Jul 082013
 

Well let me tell you a thing or two….

Read this then we will talk.

“Backyard chickens dumped at shelters……”

Ok, so you want to get chickens. It would be so great having your own fresh eggs. It would be a great experience for the kids. It’s all the thing, everyone is getting them!

There are more blogs and web sites out there about chickens, raising chickens, hobby chickens and farm fresh eggs than you can shake a feather at!  Now don’t get me wrong, these blogs and sites are one of the ways I researched and learned about raising chickens. Being a suburb girl and only having a dog, cat and a couple of fish, having “farm” animals was a scary thought for me. But I had been a farmer for five years and thought, it is about time I got a farm animal of some kind. First I wanted sheep, so I went online and looked at all the cute photos and breeder sites and even visited a sheep farmer in my area who told me of the money to be made selling lamb for meat and wool to the trendy fiber folks.  So I came pretty close to venturing into sheep but first I was browsing on Amazon and found a book on “sheep diseases” so I figured, well every good sheep owner should know about sheep diseases and I bought the book. I spent a week reading it cover to cover. The book is now packed away with a note to self on the inside cover that states, “Forget it Susan, this is not for you.” I am a realist.

So next I thought how nice would it be to have a dairy cow and a beef critter. Read up on it, talked to others who raise them, went to a dairy farm for a visit.  Ahhh, NO.

Next was chickens. Researched, read, visited, went to hatchery web sites, researched some more and then decided….it’s not the right time for me to venture into this. My 2 acres of vegetable crops, a green house and raising Shiitake mushrooms kept me plenty busy.  Then I moved from a 5 acre farm to a less than 1/4 acre homestead. Time to get some chickens! Researched for a year, bought a coop, ordered the chickens. Coop comes, and it is too small. Sell the coop. Change my mind about getting mail order chicks, cancel chick order. Buy another coop. Decide to get chicks at local feed store. Loose sleep worrying about, “Can I do this?”  Buy all the supplies. Count off days till chicks arrive. Set up brooder. Deal with agitated husband who cannot open dryer door to do laundry because brooder is too big. Redesign brooder. Chicks arrive. Stay up all night first night chicks are home watching for Pasty Butt. Spend next two weeks talking to chicks, watching chicks, doing Pasty Butt exams, freaking because I forgot to add electrolytes to water, cleaning brooder everyday, ran out of shavings, then discover I only have to clean brooder once a week.  Clog vacuum with chick dust, counting days till I can get “these stupid chicks out of my house and in the coop!”

I started out with eight chicks. Two of them had to be re-homed because the research info I found online five years earlier must have changed because they were not a “friendly and social breed” they were aggressive and nasty beasts. Now down to six hens. Discover I need yet a bigger coop and run area. So we build a bigger run while all the while listening to my sweet husband saying with each swing of the hammer, “I told you we can not handle farm animals!”  Fall comes and the rains. Flat roof on run is impractical. Winter comes, Flat roof is even more impractical. Spring comes again. Three hens die, tears, burying, tears and a lot of “Why did I get chickens?” Modify run roof. Cover roof of run with tarp because cannot afford roofing material due to changing to yet a third coop and running out of money. run

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or as husband likes to refer to,”We could have bought eggs for the rest of our lives for what we have spent on these chickens!”   Now we have an 8′ x 8′ shed doubling as a coop with three hens in it that could easily hold 20.

shed

 

 

Coop three.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you still want to get chickens?

When I started my blog and FB page for Itzy Bitzy Farm I stated in my profile “Our goal is to share our successes and failures….”  Now, I have persevered because I adore having chickens. I cannot imagine my life without them and the only reason I would not have them in my life is if and when I become physically unable to care for them PROPERLY and HUMANELY.  I have had to swallow my pride and admit with even all my research, I have made mistakes, miscalculated and just done silly things in my first year as a chicken owner. But I took lots of time and thought many, many, many hours about my commitment to the proposition. I weighed the positives against the negatives and made my decision based on my own personal lifestyle and truthfulness with myself.

So let’s list the pros and cons:

Pros:

Fresh eggs/all naturally raised

The satisfaction and joy that comes from knowing you are raising chickens in a healthy, safe, humane way for THEIR sake.

The pleasure and companionship that comes with having farm animals.

Fulfilling your desire to truly live a homestead/farm lifestyle.

Joy. Their personalities and antics will amaze you and have you telling your friends chicken stories while your eyes well up with tears from the sheer delight of having these feathered friends in your life now.

Cons:

You are confined to your farm more, unless you have someone who will responsibly care for your flock should you need or want to go away.

Cost. They are NOT an inexpensive addition to your life.

Work. You will not have clean shoes or floors in your house ever again! You WILL have chicken poop on your shoes and a shavings trail from your back door to your bathroom.

Sorrow. You WILL have sickness, injuries and health issues to deal with in your flock. And inevitably whether it is at 2 days old, 2 months old or 1 year old, you will have to deal with loss either due to having to re-home or bury a member of your flock.

Work. Oh, I said that already. Well it is worth repeating since there will be a great deal of it.  Keeping them cool in the Summer heat waves, warm in the blizzards, defrosting water dispensers, shoveling out coops, carting manure to the compost bin. Oh yeah, you’ll have to build a compost bin now.

coopinwinter

 

 

Our coop last Winter the morning after the Blizzard.

 

 

 

Owning chickens is not glamorous, it is not a clean pretty brightly painted flower box coops. They can be stinkers, especially when they want to be out and you want them to be in. You will do laps around the coop chasing an escapee and when you finally catch her, even though you swore you would never say it, you will hold her up in front of your face, look her in the eye and shout,”Does the word CHICKEN SOUP mean anything to you?!”

Kitty

 

Kitty, who loves to make Mom chase her.

 

 

 

 

 

BUT then you may end up with a “Baby” and your life will be forever changed. You will ask yourself, “How did I go this long without chickens in my life?”

momandbaby

 

 

 

“Baby”

 

 

 

But please, please be sure before you take on these precious creatures. It is ok to admit you may not be cut out to take on all that is required to own chickens. And if you admit that and decide to support a local farmer by buying their farm fresh humanely raised eggs, you will be a hero to me. If you decide you do want to raise your own flock, I commend your thoughtful and compassionate commitment to care for such wonderful creatures.

Please ask questions on blogs like ours and make friends with other experienced chicken owners, they will be your lifeline and the nicest, best friends you can ever have.  I wish you the best in your decision, whatever it may be.

Susan ~ Mom to 12 Feather Kids.