Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Our Backyard Chickens



Currently, we have eight laying hens residing in our backyard: 2 Silver Laced Wyandottes, 2 Barnevelders, 1 Australorp, 1 Golden Laced Wyandotte, 1 Columbian Wyandotte, and 1 Speckled Sussex.  We started out with four chickens in 2009, and then added more in 2011.  Our eight chickens, on average, provide five eggs every day from about February to November.  They don't produce any eggs when they molt, which usually lasts about two months.

The Point 17 is located within a town, and in a neighborhood, albeit one with no Home Owner Association (YAY!), and as best we can tell, we are not in violation of any codes.  The town codes specifically refer to dogs, not chickens, as nuisance animals, but the county codes get a little more ambiguous and depend on your interpretation of “livestock.”  Fortunately, hens generally don't make a lot of noise and our neighbors have never complained (and giving them eggs every so often probably helps, too )    


Happy hens scratching & pecking in a garden bed

Although we live in town, it is not a large town, and we have had raccoons on our porch.  Luckily, the raccoons never bothered the chickens.  On a couple of occasions hawks briefly landed in our back yard, which really gets the chickens excited.  But none of our chickens have even been injured by predators.

 One of these chickens is not like the other

The hens are not too intimidated by cats.  There are a few cats that pass through live in our yard.  The hens are mindful of cats they've never encountered, but once a cat is around for a while, they don't seem to pay it much attention.  Cats will sometimes "stalk" the chickens, but I think common sense gets the best of the cat: yes, a cat could probably kill a hen, but not without a fight and serious risk of injury.

My wife and I never had any day-to-day experience with chickens, and I didn't know much about what to expect.  My wife did most of the research, selected the breeds, and does the majority of the care.  She names each chicken and views them as pets.  I don't, but I absolutely love being around the chickens.  They follow me around the yard (they probably associate me as 'that bird seed guy').  And it is almost mesmerizing to watch them constantly scratch and peck.  That's right folks, we don't have cable/satellite, but come over anyway and enjoy some prime time chicken entertainment.  My favorite episode is when there is a new cat in town.

6 comments:

  1. :) Great post. Chickens are something I really hope to add to our life within the next year. We are acquiring the know-how about care (research) and some supplies to construct a coop at the moment. Our city just passed an ordinance last year permitting up to six hens. With just Matt and I we think that will be sufficient. On my walk home from work I pass by a chicken run and always stop to watch them scratch and peck. Chicken prime time. I love it.

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    1. It's really cool to hear about more and more towns and cities allowing chickens and other food producing animals in places other than farms. Depending on the breeds you select, six hens could keep the two of you well stocked with eggs.

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    2. Any thoughts on breeds? I'm asking all chicken-keepers I know...which really, is not that many. I also found a website that allows you to search based on difference criteria (cold hearty vs. not, docile vs. not, egg color, egg production, etc. But, I'd love to hear which ladies you've found work best in your flock.

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    3. Hi MT. Sounds like you're doing some good research. That's great. And exactly the same type of questions we asked too. By any chance, is the website you referenced mypetchicken.com? If not, that is another site where you can identify breeds based on your criteria. In fact, that's where we got our birds. I know, sounds ridiculous, but we ordered chickens on the internet, and they arrived in the mail as day-old peeps. Our main criteria was docile (we have little kids) and cold hearty (presumably MD is not as cold as MT, but we didn't want to provide a heated structure). Australorps are nice cold-hearty birds. My favorites in our flock are the Silver Laced Wyandottes and the Speckled Sussex. That's because of their "personalities." And just like cats and dogs, the more you handle them as young chicks, the more comfortable they are around people. Another important consideration is why do you want chickens? Is it solely for eggs? If so, what do you plan to do with them after their egg-laying years (~5 years) are over? Will you keep them as non-egg-producing pets? Or will you process them for food? Those are important cycle-of-life type questions to discuss and decide on what you are comfortable with. I haven't eaten any of our chickens, but I did "take care" of one that was injured. That is not fun. And I don't look forward to doing it again. Ultimately, one aspect of the question comes down to having fresh eggs or violating local regulations (number of allowed chickens). Hope this helps.

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    4. Thanks. All very helpful, and yes, the site was mypetchicken.com. Funny. All chicken keepers seem to know about that one so that makes me feel better about using it. We don't plan to eat them, just the eggs, and I think I'd be okay with a few nonproductive members--well, they'd still be contributing to the compost pile so I suppose I should say semi-productive members. But, all good things to consider. Thank again. I appreciate your input.

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    5. Great! I look forward to reading about your chicken adventures. And yes, chickens are great composters. Wait until you see how well they break down a big pile of leaves in the fall.

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