When my husband and I bought our 100+ year old house on the Near East Side of Indianapolis in 2008 we began gardening right away, but it took 4 years before we were able to add chickens to our little homestead. When I began working on a small farm in 2009 and became exposed to the freshest of foods, I also began to entertain the idea of raising chickens for the eggs in my own backyard. There were a lot of factors that keep my desire to have a few laying hens from happening right away, but finally in the summer of 2012 we got our back yard fully fenced in and I began construction on my coop right away. I built my coop almost entirely from recycled materials or materials left over from other projects around the house. It took me about 5 days from start to finish. My husband and I had recently finished building a greenhouse shed and with the left over wood from that and the fence building, I had both the materials and the confidence to build my coop on my own. I sketched up some plans and went to work. I was determined to do the majority of the work on my own and asked for little help from my husband. He did help me lay shingles on the roof and my friend April helped me to hang some of the larger wall pieces and to paint the coop.
Since I didn't have a lot of experience with chickens and it was already the middle of August, I decided I wanted to start my chicken adventures with grown hens. I wanted the chickens for eggs anyway, so I decided I shouldn't make myself wait months raising babies. My friend April and I loaded up a large plastic tote with some bedding in the bottom and a towel and headed off to the Indiana State Fair in hopes of finding someone who had a few hens for sales. I had poured over reading material about breeds and had a few in mind for what I wanted, but once we arrived at the fair I realized I was really quite nervous about picking out my first hens. I was somewhat put off by the really large breeds and I also had to fess up to the fact I had never held a chicken in my life. After talking for over an hour to some nice folks who raise chickens for a living, and holding several birds, I ended up purchasing 3 bantams. I picked the two silver laced wyandottes because they were so beautiful and the woman who was selling them, Norma, was so impressed when I showed her a picture of my coop that she wanted me to take them home. I paid her $10 for each of the silver laced who were, according to her, "about a year old" and from another man I purchased a Rhode Island Red bantam because I was told she was a good layer. He told me she was "last year's chick." So, April and I loaded the three chickens in to our tote, walked them about a mile back to the truck and drove home with the tub on my lap and a towel as a "lid" in the cab of her truck.
When we got home we had to immediately clip the wings of all three to keep the contained to the run and we had to name them. I have never been very good at naming animals, so the two silver laced wyandottes both got the name Norma, after the nice woman I purchased them from. Heck, I couldn't tell them apart anyway at that time (I can tell them apart now though and one goes by Short Norma and the other is Fat Norma) and my Rhode Island Red got the very uncreative name of Brownie.
Brownie my Rhode Island Red Bantam
The Normas, silver laced wyandotte bantams
I had to literally pick up the chickens that first night and put them to bed because they didn't know where to sleep and the huddled up in the run in the dark that first night. The second night I had to put them in the coop too, but after that they have always gone to bed in the coop on their own without much trouble. The first morning I woke up with my chickens I was so excited and ran out to see if there were eggs. I was very happy to find one from Brownie on the coop floor. Of course my husband and I shared that bantam egg for breakfast.
A week later my husband (he had been hesitant all the while) finally admitted that he liked having the chickens and he thought we should get another chicken. He wanted one that laid "regular" sized eggs because he thought the bantam eggs were too small. By now it was September, and I had found that chickens are kind of hard to come by in the fall, but I found a nice chicken breeder online who lived about 45 minutes away and who was looking to get rid of some birds to make room for others. I drove up to his house with my plastic tub in the back of my car and for $15 drove home with a standard sized Blue Laced Red Wyandotte. She was much larger than the other three, so I named her Big Bird.
So from September to mid-December of last year taking care of my hens was going pretty smoothly. One the day after Christmas we were hit with a blizzard and the hens wouldn't leave the coop or set foot in the snow, but they were ok until I surprised them the next morning with another addition. Long story short, a friend of a friend had bought Brownie's sister at the fair as well as another hen. One of her two was killed by a possum and she wanted a place for her one chicken, a Rhode Island Red Bantam named Trixie, to stay, so I took Trixie into my flock. Trixie spent her first few days out in the snow alone (the others were still holed up in the coop afraid of the snow) and I had to put Trixie into the coop every night. All the girls stopped laying for about a week- a combo I think of adding Trixie and being literally cooped up from the blizzard. But after 4 months of chicken keeping I felt pretty good. We collected 123 eggs from late August until the blizzard hit. They didn't lay again until January 2nd, but together laid 69 eggs last month are are already over 50 eggs for this month.
About two and a half weeks ago Brownie decided to go broody for the second time (the first was in late October during her molt---weirdo). I put a request out on a local chicken message board for some fertile eggs to stick under her and was given 6, so Brownie has been being a good mama for the last 14 days. This weekend her sister Trixie decided she wanted to be a mama too and they split the clutch and have been holding court together in the same nesting box. I'm now 6-7 days away from my first hatch (if everything has gone well in those eggs) and could be adding both ameraucana chicks and ameraucana/splash maran chicks to my flock. Of course I will come back and update with little chick photos if they do hatch.
Brownie and Trixie brooding on a shared next of 6 eggs on 2/24/13.
Thanks for taking time to read my little chicken story!