We’ve had chickens now for a year. There are so many trials and tragedies with raising chickens. It is not as easy as a person may think!
We started out with a small chicken coop we received free from a friend on Facebook. My husband and I had actually talked about buying or building a coop for years, but we always put it off. When I saw the free coop, I knew it was time to start raising chickens and collecting eggs!
I am not a farm girl! But, I am a girl living in the country who has a small garden, 4 dogs, 3 cats, a rabbit and currently 2 chickens. Our chicken raising has not been easy, with many losses a long the way.
What we needed Starting Out
We got our first 3 chickens, later I found out they were Barred Plymouth Rocks, in 2016 over labor day weekend from Atwoods. The same day we picked up their coop. Our chickens were still babies, with barely any feathers. We had to buy food and water containers, food, bedding, and a heat lamp. We had an old horse water tank that we brought into the house to keep the baby chicks in until they were big enough to move into their coop. This was a time that a garage or nice storage building would have come in handy. Having chickens inside your home is not the best way to start out, but we did it and we all survived. We named them Chickaletta, Henrietta and Peep.
Getting the chickens prepared for the move outside
My youngest daughter loved holding and playing with the chickens. When the weather was nice we would take the chickens out to the garden (we were done with our harvesting by this time) and let them run around and explore. They were the cutest! When one would get a grasshopper, the others would chase it. Our garden has a 4 foot fence around it with a hot wire around the top to keep our cats out of it.
Moving the Chickens outside
Once the chickens were old enough (almost 2 months old) we moved them out into their coop. Since the garden was not being used, we put their coop in the garden. It was the safest place we had to keep them at the time. My husband was confident they would be safe. We let them free range during the day and locked them in their coop at night. I was pretty nervous about free ranging because the garden had no cover and I was afraid a hawk would get them. Not long after we moved the chickens outside my youngest daughter changed Chickaletta’s name to Flappers. About 2 weeks later we lost Peep. My husband thought something must have pulled it through then fence. This was pretty hard on my little one and myself. I felt a lot of guilt not providing a safe home for them. My daughter was sad and missed her chicken. She kept hoping he would come back home. The day that we found Peep missing my husband got busy reinforcing the fence. He put wire cloth around the bottom of the fence and a hot wire along the bottom also. The chickens were safe for awhile. We ended up getting a few more chickens and once they were big enough, moving them in the coop.
A New Chicken Coop
In February my husband built a new coop! It turned out so nice, and the chickens had a nice new home. We got a few more chickens, and they initially started out in the old smaller coop, then after a couple of weeks we moved them in with the bigger chickens. We started seeing our first eggs in March. It was pretty exciting!
We decided to start letting our chickens free range during the day. It went really well in the beginning, but we ended up losing a couple while we were at work. After that we only let them free range while we were home.
Chicken Treats and Training
Chickens love treats! You can also easily train your chickens by feeding them treats. It’s actually pretty simple. Every time you have a treat to give them say “Chick, Chick, Chick” or any other repeated word. It won’t take long and they will come running when you call them. Some of our favorite treats are fresh garden vegetables, mealworms, and Black Oil Sunflower seeds. The mealworms I’ve bought at Atwoods and the seeds at Walmart in the birdseed section. Of course, the vegetables are from my garden.
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About two months ago we had a major tragedy. Luckily my daughter and I did not discover it. Something broke into our run (pulled the fence away from the coop!) and killed 6 out of 7 of our chickens! My husband was pretty sure it was a raccoon. He fixed the area it got in at, and added a hot wire to, so nothing would get in again. You can think everything is safe and secure, and you get comfortable then something can sneak in and destroy your flock. It was pretty depressing. We got 2 grown chickens from a friend so the chicken we had left would not be so lonely (chickens don’t like to be alone).
Raising chickens is rough, but can be a lot of fun. We had our chickens trained to come when we called them, and we plan on training any new chickens we get. I have friends who have lost chickens to disease and other unexpected things. We enjoy our chickens and are very sad when we have losses, but we will keep on raising them and learning.
Here’s a link to some chicken coop plans. I would share our plans, but do not have access to do that.