As many of you know by now, I’m not one to sit idly on the sidelines, no matter how displaced I may feel (or actually be). And we all know there’s no better way to get over missing city life than by totally distracting yourself with a chicken coop and half a dozen baby chicks.
I mean, I have carefully evaluated many options for our pet-desperate children, and have come to the determination that chickens are the lowest maintenance/ highest return pet we can handle right now.
For those of you back in NYC who think I’ve totally lost it, let me remind you that we already have a bajillion other birds in our backyard – birds that are busy mucking up our property, making nests all over the place, not being pets to my kids, not laying eggs we can actually eat and not looking particularly pretty. Seriously, have you seen a Muscovy Duck? So I figured, what the heck? Not only can I come up with about one hundred educational components to this homeschooling adventure, but I’m also getting some serious perks pre-chicken.
See, my kids agreed to earn the money to pay for the chickens if we allowed them to have them, and three months later they’re still working hard to earn every last penny. Vacuuming the car out? 50 cents. Dragging the garbage cans back from the curb? 25 cents per can. 50 cents to empty the dishwasher, 25 to put away their laundry. A penny per toy put away – they fight over cleaning up duplos now! And an entire $1 if they sleep through the night without waking us up (a dollar might seem steep, but let me tell you that it is worth every penny). They are happily doing chores, learning about counting and saving money, and happily doing chores! I already love these chickens!
Naturally, being the amazing, slightly OCD homeschooling mother that I am, I immediately started reading up on chickens, chicken coops, and animals that eat chickens and probably live in my backyard. So if you are now considering getting chickens of your own, here’s what I can share so far:
We have it narrowed down to half a dozen breeds that will make good pets, lay lots of eggs, and can handle confinement if we find out that “free ranging” chickens is really just “feeding the hawks.” Adam wants an Easter Egger chicken, which is a real thing (they lay colorful eggs, usually blue or green). Margaret’s partial to the Black Australorp, mainly because they’re so huge that a hawk can’t carry them off as easily. Ryan thinks the Gold Laced Wyandottes are particularly attractive and I’m partial to the fluffy Orpingtons.
My favorite websites have been mypetchicken.com and backyardchickens.com, where you can find everything from chicken coop plans to actual chickens. I’ve also been digging into some awesome books by Katherine Hupp, James Wood, and R.J. Ruppenthal on raising backyard chickens that are kid-friendly, low maintenance and prolific egg layers. You would be stunned at how many chicken books there are in the Kindle store!
And I would be remiss without giving a little shout out to the local chicken farm we found, Seabreeze Hens. Melinda and John were knowledgeable, welcoming, and nicer to our kids than we are, and when we left later that day with two dozen fresh eggs even my husband was psyched about getting chickens!
I looked at a LOT of coop options and considered everything from building my own to buying a used on one craigslist. I almost settled for a couple on Walmart and Amazon but was scared off by the reviews. Finally, I stumbled across a good deal on ranchcoop.com and spent more than I had planned to, but hopefully it’s a one time investment (and remember, we’re saving on housekeeping). The coop should arrive any day now so I’ll have some pictures to share once we get it set up. And by we, I mean my incredibly handy (and did I mention handsome?) husband.
The shopping list is growing, but who cares since my kids are paying for it all with their hard-earned chore money? Before we even worry about chicken food, feeders, waterers, nesting boxes, and some kind of wire fencing strong enough to keep out digging predators, we need to grab a heating lamp, some bedding and a large tupperware to keep the baby chicks in for the first 6 weeks or so. Our chicks should come home with us later in April so keep an eye out for more pictures.
Hen Aprons, Diapers and Bras?
Um, whoa. This is about to get a little racy for my usual site content, so be warned. We expressed concern to someone about the hawks in our yard making off with the chickens if we free-ranged them, and they were like “Oh, just get a little coat so that the hawks can’t pick them up.” Oooookaaaay. Of course, upon googling “chicken coat,” I found so many more disturbing items: hen diapers, in case we want to keep our hens inside. Hen crop bras, which after reading about I still don’t understand. And, yes, hen aprons that protect from pecking hens, overly amorous roosters (!), and overhead predators. $6.99 on sale at hensavers.com!
Did I just write a post about pet chickens? Yes I did, and be sure to keep an eye out for upcoming posts on the arrival of the chicks (mid-April) to see which breeds we end up with!