Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Backyard Chicken Bug By Rula Sinara

I caught the backyard chicken bug...and I'm pretty sure there's no cure.

Warning: It's highly contagious and your computer screen will offer no protection. Adorable pictures of baby chicks below. Scroll further and you might catch the bug!

March/April is known as baby chick season. Since I live in a rural/semi-rural area, every farm supply store advertises that their day old chicks have arrived. Now, I'm not a fan of folks who run out and buy chicks (or any baby animal for that matter...be it kitten, puppy or dragon ;) without thinking things through. Babies grow up quickly and the number of pets that end up in shelters because of spur-of-the-moment decisions is sad. But getting chickens is something I've been considering for several years. I think I was born a researcher lol, so I put a lot of research into breeds, personalities, egg-laying skills, coop styles and sizes etc... And on March 4th, I brought my first chicks home.



I know, cute!! Right? The pictures don't do them justice. The 'yellow' chicks are Buff Orpingtons, known for their sweet, mothering, cuddly nature, and the others are Barred Rocks, otherwise known as Plymouth Rocks (links will show you what they'll look like as adults). I have two more arriving Monday and they are Australorps, another great egg-laying breed. I'm really going for egg-layers because I buy organic eggs and my boys go through them like raccoon. Plus, since I cook and bake from scratch, I go through them quickly too.




Just a few of the other reasons I want chickens...they're natural form of weeding and bug control. I don't use pesticides and I live in the worst 'Lyme' tick region in the US. My chickens will devour those ticks along with grubs and bugs that destroy my fruit trees and other plants. Don't worry, they won't have free range of my veggie garden otherwise I won't have veggies left, but they'll have plenty of room to roam (supervised or in a covered, movable pen for protection from hawks). I also have a secure coop planned for night protection from raccoon and other predators. Also, they make the best fertilizer (composted...and if you're cleaning up and free-ranging...smell will be well controlled), provide eggs that are way more nutritious than store bought and supply a happy, 'heartwarming' daily dose of entertainment. Yep, they're actually very social individuals. AND...by raising my own for eggs, I won't be supporting commercial mass egg production where most chickens live in miserable, overcrowded conditions. I do buy organic and 'free range', but it gets expensive.

So now I'm a 'pet', backyard chicken addict. I'm seriously trying to resist getting some Ameraucana chicks...or even Easter Eggers. Imagine having your chicken lay blue, green and other pastel colored eggs. They look like you dyed them for Easter, but they're natural!

Photo courtesy of www.ozark.locallygrown.net 
Some great resource sites are: www.mypetchicken.com, www.backyardchickens.com and www.the-chicken-chick.com and an incredibly comprehensive site, www.fresh-eggs-daily.com. And of course different towns have different rules/ordinances regarding chicken ownership, but there is such a great movement toward being able to keep a small flock (even 3-4 hens).


Have you caught the bug yet?

[Edited to add: I'm just going to have to write a romance where the heroine raises chickens...and her rooster keeps waking up the hero ;). I figure it out. I'm getting hands on research ;).]

26 comments:

  1. Rula, I grew up with my mom raising chickens. We also had huge gardens. It was a shock when I moved away from home to the big city of Portland, Oregon and I found out I had to buy things like milk and eggs, and butter. Oh and tomatoes. I still can't buy those without grumbling about how great our home-grown ones were and it's been years. I know you'll get a lot of eggs. We raised Buff Orpingtons and Rhode Island Reds they were called then.

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    1. Roz, we had chickens (and a ton of other critters) growing up too. I really missed it and wanted my kids to have that experience. Our farm store has Rhode Island Reds too and they're supposedly excellent layers, but I heard that they can sometimes be standoffish or mean. I know it all varies with individuals of course, but there were so many breeds to choose from and I had to decide. I'd get them all if I could :).

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  2. LOL! We live in a semi-rural area. Our neighbors have 1.5 acres and placed their chicken coop near our back fence and bedroom...The rooster was annoying, but since I rise around 4:30, I put up with it. Other neighbors did not. The rooster is gone and their chicken coop is closer to their own bedroom. I wish you lots of lucks with your chicks, but I've not caught the bug.

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    1. LOL, Mel! I can see a rooster being a problem. I bought sexed chicks so hopefully they're all hens (there's still a 10% error rate). Still, we're surrounded by farms with roos crowing and my closest neighbor is about 3 acres away. I'd personally rather wake up to crowing than car horn blowing ;). Hoping mine are hens though lol.

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  3. I see chickens! They're so cute--and those eggs are stunning! Wow. As a total city girl, this is such a foreign concept to me, but I gotta say, these little guys are definitely tempting. Thanks for making me smile, Rula. :)

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    1. Anna, every time I see blue eggs it makes me want to get that breed. I am weak lol. And there are olive egger chickens that lay olive green eggs too! And chocolate brown ones!

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  4. YAY!!! Another chicken lover!! I love my chickens. The kids want to get more, but so far, I am resisting. But looking at your babies almost makes me want to say yes. *reminder to self- they only stay that little for a few weeks*

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    1. Chicken sister!!! LOL. Your pics on twitter only served to weaken me. How many and what kind do you have? We'll have to share chicken news :). You know, last year I saw a news report about an author (might have been UK) who was asked to write a chicken romance. Can't recall why and I couldn't find the story. I did have, however, a classmate in HS who used to write chicken character soap operas for fun lol. I'm so happy with my chicks!

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  5. I have to laugh! I have chickens in the Heartwarming I'm writing now. First, Grandpa's chickens and there's only five left. Speckles in a hero. Then, in a sad way - a dog gets into the coop. Then, I have a coop at a rescue habitat. The coop is built like a house. Have you seen the coops some people make. Wow.
    I wish I weren't smack-dab in the city. I can't have chickens.

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    1. That's too funny, Pam! You, me and our animal stories lol. And yes on the coops! OMG some backyard chicken owners are so creative! I've seen coops that look like victorian doll houses. There's one site that even sells coops that look like quaint hobbit holes. It has made me want to build and paint my own...I'll be the neighborhood's crazy chicken lady ;)

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  6. Awww, Rula! If I didn't have a cat in my lap, I'd be right over. They're so cute! Ron grew up in the country with Barred Plymouth Rocks and Rhode Island Reds. I grew up in an industrial city with pigeons and seagulls. It came as a complete shock to me when I was getting our mail in Astoria and saw many, many flats of chicks arrive on a postal truck. The sound is wonderful. And I love your story idea. Do it!

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    1. I will write it! I made a note to myself lol :).

      Aren't Barred Plymouth Rocks so cool looking? We had pigeons and seagulls (lived on beach) when I was a kid. The pigeons actually had a coop in our yard but would fly off then come back to roost. Loved them! And I totally love the sweet chirping from my little ones.

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  7. We have always had chickens on our family farm, and had plenty of roosters. The thing about the crowing and the cackling (chickens can be louder than roosters when they've laid their eggs) is you get used to it. I don't hear the crowing and cackling unless someone asks me about it (you're on the phone and they hear it but you don't). What I do hear is distress cries, because they're a different sound from the usual crowing and cackling. That will get me up out of a sound sleep.

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    1. So great to see you here, Snookie! I totally get what you're saying. It's kind of like folks who are used to living in the city not noticing all the car/traffic noise. But distress cries are definitely different...even with us! I hope I do a good job securing their coop (have researched it) so no distress cries are heard...

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  8. Oh and I forgot to mention that we did have easter colored eggs. Rhode Island reds have a reddish brown egg, the Plymouth Rock has a bluish colored egg and the Leghorns have a creamish colored eggs :)

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    1. Oh cool! I didn't know the rocks did, but I think there are a few varieties of them. Of course if one happened to get crossed with the right rooster maybe... I'd love blue and green eggs. :)

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  9. I love the colored eggs, but I am too suburban/city for chickens. I'm not sure my neighbors would appreciate it. Although, I do have one neighbor who feeds all the wild animals in our area. They put out duck food for the geese and duck, shelled peanuts for the squirrels, and stuff for the rabbits. It drives my husband INSANE. I don't really like finding peanut shells all over my backyard either!

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    1. LOL, Amy! I'd probably be like your neighbor (covers face and blushes ;). But then that's why I moved to a more rural setting...bc I love doing all that. Now, the whole backyard chicken movement really is about suburban/urban people wanting a small (2-4 hens) flock in their yard. No roosters are allowed in most of those zonings though. I think that's also why so many folks build the cutest coops. They need them to be easy to clean (no smell) and look good with the landscaping etc... But like Mel said...how close you are to your neighbors sure makes a difference! And I promise not to laugh about critters 'mulching' your yard with shells ;). I know it's annoying. We have squirrels who collect black walnuts from our creek and carry them all the way to our front door to shell. I wake up to a shell pile at the door. It's quite a distance so I'm convinced that they're doing it on purpose lol.

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  10. Love these photos, Rula! My aunt and uncle raise chickens and provide us weekly with organic eggs! It's the best! And I do like your idea of working this into a story. ;)

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    1. That's awesome, Cerella. They taste so much better, don't they? And when chickens free range and eat grass and bugs, the nutrition content of the yolk goes up so much that they look orange/dark orange rather than yellow. I love that I'll be able to also give mine any kitchen scraps I have. Less waste! :)

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  11. We have two neighbors who keep chickens. One is next door, and I love the sound of chickens wandering around, chitchatting while I'm swimming in the summer. I even love the comfy cozy sound of crowing roosters. But a friend's sister kept a flock for 4H when I was a teenager. I chased those Houdini (not a breed, but an attitude) chickens across the mountains in Tennessee a few too many times to be enthusiastic about having any of my own! Can't wait to hear how your flock progresses, Rula! In a strange coincidence, the only time I ever think--well, maybe it would be nice--is when Danica posts pics of her peeps! ;-)

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    1. I love their sound too, as well as Danica's pictures! I totally get it when she says that her chickens make her ridiculously happy :). That is so funny about naming that chicken Houdini.

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  12. I'm always late to the game, but I have to say, I want to be you, Rula. How can we make that happen? I have to check out the by-laws and see if I could do chickens in the backyard, but I don't think so. Plus, our winters are so wicked...I have no idea how that would work. Although my grandpa raised chickens in the far north, so surely I could do it, too? He did have a farm, though. I want chickens!!!

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    1. LOL, Victoria, then you'd have to deal with my 3 boys too. There's always a price to pay lol. Pets are my parental therapy ;). You know there are chicken breeds that are extremely cold hardy. My Buff Orpingtons are supposed to even like snow, but I think it's the Chantecler that actually originated in Canada and is super hardy.

      Sometimes ordinances do allow a few, so long as you don't keep a rooster and the chicken coop is X number of feet away from the neighbor. Of course, I've come across plenty of 'chicken outlaws' in reading up on all this. They figure if their neighbors are fine with it (and maybe get a few free eggs), no one will know or care. I don't know...could be something you'll just have to knock on your handsome, snow shoveling neighbor's door to talk about :).

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  13. Gorgeous. And how right I was - my partner's sister is going to LOVE this link.

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    1. Aw, thanks, Elephant's Child! And thanks for passing on the link and for your comment at my blog too :). I hope she likes the pics :). I tell you, I'm really itching to get more. I'm really wanting some Ameraucanas...they're beautiful and their blue eggs are just gorgeous. This is an addiction lol!

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