[FONT=comic sans ms,sand]June 15, 2010- I grew up with chickens, my husband did not. To be honest, I wasn't particularly fond of them... probably because of a rather nasty rooster we had that would chase me every chance he was given. Our chickens were providers of eggs and meat and while we treated them well, they were never considered pets or handled much. They weren't exactly a friendly bunch because we never expected them to be.
Over the past few years I've had a number of health issues and have dealt with a number of food allergies. I have been forced to take a closer look at the food my family eats and we have made a conscientious effort to reduce the number of chemicals that are going into our bodies.[/FONT]
To make better food choices, we started buying our produce and meat locally. Then, we started a garden (something else I grew up with but had gotten away from). My kids, ages 10, 8, and 3, have really enjoyed planting the garden and watching it grow. Last year they enjoyed lettuce, spinach, peas, beans, and carrots out of our garden and this year we have planted all those and more. Our family has enjoyed the process of reconnecting with our food supply, and it seemed like a natural step to add chickens to the mix.
The Backyard Chickens website has been an amazing resource, and without it I don't think we would be here right now. We spent hours researching coops, then designed our own with our favorite elements from everyone else's designs. We are getting ready to sell my grandparents' 60+ year old farm, so we were able to salvage most of our materials from their property. Our coop and run are made from reclaimed, recycled, and repurposed barn wood, scrap lumber, chicken wire, and some old bead-board cabinet doors (my favorite part). It cost us a grand total of $11.45 to build, and I think my grandparents would smile to know that we created something out of their old materials. (Grandparents are resourceful that way!)
When the coop was built, it was back to Backyard Chickens to choose our breeds. The breed chart was incredibly helpful. We decided that four hens would be a good number, based on available space and the number of eggs we hope to get (enough for our own consumption and to share with an elderly neighbor). We chose our girls based on temperament and egg production. We ordered them through our local feed store, and on June 8 our girls arrived.
Please allow me to introduce our girls:
1) Cookie is an Australorp a Barred Rock and belongs to my oldest daughter. She is clearly the leader of the group... a Smart Cookie, in fact... and she is very gentle and calm when we handle her. We were told when we picked up our chicks that she was the Australorp, and when we finally decided that they had mixed up our chicks my daughter was initially disappointed. But this little fluffball has such a great personality that my daughter decided she'll keep her... even if she will have stripes!
2) Princess Leia N'Egg (aka Princess) is a Barred Rock an Australorp and belongs to my Star Wars-loving comedian of a son. My son describes her as 'fast, cute, funny, and loveable'. Clearly, she is one amazing Jedi chicken! This chick loves oatmeal and free ranging. She's the first one to come running when someone mentions treats.
3) Lola (aka Princess Lola Queen Mermaid Gretel) is a Buff Orpington and belongs to my youngest daughter. She is a very sweet chickie who doesn't seem to mind being handled (a lot!) by the little one. She doesn't like hunting for bugs on the ground so much, but she's a champ at catching the flying insects and she's more entertaining than tv when she's on the hunt!
4) Lucy is our Rhode Island Red and she belongs to my mister and me. He named her Lucy after his favorite redhead, Lucille Ball. She is the spunkiest one of the bunch and clearly favors her namesake. Unfortunately we lost Lucy when she was about a week old to a sad accident. Our friend gave us their RIR from the same hatching (I'll have pics soon) because my kids were heartbroken. They asked that we keep her name (Henrietta) as Lucy's middle name, but my little one can't pronounce it well so the new chick's official name is Lucy Henri-Ella.
Our girls (the feathered ones, that is) currently reside in a purple tote in my oldest daughter's room. The tote is furnished with pine shavings, a feeder and waterer, and a surrogate momma that they used to tuck under at night, but are now starting to roost on. The past few days we have been taking the girls out to the coop for a bit during they day, and they seem to enjoy scratching around and exploring. These chicks get handled several times per day, and I think I'll enjoy my chicken experience much more the second time around!