Picotte Chronicles ~ How We Became Chicken Farmers
I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but we’ve become chicken farmers. Well, more like backyard chicken owners, but it’s still somewhat surreal to me. I grew up with a livestock background. I had horses for much of my life and I rodeoed in high school. We raised some cattle for meat, and owned goats a time or two, but in the last few years, the horses were all sold and we were content with our dogs.
My husband and I had talked some about getting chickens. The thought of getting eggs in the backyard seemed helpful and interesting for the kids without much extra work added. The talk was as far as I envisioned it would go…until a few months ago. My husband found a post online that a local couple was looking for a home for their four girls because they were moving. Taking the chickens on a cross-country drive wasn’t happening (I can’t imagine why…wink) so they just wanted them to have a good home. The hubs called them up and on my way home from work told me we were going to pick up our new chickens.
“Ummm… we don’t have anywhere to put them?” I responded, a little in shock to my new chicken-owner title.
“We’ll build them a coup this weekend,” was his easy reply.
I knew NOTHING about chickens. I had never raised them, gathered their eggs, or ever fed them but I was willing to give it a shot. We put the dog kennel in the truck and went to pick up our girls. Catching them in their current backyard was one of the more entertaining sights I’ve seen. First, chickens running are just funny, period. I don’t know why the Internet isn’t overflowing with chicken videos to be honest. Add to that two grown men hunched over, running after them, trying to catch them and that is the greatest sight ever.
We ended up finally getting them all caught and in the kennel, loaded up for home. They spent their first night in the dog kennel because it was almost dark by the time we got home with them. The next day we sweated our a#$@ off getting their chicken coup put together and they were set, easy peasy, we thought. We all named one of the girls resulting in: Hey Hey (Moana reference without the correct spelling), Buckbeak (Harry Potter fan), Jeeter (Yankees fan) and JuJu (she said it sounded pretty).
These are the things I have learned since we began our chicken experience:
1. Chicken coups need a roof because those girls can fly much better than anyone thinks. Add to that a visit from my parents’ dog who caught one of the chickens and we had our first chicken emergency (don’t worry, Jeeter pulled through like a champ).
2. Don’t stop at another farm to look for one chicken. You will walk out with at least four MORE chickens… I say chickens loosely because two are babies so we don’t know if they are girls or boys yet.
3. Fencing the roof of the coup is also helpful in keeping predators out. However, baby chickens can sneak through openings in the bottom of the fence that seem way too small, so chicken wire has to be run around the bottom of the coup as well as cover the roof.
4. Silkie chickens are the cutest/ugliest little things you’ve ever seen. Our daughter HAD to have one so she (loosely using she still) was one of the new four girls. She also inherited a fancy name to match her fancy feathers. Princess Penelope Cluck-Cluck McFluff now graces our coup. (We really aren’t sure what we’ll do if she ends up being a he.)
5. Chickens can get colds. I didn’t read up on adding to the flock and keeping them separate at first so a couple of the OGs (Original Girls) got colds from the new additions. We are working through some natural remedies hoping that will get rid of their runny noses and sneezes. (I’m not sure if they’re sneezing, but it is a cough/sneeze-like sound.)
6. They are social little things. Some of them really like to be petted and will come when we call them and clap. The result always has me laughing because then they run, which is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen.
7. The OGs like hanging out with us. The new girls are still on the fence about whether they like us or not. One OG even rode the quad with my husband and they follow me when I do yard work in the front yard. We have to watch them closely though because then they start playing in the road, and you know what happens when the chicken crosses the road… (I couldn’t help myself.)
8. When they begin laying eggs, they will sometimes lay an egg that doesn’t have a shell. That was quite the surprise the first time we saw it.
9. Chicken waterers made out of five gallon buckets with poultry nipples (I didn’t know they had nipples either, haha) in the bottom of the bucket makes for a hanging waterer which is cleaner and easier to maintain. However trying to teach said chickens to use it can result in your husband accusing you of water boarding the chickens. I promise no chickens were hurt and now they all use it perfectly!
10. There are mixed camps in chicken circles about locking chickens in at night when it gets cold and whether or not to keep a light bulb going through the winter to encourage egg laying (I didn’t know that controlled egg laying either!).
Needless to say, in the few short months of owning chickens, those are a few of the things I’ve learned. My Pinterest now has more chicken articles showing up than anything else and I’m more interested in them than I ever thought possible. Stay tuned and we’ll keep you informed by next spring if Princess Penelope Cluck-Cluck McFluff stays or becomes Prince Pete!