It’s always been a dream of ours to raise chickens. When we lived in the city, I remember when new legislation legalized hen keeping – but roosters were strictly prohibited. Well we’re not in the city much any longer. And this will be our second summer on the mountain, without chickens. We’ve been talking about getting chickens for literally years. Well it’s about time… about a month ago I started serious planning…
Simply searching for a chicken coup design wasn’t easy. Do we buy or build? Treated lumber or cedar… oops, cedar dust might be poisonous to chickens. We didn’t want a typical chicken coup that required maintenance. The idea was to find a chicken coup to provide:
- ‘Free range’ coup with protection from lurking hawks and other predators;
- Collect enough eggs for two people;
- Low maintenance as possible.
We were looking for a coup anyone can maintain, and something that would add value to our budding homestead. Something small, we could start with maybe 3 or 4 chickens. If we outgrow such a small tractor, we could always use it for quarantining sick birds (better than sick puppies, but that’s another story).
We finally settled on a chicken tractor described here- WHY (AND HOW) WE BUILT A CHICKEN TRACTOR and their discovery of this video How to Build a Chicken Tractor – Natural Farming from The Growing Club. With a few modifications, such as:
- Reducing width from roughly 48″ to a smaller 36″ across, so it would fit easily through our gates and paths;
- Not screwing down roosting bar (several sources suggested spraying roost bars with neem oil and checking them regularly for mites or other hitchhikers);
- Added a side door to access the chickens easier.
We want pet chickens, not egg manufacturing machines or chicken steak. And after several weeks and a few trips to our local Ace Hardware Store, it’s finally ready for occupancy!
Never owning chickens before, it was a little intimidating. What kind should we get, and from where? We probably won’t be eating the chickens, they’ll only provide eggs for the first 3 or 4 years, then receive a nice social security retirement plan and become our pets. We’re seeking egg layers, not meat chickens. We found, and highly recommend finding a locally chicken hatchery to help you get started.
We found Blue House Farm in Fletcher/Fairview, NC. Saskia is an amazing chicken keeper, and very knowledgable and helpful for a first time poultry keeper. We ended up with two White Plymouth Rocks, one Black Australorp, and one Cream Legbar. All of them about 7 weeks old. Into the small animal cage we brought, and off we went, along with a small bag of starter chicken feed that should ‘last the first day’. And our adventure begins.
We arrived home after making a few stops, including to get some starter chicken feed. And finally our young pullets move in to their new home! We read it’s necessary to keep the young chicks from hanging out in their nesting areas – those are supposed to be only for egg laying. Our first
modification was to add some wood to temporarily block the nesting boxes until they’re ready to lay eggs. Good thing for that extra added side door in the chicken tractor! Our dog seems to be salivating at the sight of the new chicks, and will certainly need some training so he knows they’re our friends. On the first night, one pullet jumped up to her roosting bar, and by the second evening, they were all up there.
We’re really enjoying it so far, and look forward to learning lots more new terms like pullet, impacted and sour crops, and other terms. Already, we find ourselves googling every question – a sneeze, quick, look it up – it’s okay sneeze is normal provided no other symptoms. Eggs T minus about 60 days or so!
If you’re in the Asheville, NC or Western North Carolina area and looking for live chicks, get with Blue House Farm, Saskia Cacanindin and Family in Fletcher/Fairview, http://www.blue-house-farm.com.