Monday, April 13, 2009

Which Comes First...

When I sent Kent off to Ohio to find us a place to live I wanted two things: the space to garden, and the space to raise laying chickens. I imagined an old farmhouse somewhere in the Ohio country side. Instead, Kent found us a cozy little Craftsman house on the south side of Bowling Green. The property has narrow, but long grassy yards open on all four sides of the house. The front lawn in it's entirety will make a sizable garden (the back and side lawns are too shady). When I saw the property, I momentarily gave up my dream of chickens. We are in town, we have no fence, we have neighbors on all sides of us. It seemed hopeless.

One should not be so quick to give up dreams or so unimaginative.

In the last two weeks circumstances have transpired rather quickly when these pieces came together:

1. It is legal to keep chickens within the city limits of Bowling Green as long as they do not "run at large."

2. Chickens, especially Buff Orpingtons, do not need a huge amount of space. I'm figuring 4 square feet per bird.

3. Chicken tractors, essentially a chicken coop and chicken run on wheels, are ideal for backyard chicken keepers as they allow you to wheel the chickens to fresh grass everyday. This means the chickens constantly get new forage and new bugs to eat, they evenly fertilize your lawn so chicken manure smells are significantly less, and they won't kill the lawn as they would if they were left in one spot.

Even though I knew all of this, I was still reluctant to start. Chicken tractors are expensive. I saw many for sale over $500. But then, I started trawling Craigslist. I found this:

For $15 dollars I purchased this old rabbit hutch, and am currently in the process of remodeling it into the "Poultry Palace" for these four lovely, ladies:

Chickens are incredibly low-tech. For now, the chicks reside in my laundry room, in a cardboard box lined with wood shavings. They are under a heat lamp, to simulate the heat of being nested on by a mother hen. Apparently, the ideal temperature under a chicken's butt is 95 degrees. I bought a red tinted heat-light bulb at the feed store, because it's supposed to be easier on the chicks' eyes. But, it also makes them look evil:

So far, the chicks have been a fascinating project. First of all, they are a bit narcoleptic. They have the tendency to nod of instantly, sometimes this means they'll fall asleep face down in their food. It also amazes me to think the chicks were only 2 days old when I got them, meaning that if a fertilized chicken egg takes 21 days to mature, 23 days ago these chicks were simply a freshly layed egg.

I'm also a bit astonished by how fast they grow. Out of nowhere, overnight, they have sprouted wing feathers! Here you can see how much faster the yellow chick's wing feathers have grown compared to the buff colored chick's:
We have yet to name the chicks. It is apparent that chickens aren't pets in the traditional way. It's not about the companionship; it's about the delicious, organic, free-range eggs. The 20 dozen eggs each chicken will hopefully lay in the next year. However, as they grow older--and each lays unique eggs-- we'll need names to distinguish them, so let me know if you have any ideas for names.


Anonymous said...

Oh, your little ladies are so cute! I really have been laughing about what you wrote espeically about being narcoleptic and the red light bulb makes them look evil! The rabbitt hutch will be a wonder palace for the hens. I hope they are very productive for you but I know you and you will take very good care of them and have very happy hens and then they will lay well. Mom

Frivolous Diane said...

Baby chicks! So cute. I have no clever name ideas for you though. How are the cats doing with the new additions?

holly said...

Please don't eat them. Please.

Sarah said...


The cats are not allowed in the laundry room period. Kent came up with a great idea, upon entering or exiting the laundry room, you must wave the magic cat wand (aka the feather duster that both cats happen to be terrified of) that way they don't even think about getting at the chicks. Because I'm sure Henry would think chicks are a wonderful appetizer.

Anonymous said...

laundry room legacy names? snuggle? downy?

bowling green names? tractorette? heeB-BG?

and then, oh, so, very, cynical - tic, tac, toe for the first three and, oh, forgive me! -- 'cat's game' .

or perhaps the dishes they'll give you: quiche, pancake, meringue, custard, cupcake, etc.

naming them is so much fun!

(from catherine)