even more special.
So we have Molly & Millie the Wyandottes, Nora & Nellie the Barred Rocks, Ellen, Ellen & Ellen the Buffs, Portia and Phoebe the RIRs and Pam the Ameracuna. And Nellie (at the bottom right) is the hen in charge or kinda Rooster, who makes a lot of noise but no crowing at dawn. I guess someone has to be the leader. We have had one 10 egg day but mostly it's 6 or 8 most days. Not bad for 30 weeks. It is really too much fun. Why doesn't everyone have chickens?