I didn't know chickens would be so addicting!! We moved to our farm in May after a year of renovating the house (basically gutting it and cleaning out a disgusting mess!). Before that we lived in town for 7 years, my husband had gone back to school in Kansas City and then we moved to Wamego and lived there for 4 years before finding our current place right outside of town. Anyway, we are very happy to be out here! I grew up on a farm and before my husband went back to school we ranched for 10 years. So the country is where it's at!!
We seem to haved collected a lot of animals in the past year - 2 dogs and 2 cats that came with the farm and now there is a kitten, 4 horses, a cow and calf, miniature donkey, lizard, finch and a fish. And of course chickens! I've always wanted to get chickens. I grew up with them and remember collecting eggs and butchering (not my favorite part, especially when Mom would chop their heads off and they would fly around the yard "chasing" us without their heads). I still remember the smell when she would put them in scalding water to get their feathers to come off easier. Back then chickens were purely a food source for us and we needed them as we were fairly poor. I would find it hard to butcher my chickens as I see them more as pets. Anyway, around the beginning of April I went to Orscheln's in Manhattan and got 5 buff Orps that were all supposed to be pullets, but 1 is a roo (Otto, and he's so pretty); 2 barred rocks; 2 Rhode Island reds; and the kids picked out 4 bantams of which 2 are Old English silver duckwing roos, 1 is a white-black tailed Japanese, and 1 is a silver seabright. Then 2 weeks later I got 5 Ameraucanas who were all supposed to be pullets and 1 is a cockerel (Clancy). Out of those 18 I've only lost 1 and that was because our relatives brought their stupid dog to our house and it chased my chickens and one of my RI reds disappeared. No idea where she could have gone. I wasn't expecting any eggs til closer to October because then they would be 6 mos. old, but I have a buff that has been laying daily for 2 weeks, and another buff that has laid a few and I think one of my Ameraucanas may be laying, although I haven't caught her in the act. I'ts a darker brown egg than the buff's. Also, my little Japanese bantam has laid 2 eggs.
I have a room in my barn that is probably 4' by 8' that I started them out in. It has a concrete floor and some ventilation around the ceiling, although it does get pretty hot in there so I have hung a fan. There is also a window that goes into the next room that has a window to the outside. My husband took one of the panes out and covered it with a chicken wire for more airflow. Some friends of ours have an old chicken coop on their property that they want to get rid of and it is so cool, very old fashioned and quaint. Reminds me of the house we used when I was a kid that my grandma had raised hundreds of chickens in. My original plan was to move it to our place and fix it up and fence a yard in, but it hasn't worked out to move it yet (i'ts large, probably 10' x 20' or so and won't be an easy thing to do). I got to thinking - my chickens have a pretty darn nice place right now: it's safe, protected, they can be free range, our barn is open all the way through and it's the coolest place on the farm during the hot day, they take lots of dust baths, there's lots of hay to scratch around in and they can venture out into the barnyard to eat grass and bugs and dogfood (which they seem to love). They seem very happy and healthy and I love watching them. So, I hung the nesting boxes (actually my wonderful husband did) in their coop up on the wall first, then I had him put it on the floor so they could get the hang of it. Later on I'll have him raise it up again so it will be easier to get the eggs out of. He also took an old screen door we had and covered it with chicken wire so I can close them in at night. I also hung a string of Christmas lights so it's light enough to see in there, but not bright. I just leave them on all the time. We'll still get the old chicken house, but I'll probably use it as a garden shed.
When Sivia, our faithful buff, laid her first egg she laid it out in the hay. A friend told me that she had put golf balls in her nesting boxes to give the hens the idea to lay in them. The next day I went out and checked the boxes and there were lots of eggs! On closer look (it's pretty dark in there) I saw that my a daughter had put golf balls in several of them. There is even a blue golf ball, I guess for the Ameraucanas?
This week I've filled an egg carton, it's so exciting! And we've eaten several eggs already, they're so delicious and what beautiful yolks!
We just had the fair last week and my kids took the 2 Old English bantam cockerels, both won their classes; the seabright; and a gorgeouse red-laced blue ameraucana that received a purple ribbon. I'm so proud of our chickens even though they "just" came from Orschelns. I know their not breeding quality, but we love them anyway. I want to add a couple black copper marans to my flock and have contacted someone about getting them. I just love colorful eggs!
Anyway, that's my chicken story.