I had no problem coming to the decision to keep chickens. The house we now own came with a huge coop that is really not much good for anything else. And I love the idea of fresh eggs. Not to mention “chicken tv”, an addiction that befalls pretty much anyone who spends more than five minutes watching chickens chickening.
There are dozens of chicken breeds to choose from and all have their place. Some are strictly egg layers, others grown for eating. Many are multi-use. All are good bug eaters and garden tillers. Chickens come in all sizes from really big ones to petite ones. They come in all colors, as do their eggs. Some are docile and sweet. Some have the
“touch me not” independent personality of cats.
I spent quite a few weeks researching all I could find on them. Fear of chicken intimidation began setting in. I consulted chicken owners and bought books and magazines.
Choosing which chickens, it would turn out, was much harder than choosing for chickens in the first place. But eventually I settled on three breeds.
Golden Comets were suggested by my daughter and her husband. It helped to have their six girls to watch when I visited. Golden Comets are pretty red/brown and white hens and lay brown eggs. They are mild tempered and mostly quiet. The neighbors have them in their flock and I have taken photographs of them because they are so pretty.
But I didn’t want to limit my initial flock to one breed. One of the first books I purchased on keeping chickens, it turned out, was written by a woman from the UK. Before I made that discovery I’d already decided for Sussex chickens based on her comment about how tasty the eggs are. The hatchery where I would be buying my flock had one variety of Sussex. Speckled. They are mostly dark with light “specks” which provides them great camouflage. They are gentle and lay light brown eggs.
The third choice was made solely on egg color. Easter Eggers are so named because they lay brilliantly decorated eggs similar to those produced by Faberge.
Easter Egg chickens have a wide variety of feather color combinations and patterns. They lay eggs that range from blue to green to pink to tan. So, every time I go out to collect eggs, it’ll be like an Easter Egg hunt! They are medium-sized and gentle birds. I’ve looked at dozens of images and have yet to see two Easter Eggers that look exactly the same. They are, truly, beautifully exotic birds.
The total number of birds purchased was based on cost. Less than fifteen birds means a “small order fee” would be applied. I ordered the minimum – six Comets, five Sussex, four Eggers. The hatchery guarantees shipment of live birds, but adds an extra “just in case” one expires en route. It seemed a good idea to get vaccinated birds, simply because it felt like they could use the extra help.
My order was confirmed the day I placed it and I received notice of a ship date a week later. My birds would ship on June 5, 2017. That gave me about three weeks to get a spot prepared. I ordered the starter kit from the hatchery, simply because it would be cheaper than buying each of the needed bits separately in town.
By the time the starter kit came, we had settled on using a big cardboard box for our initial brooder. Yes, they will eventually peck holes in the walls. Yes, they will eventually cause enough moisture to seep into the cardboard to render it useless. But we weren’t interested in trying to use Rubbermaid totes. Sixteen birds would need probably three totes and they would be growing up in three flocks. Not a great idea. It was pointed out that horse feeder troughs work well. And we will likely move to that next. But, for now, they live in a big cardboard box.
After doing a bit more reading, we opted for a red heat lamp bulb instead of the regular bulb suggested in the video from the hatchery. The red light discourages pecking and cannibalism. That seemed a good idea! Again, we chose to recycle and are using a tripod from a surveyor’s kit we brought home from the farm to suspend our heat lamp over the box. The last component to decide for was the bedding. We bought large pine shavings. The arrangement looks like this.
I have no idea how this works, but I raised three kids and they all made it to adulthood. Mike seems a bit less enthusiastic. But he does enjoy chicken tv.
Note: I ordered my chickens from The Cackle Hatchery