Thursday, April 7, 2011

Urban Chickens

It was happening all around me and I didn't even notice.  Chickens are taking over the world!  OK, maybe not quite, but I did notice frequent Craigslist postings for chicken coops.  Then I began to see them sitting at the end of farm lanes, and then sitting at the front of the shed retailer's displays.  Wait!  What was I missing here?  Why are chicken houses so popular all of a sudden? 

I've been wanting a few chickens for many, many years.  I'm just a cowboy at heart stuck living in town.  What chance could I possibly ever have to ask my kids to run out to the chicken coop for some eggs so Dad can make his "Famous Egg Sandwich"?  We do own a horse that is boarded with a friend a few miles down the road.  I had already approached him with the idea that a few chickens might help control the bugs that constantly plague us around the farm.....but there were several road blocks that weren't worth the trouble so I was beginning to give up on the idea.  Then it hit me.  We have one of those long narrow yards typical of homes in town.  Both sides are fenced.  The house sits at one end and the garage at the other.  Hmmm....could I possibly raise a few in the privacy of my own yard?  Was it legal?  Would they stay in the yard?

Well, I'll cut to the chase.  Why else would I be writing a chicken blog?  I decided to give it a shot.  The kids were on board.  My wife...not so much...but that was typical of my frequent hair-brained ideas.  My sons had knocked out a window pane in the garage window so that would be my "door" to the coop.  I built a small coop that hangs on the inside of the window that could semi-comfortably roost 4 chickens and also has 2 nesting boxes.  I then built a long narrow run outside the window.  It is about 12' long and 2' wide.  Not ideal but hopefully only home for the chickens at night.  During the day they could have the run of the yard.  I also found out from a neighbor's son that his Dad was also making a coop.  We are allowed up to 6 hens in town, and no roosters.  Perfect!!

Next up...chicken shopping!  I responded to a Craigslist ad that was trying to find a home for 5 older chickens that were full grown but not laying eggs very regularly anymore.  Turns out it was my first cousin, Colleen's ad.  I didn't even know she had chickens.  She was in the market for new chicks and talked me into going that route also.  Have you ever Google'd chicken breeds?  Ah, this was going to be fun!  So many breeds, personalities, and colors! 

Purchase #1
I bought 6 straight run Ameraucana chicks at the local Tractor Supply.  Straight run means that the chicks' sex has not been determined yet.  Apparently it is possible however it's quite an art to learn how to sex chicks within the first day or 2.  Most breeders to not bother to hire such an individual so the buyer is left to determine the sex on his/her own as the chick ages.  Ameraucana chickens are a medium size breed that lay green & blue eggs.  I sold 3 of them to Colleen and I kept 3.  Maybe buy 1 or 2 more yet?  Ideally I'd like 3 or 4 hens but who knows.  One could be a rooster and need to be removed from the flock.
Here are photos of them from 4/6/11.  I'm guessing they are already probably a week old, maybe slightly more.

Purchase #2
Next addition was 2 Golden Comet chicks from Colleen out of the 6 that she purchased from Tractor Supply.  This breed is known as sex-linked because they are a hybrid variety that the sex can be determined immediately after hatching by the color of the chick.  Pullets (hens) are yellow, cockerels (roosters) are white.  Unfortunately, 1 chick died shortly after we got it home.  I think the poor chick had a very hectic day.  No doubt rushed to the store shortly after hatching, then being purchased & hitting the road again, only to arrive at Colleen's to temporarily warm up under the lamp then get put into a box again to go to my home.  Here is the lone survivor's photo on 4/6/11.  Her wings are beginning to get white with new feathers.
Nugget (Golden Comet)
Purchase #3
Sooo....we have 4, why add more you say?  Well, I ONLY have 2 breeds and there are so many yet to choose from!  And there may be 3 roosters for all I know, right?  Better add a couple more to be safe.  I found these 2 chicks on Craigslist.  This breeder specializes in more of the "pet" type breeds.  He had Mottled Cochin Bantams, Buff Silky Bantams, & Old English Game Bantams.  The OEGB birds are such picture-perfect looking birds but the cochin & silkies are what caught my eye.  They aren't great egg layers but are friendlier and the silky feathering makes flight almost impossible.  I was having to twist Colleen's arm on this one.  She was set on good egg layers so she was reluctant to take a "pet" bird.  I asked for 1 Mottled & 1 Silky but just before we left, the breeder took another look at the Silky and decided he grabbed the wrong chick.  It apparently was a Partridge Cochin which is a very large breed, not exactly known for laying.  I decided to keep it.  He also offered my boys a Cornish hen that was going to be supper soon.  We couldn't turn down the cute little girl and named her Lizzy.
Lizzy (Cornish hen)

Cordon Bleu (Mottled Cochin Bantam) - I know we shouldn't have named him/her yet without knowing her sex but we couldn't resist. She's half the size of the others and so cute.
Partridge Cochin
Purchase #4
I know, I know.  Stop already!  You have a small yard and your legal limit is 6.  You have 7 already!  But while I was responding to Craigslist ads, I happened to commit to 2 or 3 light Brahma chicks. These birds are beautiful and what kind of cowboy can turn down a bucking Brahma bull...errr...hen?  Besides, I might have 5 roosters in my flock.  So, I picked up 3 more chicks of which Colleen took 2.  My flock is finally complete at 8.  2 are confirmed hens and we'll just have to wait and see about the rest.
Light Brahma

Stay tuned!  I hope to bring you regular updates & photos as the flock grows.



  1. I may have missed the chickens and bees talk as a kid. If you have 6 hens and no roosters how do the hens get to the egg laying part?

    What are your plans if a hen turns out to be a rooster? Dinner or selling them off?

  2. Shame on your parents Human runner! How dare they skip the chicken & bees talk. ;-) Actually, roosters are only needed if you want chicks (to fertilize the eggs). Either way, the hens will still lay eggs.

  3. adorable pics (dad & I are trying to figure out how you got your interest in chicks) I liked chickens as a kid and dad gets into projects so there you go... hope Jenn takes to them and we can all enjoy egg sandwiches soon. love~ mom