My Chicken Saga
After a visit to my parents (who own a dozen and a half chickens) over the Christmas holidays I decided it would be fun to have a few chickens at our house too. My husband loves eggs, and my nieces and nephews really enjoy "taking care of" the chickens. Plus I'd just lost my 10 year old Rottie Lady, and chickens seemed like a lower maintenance pet that I wouldn't get quite as attached to. To my surprise my husband was adamantly opposed to owning chickens. His dad and stepmom had chickens when he was growing up, and those chickens free ranged 24/7. He was haunted by the thoughts of chicken poop everywhere. I tried pleading with him and pointing out that my folks chicks are too busy scratching around near the woods and don't come that close to the house, but he dug in his heels.
In May I started a low carb diet in which I eat 2 boiled eggs for breakfast every morning. Hubby started following the diet plan too, so we're eating at least 4 eggs every day. I again broached the subject of having some laying hens because the eggs would be better for us. No dice. He was being so stubborn about the issue, and he's never so diametrically opposed to anything I suggests, so I knew he had pretty strong anti-chicken feelings. So I pretty well gave up on my dreams of chicken ownership and didn't so much as make mention of owning chickens again. One day out of the blue, hubby said I could get some chickens!
I was ecstatic, and now I had lots of planning to do! What breeds should I get? How many? Where would I keep them? Where should I get them from? Should I have hubby build me a coop, or buy a prefab one? What should we feed them?
We were headed up to my folks the next week, so I knew I'd get a chance to pick their brains on a number of these subjects. When I arrived at mom and dad's I started devouring their Backyard Poultry magazines, and I bought Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens and started reading it as well. I spent most of my waking moments reading or talking about chickens. I could tell my husband was already regretting his decision...
My folks only live about an hour and a half from Cackle Hatchery in Lebanon, MO, and I'd considered buying my chicks there and just transporting them back to Texas when we drove home. After spending an hour and a half listening to one of my mom's Delaware pullets (which actually turned out to be a Royal Palm turkey as she discovered a few weeks later), I opted to order my chicks by mail and save myself 10 hours of peeping. Plus we wouldn't have had a way to keep them warm enough in the car on the way back home.
While in Missouri we visited a friend of my parents who have what my dad has dubbed a "chicken fortress", and I wanted to get ideas and take pictures. Chicken fortress was right! The coop was a prefab metal coop, but the yard was built out of square metal posts with heavy guage welded wire (and not that cheapo stuff at Lowe's and Home Depot) welded onto the metal posts. Along the bottom of the fence was 1/4" hardware cloth that had the top piece of metal snipped off, exposing a bunch of sharp points. This edge was folded at a 90 degree angle about 1 inch down. The purpose of this hardware cloth was to keep snakes out of the pen, and so far it had been doing its job well. They had found dead snakes who were impaled by the points. Impressive!
I had originally wanted to buy 6 chickens as I thought 6 hens would lay at least 4 eggs a day - perfect for our current egg consumption. But then I thought that might not be enough since hubby likes to eat 3 eggs for breakfast sometimes. And I also wanted enough eggs that I could share with family and friends. And so I finally settled on a number of chicks that I wanted - 17.
After much research and debate (with myself) I decided to get Welsummers pullets (for their dark brown/speckled eggs), Easter Eggers (for their blue or green eggs), Rhode Island Reds (for their production capablility), Delawares (for their heat tolerance), and a couple of Silkie pullets (for my nieces and nephews). I also decided to get a Welsummer rooster too. No one in this area has Welsummers, so I thought it would be cool to raise some purebred Wellies. The Silkies who are prone to going broody could sit on the Welly eggs which should be easy to distinguish from the other eggs because of their dark coloring.
I placed my first order with Ideal Poultry of Cameron, TX in early June. They were scheduled to ship in mid-June I ended up having to order 6 Silkies because they're sold in a straight run only, and I hoped at least 2 of those 6 would be pullets. While waiting for the chicks to ship I started working on the coop, and I was planning on using the garden coop plan. In calculating costs I decided that it was just too much money to spend if I bought all the materials new, so I cancelled my order and placed an ad in the local paper looking for used materials in good condition. We found some used materials that would help us defray some of the cost of the coop build, and I pared down my original building plans from 12 X 16 to 10 X 12. And we decided to go with a plywood floor instead of pouring a concrete foundation.
When I went back to Ideal's site to place my order I was dismayed to see they were out of Welsummers! Not being a person with lots of patience I decided to go ahead and order and replace the Wellies with New Hampshires. They were good layers who are supposed to be fairly heat tolerant. (I found the Henderson Handy-Dandy Chicken Chart very helpful in my breed research.) My chicks were scheduled to ship on 7/7. I kept an eye on the Ideal website to see if any Wellies became available. To my surprise over the July 4th weekend I saw that Wellsummer pullets were available to ship on 7/7. I sent an email to Teri with Ideal to see if we could switch out the New Hamp roo for a Wellie roo and get 4 Wellie pullets, and asked her to call me if it was possible. I had intended to cancel my New Hamps altogether, but I never got a call from Ideal, so I assumed that there weren't any Wellies available.
When I picked up my peepers from the post office on July 9 and got them home, I was thrilled to find that there were 5 Wellies in the box - 4 pullets and a roo!!! And 4 New Hamp pullets. Oopsie! Guess I should have told them in my email to cancel the New Hamp pullets instead of waiting for a phone call, but I was so glad I got my Wellies that I didn't care I was over my original chicken figure. So now instead of my original plan to have 4 RIR's, 5 Wellsummers, 4 EE's, 4 Delawares, and 6 Silkies, I also had 4 New Hamps. But I discovered upon counting my chicks again that night that I'd actually been shorted a Wellie. I wasn't too upset because, really, 26 chickens is quite enough. Or is it???
Our Coop Plans