It seems like everyone’s brooding chicks these days. Three of my friends are building coops, and I hear hens clucking and squawking all over the neighborhood. We inherited a stately hen chateau when we bought our house last February … and we couldn’t think of a reason not to take the plunge this spring and adopt some chicks.
Warning: we are not the people to instruct others on the care and upbringing of hens. (Translation: we have no idea what we’re doing!) However, maybe our clueless bumbling will inspire you to jump in and adopt some feathered egg-laying friends of your own.
Chickens in the city?
Backyard hens are gaining popularity for a reason. If you feed them well, they’ll produce eggs so delectable you’ll never want to order an omelet in a restaurant again. My neighbor’s hens lay eggs with bright yellow yolks that taste infinitely better than the $5.00-a-carton organic ones we splurge on. Hens dine on weeds and bugs, so they’ll help you in the garden. And their plentiful droppings are a boon to the compost pile. Chickens are also relatively easy to care for. I’ve been assured that they require much less babying than our three spoiled cats. Of course, you’ll need a coop and a very-secure pen to keep predators out.
On Thursday, my husband goes to buy the chicks at our local feed store, while I stay home with our napping baby. We have decided four chicks will be a good number, in case one doesn’t make it, or one turns out to be a rooster. My husband says he will ask the salesperson what kind of hens will be the best egg-layers for our backyard habitat.
He comes home with two black chicks and two yellow chicks in a paper bag, a bag of medicated chick starter food, and a brooder light. The chicks are balls of fluff with reptilian eyes and giant feet. I love them immediately. “What kind are they?” I ask, gazing at them.
My husband looks perplexed. He shrugs. Then he assures me he knows he got egg-laying pullets (girl chicks). He thinks the breed of the yellow one might start with a “B”. Yes, I’m just a tad concerned that we have just purchased four roosters. But I try to tell myself that our chicken adventure has just gotten a bit more adventurous.
Home sweet home
We move the chicks into the home they will live in for the first few weeks – a box in the guest room. We line the box with a towel and use shredded newspaper for litter. But it seems to get dirty instantly (Chicks poop a lot!), and I am changing the litter at least twice a day. We buy some more absorbent “pet litter”, which works much better. Now I only have to change it every other day. Although I’ve read we might want to buy special water and food containers, we use regular bowls instead. They work, but I have to change their water and scrub their food bowl often. (Chicks poop a lot!)
Over the week, I watch them and talk to them. They’re entertaining, as they wander around their box, peeping and scratching at their litter. At first they seem scared when I pick them up, but soon they relax. I rub their backs and they sing.
They grow fast. By the end of the week, they are more feathers and less fluff, and they’re much bigger. I hit myself for not taking a photo of them the day we brought them home.
On the first sunny day of the week, we take them outside. I’m sure they’ll try to run away, so we sit with our feet together and our legs extended to form a diamond. I lift them out of the box one-by-one, ready to block their escapes. (Most people use chicken wire for this purpose.) But they don’t run away at all. They move closer to me. One of them climbs onto my arm. The others follow. They love me!
I’m completely sold on backyard hens.