I have basically won every pet argument my hubs and I have ever had…including the birds that call our backyard home. But, why chickens? Because this lady here is generally allergic to everything living, including the 3 dogs and 3 cats we had at the time the chicken idea was born. So it made complete sense; we couldn’t get any more dogs or cats, but I wasn’t, by some miracle, allergic to chickens or eggs. So rationale would have it that it just made sense that our next set of pets would be so awesome that they literally make breakfast.
As of this year, we have raised three sets of chicks on our own, built two brooders, converted one shed into a coop, and built one run and an expansion off of that. And let me tell you, if we lived one toe out of the city you better believe we would have a few more chickens and a lot more projects. I am totally not here to convince you to jump on the backyard chicken bandwagon…we did it before it was trendy. But, I will tell you that I have convinced more people to have them than not because when you are passionate about something that kind of feeling and excitement is just plain contagious.
We live in Wisconsin, so we do research before getting any new breed so that they can weather the winter well, carefully monitor their coop and everything that goes in there, including treats, and try to hand raise each batch of chicks so they are more like golden retrievers than descendants of dinosaurs. Our last batch was our group of white silkies. These ladies probably get the most attention on social media because they are the fluffiest, most awkward and easy-going batch we’ve had. They run funny with their feathery feet, fight between themselves because that’s what siblings do, and take way too many dirt baths to keep their pristine white fluff in primo condition.
I could go on and on…but I am going to do a quick Q & A for the most frequently asked questions below…for all of you that just wonder and for those of you that will read this and start planning out the perfect plot for chickens to erect once spring arrives.
Q. Are you in the city?
A. Yup! Each city has ordinances regarding livestock and fowl; and if not, you can petition to write them. Just check your local government for the rules.
Q. Do you heat the coop?
A. Nope…chickens do all their own heating and cooling through their feathers.
Q. What do they eat?
A. We buy ours the organic chicken feed. Some of their favorite treats are dried mealworms and dandelion leaves. But their absolute favorites are cilantro stems and strawberry tops!
Q. How many eggs do you get?
A. Chickens lay really well up to 3 years and slow down after that. They also slow down in winter when they use energy to keep warm and during their first big molt around 18 months. Other than that, the breed will define how large an egg and how frequent they lay. Think an average of 1 egg a day per chicken at the peak of their performance.
Q. How did you plan your coop?
A. GOOGLE. And we had a shed on our property in the perfect spot already. So we modified that…insulated, ventilated, added a chicken door and windows and built a run off the front and the side. We modified old cabinetry that we mounted to the inside for storage and nesting boxes as well. Trust me when I say there are a million different ways to set up a coop and more than enough free plans online to get you started building your own chicken Taj Mahal.
Q. What happens after they stop laying eggs?
A. Nothing. No, we are not going to eat them or send them to pasture. They still serve a purpose and there is a chicken hierarchy…its literally called THE PECKING ORDER. Because our coop runs well and they are our pets. They will just continue to live in the coop and help keep the peace between the new ones…the silkies are still like puppies and need a little extra help knowing how to act.
Believe me when I say we get that last question A LOT. I guess it is just human nature to wonder whether or not we will end up eating our pets. Short and long answer to that is NO. It’s not our thing, we just never really had an interest in raising meat birds…although I wouldn’t say no to you inviting me to Buffalo Wild Wings. And when asked if we would do it all over again, I would say YES. If you ever meet my hubs in person, he will tell you no…but just search his browser history and you’ll find chicken swings, backyard run, coop expansion, and can I feed my chicken XYZ. So secretly he loves each and every one of our feathery friends, including these fluffy ladies with the awkward swagger.
If you are thinking about chickens, keep going! If I missed a question, let me know. If you made it this far through all the chicken fodder, bless you! And, if you just want to live vicariously through us and our backyard pets, thats great too...
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Jennifer Kalista is the face behind In The Moment Restorations offering everything from the likes of design services and paint color recommendations, to custom furniture restoration and handpicked home decor, lifestyle goods, apparel and more.