It was about 10 years ago that I moved from the city out into the country. I purchased 5 acres of unimproved forest land, and had a small house built upon it. I then left well enough alone.
The chicken bug bit me in late Sept of 2012. I had thought about the idea of bringing in some farm animals onto my property before, but figured I didn't want the trouble. I'm not sure what changed in Sept, but, I suddenly wanted chickens, bad. But, since it was the beginning of fall, with winter fast approaching, I decided to wait until spring. That way I could do a little research, and hopefully figure out how to be a successful Chicken Keeper....
Flash forward to March 2013. I'd done my reading and researching. I was sick of that. I just wanted to get me my chickens. But due to some financial issues I decided it was best to put it off for a year. However... One day I was at a local farm store stocking up on supplies for my other pets. As soon as I walked in the door I knew I was going to be in trouble, because I could hear that lovely *cheep cheep* coming from somewhere in the store. I probably would have been okay if the chick bins hadn't been set up in the aisle way next to the supplies I had come in to purchase. I stood staring at the little things for about half an hour, and then gave in. I went home to set up the brooder, and the next day, came back for the chicks.
So that is how this whole adventure started.
First week pictures above. My three girls are all Easter Eggers, though the feed store sold them as 'Americana's'. In the first picture, from Left to Right, we have Middie, Lonely, and finally Little Feather. Little Feather was, and remains, very shy, so she has no good baby picture. The second picture is of Lonely, and the third is of Middie. Originally, I brooded them in an old lizard cage that my father had built. They outgrew this quickly, and I switched them over to a larger cardboard brooder. This was made by taping two large boxes together, and cutting out a section in the middle so they could move between the two sides. They remained in this until it was time to move them outside. They actually ended up destroying it, accidentally, when they knocked over their water one day while I was out. Luckily at that point they were ready to move into their coop, and their coop was ready for them.
The cardboard brooder box, when it was still pretty.
Little Feather showing off how smart she is, after having learned how to fly up to the top edge of the brooder.
Okay, so after the girls had been with me for 8 weeks, it was obvious they were outgrowing their brooder. This wasn't supposed to be a problem, as I had a plan in place to have a coop ready for them by the beginning of May. This should have given me a whole extra month before they needed to be put outside. But, plans change, and my help broke his hand. So, creating the coop had to be put off.
The Coop Project
So, one of my biggest hurdles to getting chickens was the Coop. What were they going to live in after the brooder stage? There's plenty of options out there, but due to cost, and my general lack of handiness, those options seemed limited. I had orignally purchased plans for The Garden Coop chicken house, but with the injury to my helper, time became a major factor that just wouldn't allow us to build a coop from scratch. So......
Isn't she a beauty? This was originally built to house Guinea Fowl. It was an experiment of a friend, that failed. The birds found a new home elsewhere, and the coop came to rest on my land for storage. It had been sitting on the back of my property for about 5 years. The roof and the back wall were starting to collapse, but otherwise it was sound. It also was covered in chicken wire, which I simply don't trust for preditor protection. So, it needed to be moved, have the wire, the roof and back wall replaced. Some other minor tweeks, and it would be good to go!
Mostly renovated Chicken Coop
My niece (and nephews) came over to help me with landscaping around the coop. Boy, do they like the chickens!
How to go from 3 chickens to 25
So, 2 1/2 years ago I started my experiment with chickens. Over the course of my 1st year I discovered many things that I never knew about chickens. Who knew such a 'stupid' animal could be so smart, so entertaining, so funny? I rediscovered a joy in the outdoors, just from all the evenings I spent sitting outside, watching them be, well, chickens. My 3 girls quickly became some of the best entertainment I could ever hope for.
In early September of 2013 my girls started laying their first eggs. I wanted to frame those first couple of eggs; but I did something better. I ate them.
A store bought white egg with one of Lonely's first eggs, and Middie's first egg.
By mid-October, however, the girls had all stopped laying. By then, I was hooked on my girl's homemade eggs. It was frustrating to realize I would have to make do until spring came again, and I vented my frustrations with a chicken-keeping friend I had recently met. The next day she brought me a present- a dozen freshly laid eggs from her flock. I decided to have scrambled eggs for breakfast the next morning.
Wait... that's not how you scramble eggs....
Well, as I was getting ready to crack that first egg over the frypan, I realized that the eggs she had given me were fertile eggs, since she kept a couple roosters with her flock of layers. Since I had just recently (impulsively) bought a used incubator, it seemed only logical to try and hatch some of those nice fertile eggs out. In early November. In Michigan.
Well, where chickens are concerned, everything seems to make sense.
A Winter of Quite a few Regrets