Wow, spring is busy here on the homestead. Here in Dallas,Texas we have just a few short weeks to get things started in the garden before the heat kicks in and time is up, for new planting that is. So I have been trying to fit it all in and haven’t had time to catch you up. Before I start on catching up though, I know there are those of you that are just itching to get chickens. Learn from my mistakes or experiences and things will go much smoother for you.
I hate to say anything negative about chickens because I love my back yard flock of girls, love the eggs and my veggies love the fertilizer. That is a lot of love! However this blog is about being real and providing advice that I wish I had had when I started out.
So here goes: #1 thing you ought to know before you get backyard chickens
When I got my chicks I had my coop built and ready. See how I built my coop here. I had read a book from the library from cover to cover. I found valuable info in that book about how to raise the chicks from chick to hen. I naively thought that my hens would wander about the yard all day looking cute. Pop eggs out hopefully every other day. I would shut them in at night for protection and that would be that. Little House on the Prairie but in suburbia. No, No, No, sadly that is not how it happened. Spring went pretty well until the Texas sun really started to beat down on my little homestead. This is when the chickens got the idea that they would like to be inside where it was cooler! Yes, you read right. They pressed themselves against the sliding glass door opening to my patio. Which sounds rather cute and amusing until you factor in the POOP! Ironically I first had the idea of getting chickens for their great poop, but it wasn’t quiet the way I had imagined it. Where I used to walk out into my peaceful shaded backyard there was now solid poop bombs, everywhere. I tried to chase them away. I sicked my kids on them with squirt guns. Nothing worked. They wanted inside where it was cooler and nothing was going to dissuade them from this goal.
Lesson learned: Backyard chickens need their own space. A lot of homes have a space around the side of the house as mine does, so we utilized that. A friend gave us a wrought iron pool fence that they no longer wanted. We cemented in posts and installed the 5 foot fence and finally I had my patio back. Like I said wish I had known. The book didn’t mention anything about “Poop on the Stoop.”
#2 Thing you ought to know before getting chickens:
I always plant a few potted plants on my back patio to enjoy every spring. As was my usual practice I bought caladiums, begonias you get the idea. I spent the whole morning planting in the cool spring sunshine. It looked beautiful. You can probably imagine what happened next. I went on an errand. Just a simple trip to the store. When I got back what should my eyes see but complete and utter destruction! What the chickens were not interested in eating they sat on or scratched up. One of my cheeky girls had left me an egg right in the pot closest to the door. Sadly it did not make up for unearthing everything in the pot before leaving the egg. I was not happy and when mamma ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy!
Lesson learned: Chickens can flap further or rather higher than you ever thought they could. It is not really flying at all but flapping with great exertion hopefully with a running start first. Note to self, usually chickens flap onto something a bit higher(like their coop) and then finish with the final length of flapping right over the fence you took all that trouble to put up. O.K. at this point I am rethinking my bright, zany idea to get chickens. Kind of wishing I could blame it on someone else but it is all mine. My big crazy idea to get chickens. I had to seriously down play my disappointment when my hubby got home. Seeing as he had just helped me cement posts into the ground and put a fence up, I thought it best not to mention the days events. Let me introduce you to my scissors and how to clip the wings of a chicken.
You just have someone hold the chicken, stretch out it’s wing and clip straight across. It works wonders! It makes the poor girl flap in a circle, which I am probably going to get all kinds of comments about, but hey I have to coexist with these chickens. Better this than the stew pot! Furthermore I would rather do this little thing than admit to my husband that I am indeed nuts to try these crazy things, that no one else we know is doing. There is a vein in the flight feather that can if cut too short can bleed continuously. Don’t let this scare you. I have never cut it and I keep a simple styptic stick to stop bleeding just in case I ever do.(can buy one at any pharmacy)
I don’t remember the book saying anything about this either.Nothing at all about this mad passion chickens have for all things green. However to be fair it did say to fence in your vegetable garden. So maybe they just thought I would put two and two together and assume that everything I wanted to grow must have a strong loop of barbed wire around it! Let me remind you that I am a city girl through and through. I am sure that there are more books about the subject of raising chickens now. If anyone knows a good one shout it out in a comment. To also be fair, the book did have a lot of info on building a chicken run onto the coop. It was mainly to protect them from predators though, which I have not really had a problem with during daylight hours at least. Building a coop with a large run attached would also be an option. Although it seems to me an expensive option.If anyone has an idea to build a chicken run almost for free, maybe using something recycled than again shout it out. We would love to hear.
So in conclusion let me just put it plainly. Chickens eat or scratch anything green and living. If you are planning on moving your chicken tractor about your yard than DON’T LEAVE THAT THING IN ONE PLACE TOO LONG! That is if you want a yard with grass in it. The chicken yard, if you do indeed give them their own space, will have nothing living in it. Well maybe a mature tree would do o.k. One of the advantages I have living in the city is that everyone collects their leaves and places them neatly packaged on the curb. My kids start trying to distract me when we pass a big pile of leaf filled bags in Fall. I collect them and empty them out in the chicken yard. If I can not get leaves I can easily buy a bale of straw to put in their yard. The girls love to scratch and spread it all around. After a season or two of this you can use this “earth” to fill your raised beds with! In addition my compost pile is in my chicken yard so they can stir it around for me and eat any left overs I throw their way. They go crazy for spaghetti noodles! Also it helps keep their eggs hard when they eat the empty egg shells that you throw in the compost. That way you don’t have to supplement them with anything else. Don’t gather the leaves of the Live Oak in the springtime. For some reason as they break down they STINK! So gather in Fall and go for straw (from your feed store or church ect. for free at the end of October.)
As you can see chickens are not an impulse buy. A lot of planning goes into caring for them and even when you think you have done all your homework there are still a few things that might surprise you. Over all, I love my girls and am glad I took the step to backyard chickens.
This was shared at Simple Homestead Blog Hop