We have been raising chickens for about seven years. When we first started, we were living in the city limits and there were no restrictions on keeping chickens. My sons class had an egg hatching, so we were okay with him bringing some home. He brought home five little chicks of unknown sex. They were a mix of two Rhode Island Reds,two Brabanters, and a Barred Rock. We later bought three Black Copper Marans from the lady that had hosted the hatching for the class. As luck would have it, we ended up with three hens and three roosters. Two of those were the meanest roosters I have ever met. They were the Rhode Island Red and the Barred Rock. (But that is much later). One of the Rhode Island Red chicks didn’t make it and the other was almost blind. We were able to nurse her back to health, and she was able to be self-sufficient in our small fenced yard. We named her Goldie. We were given another Rhode Island Red to replace the one that died. We are not sure what the issue was with these particular chicks and it did not seem to affect any of the other breeds of chicks. We kept them in a stock tank that was 2 ft tall x 2ft wide x 4ft long. with a light to keep them warm. This is a nice week by week guide I found at Community Chickens. (Click images to enlarge)
We came up with a temporary coop once it was warm enough and they were old enough to go outside.
We were completely new to this, but we did realize we were going to need a bigger and better coop so we bought a mobile coop. It was a fun project to paint it and get it ready for our new pets.
We also had cats, a dog and a bunny. Once the chicks reached almost full size, we let them out with the cats and out dog. Luckily our dog loved every animal or in this case fowl, that we brought home. He took them in stride and settled in to be their protector. The cats were curious, but wary. We never had any problems with cats. The bunny had a problem with the chickens. They were not very friendly toward our bunny ,so we had to let them out into the yard at separate times.
The young chickens were great in the gardens, not wreaking much havoc. This changed as they matured and no kale was safe from them.
Young Brabanter hen
All went well until the roosters grew to full size. The first to show his aggressive side was the huge Rhode Island Red, aptly named Red (among other things, mumbled under ones breath) He attacked you head on, no stealth attacks for Red. All claws and beak. No one was safe. A man with a farm and large flock agreed to take him. We were all very appreciative.
These are the three roosters. Front right is the Brabanter, Behind is Spot, the Barred Rock and in the back is Red, the great and terrible.
The Boss – Spot
When Spot started attacking everyone but our son, we found a home for him too. He was a stealth attacker. He waited until we walked away and then came with claws up. I had wounds on the backs of my legs for a while. He liked our son, but we could not keep one so aggressive. Again, we were lucky and the lady that donated the eggs for the hatching traded us for a Barred Rock hen.
We also ended up giving away the Brabanter, which in hindsight was a mistake, as he had the best personality. Unbeknownst to us at the time was how rare the Brabanter breed is. They are smaller chickens and lay medium white eggs. The hens have a lovely feather top knot instead of a comb and the roosters have seriously cool combs and wattles.
My son loved these two but the crowing at all hours of the night was wearing on the good will of the neighbors, which was a big factor in not having roosters.
A boy and his chicken
Before we decided Spot needed a new home, one of our Black Copper Marans went broody. She sat on everyone’s eggs. We decided to let her sit on three eggs which we hoped were fertile. None of the eggs were hers. She did not care one bit. This is a nice article on broody hens at Hobby Farms.com. (many articles are about breaking the brooding habit but this one was about the positive side of broody hens)
Mama Marans and her first chick.
Mama Marans and her two chicks in their own pen until the chicks get older.
Of course one of the two was a rooster. Here they are at almost four months old. Luckily we had an easy time finding a home for him. Isn’t he pretty?
Life continued to go smoothly, until we were dog sitting. We had the dog in the front yard but one of the barred Rocks liked to fly over the gate. We did not anticipate this and it was too late to save the hen. It was at that moment that we truly appreciated our gentle giant of a dog.
By the time we moved to our place in the country, we had three Black copper Marans, a Rhode Island Red, one Barred Rock and the Brabanter hen. They were all reliable layers, but did slow down during the hottest part of the summer and coldest part of winter. The Black Copper Marans lay the prettiest dark brown eggs.
Up next: Raising Chickens part two. More things we did not know.