Hi guys, Just thought I'd share my story with you as well. I am a reporter for a weekly paper in our small town. When my editor found out I had took the plunge to be a chicken mom, she asked me to write a little feature on it. Thought I would share with you all too, since you feel like my family in this crazy venture! Jessi Ozark County Times reporter and first-time chicken owner Jessi Dreckman brought home six chicks last week to raise with her husband, Drew, at their home in Gainesville. Here she’s pictured with a two-week-old Wyandotte chick. Becoming a mom – a chicken mom, that is By Jessi Dreckman [email protected] I caught the bug before I even suspected it. A little recessive desire that has probably been lingering in the back of my mind for years exploded into a full-fledged fever overnight. I first realized I had come down with the fever one morning a couple weeks ago. I excitedly awoke and had one thing on my mind – chickens. I’ve always thought it would be fun to have chickens, but something changed that morning. I really wanted chickens; actually, I needed chickens. Maybe it was a hormonal imbalance, maybe it was a case of baby fever that got twisted during the night; I’m not sure. All I know is that I had to have chickens, and soon. I lay in bed, my mind filled with comforting images of little speckled hens spread far across our green field, rays of sun shining down on them as they contently pecked the fresh earth for grubs and insects. I pictured walking out to a little yellow dollhouse coop in the backyard and pulling big brown eggs from their straw-lined boxes then going inside and whipping up a wonderful breakfast with the freshest eggs under the sun. I just knew my pancakes would be fluffier, my cakes moister and my morning omelets would be wonderfully richer with beautiful stiff, saffron-orange yolks. Yes, I needed chickens. So, I got out of bed and did what I always do when I decide to take on a new venture: I scoured the Internet, digging up information. I asked for advice from my friends who had raised chickens. I joined the online chicken community, BackyardChickens.com, and absorbed pages and pages of information. I posted and made friends with dozens of people who urged me to take the plunge. It took a little while to get the lingo down – pullet, culling, broilers, layers, cockerel, bantam, clutch, broody - but once I did, I quickly crafted my plan for the chicks, and even more important, I crafted my it's-totally-easy-definitely-not-expensive, don't-worry-honey-you-won't-even-know-they're-here speech for my husband, Drew. The biggest hurdleWell, the speech wasn't as convincing as I had hoped. Drew had doubts, even after I argued my strongest point: I was already paying $3 a dozen for local, organic, farm-fresh eggs from the Truck Patch in Mountain Home, Ark., every week. “The feed alone will cost more than that. Then there’s the coop, the run, not to mention just the hassle of it all,” he said nonchalantly as he continued to flip through his magazine. “It's just not worth it. Besides, the eggs you get are fine.” I knew he was probably right about the money, and the eggs I buy are really fresh, but I wasn't going to give up that easily. “Think of it like deer hunting or white bass fishing,” I persisted. “I could easily buy meat and fish at the grocery store for less than it costs for you to buy guns, ammunition, fishing poles, hunting clothes, deer stands, tackle, waders and everything else, not to mention the hassle of getting up before dawn and staying out at night until the wee hours of the morning for months on end.” I let my point sink in then took a breath and continued. “But I’m so glad that you do it. It provides us with something fresher and more natural than I could ever buy at the store, and you love doing it. My eggs are your deer and fish.” Then I gave him my most charming, convincing smile. He tried to hide the humored smile spreading across his face as he continued flipping through the magazine. Yes! Sweet success! Mission accomplished. I was over the biggest hurdle. Now on to the easy logistical stuff. Easy-peasy. The planI decided I wanted six chickens, all hens, because roosters don’t lay eggs, but they do crow all day long. I also wanted to buy or build a moveable chicken coop and run so our chickens would be protected from predators but would also have the benefit of fresh ground every day to eat insects and grass. I researched breeds and found several that would fit in well at our home. So, on the beautiful 80-degree day last Friday, I started preparing for my chicks. Giddy with excitement, I headed out to a farm-supply store for a feeder, water dispenser, pine shavings, heat lamp and hardware cloth. The sun was shining bright; I rolled down the windows and turned up the radio. It was going to be a great day. Before I even entered the store, I could hear the little peeping coming from the boxes of little chicks on the floor. Happy, beautiful little fuzzballs all looking for a home. I couldn't wait to have some of my own, but first I had to have the right equipment. I quickly gathered the supplies and headed back to prepare their temporary home. I planned to return to the store the next morning to pick out the six babies that would soon become our little flock. Bringing babies homeI spent the day transforming an old 30-gallon plastic storage tote into a safe, warm brooder in our basement. Then I left to meet Rachel Klessig, owner of Jersey Knoll Farm, to pick up a bag of non-gmo chicken starter feed. While at the farm, Rachel let me know her sister-in-law hatches a great backyard breed of chickens called Wyandottes from her own high-quality hens. We took a quick trip down the road to see the chicks and full-grown hens. The hens were varied in color, but each one was uniquely beautiful. I immediately knew I had to take some home. Rachel boxed up four chicks of different colors for me: one white, one “splash” and two blue-laced red. The only catch is that breeders are unable to tell if chicks are male or female until they are several months old. I decided right there I didn’t care. I was in love! I would raise these babies either way. The next morning I went back to the farm store with my 4-year-old brother Paul Goodwin and let him pick two others: one barred rock and one Rhode Island red. We brought them home and put them all in the brooder together. Counting my chickens…Since bringing the chicks home I have spent countless hours lying on the basement floor beside the babies’ cage, watching their quirky little personalities develop. I really want to name them, but I have resisted so far because I don’t know their gender yet. With my luck, I’ll end up with a rooster named Sparkles or Clementine. In my five days of being a chicken-mom, I’ve already had what felt like several mini-crises. For instance, just as I got the heat lamp set up and was thinking I was such a good mama, the power went out in our house! I scrambled to cover the brooder with a blanket, moved it near a gas heater and lined it with hand warmers, but the chicks’ loud chirps just got more frantic. Just when I thought I might have to curl up and sleep with my babies like a good mother hen would do, the lights came back on, thank heaven. So far, it has been a great experience, and I’ve made wonderful friends with other chicken owners. I am looking forward to growing and raising my chicks up. Although dozens of my friends on BackyardChickens.com warn me from firsthand experience of “chicken-math,” the irrational urge to buy way more chickens than you have room for. Right now, we only have enough room in the coop for six chickens, so I’m doing my best to resist the urge! I wonder if my husband would kill me if I asked him to build a second coop for next year?