Chickening out

July 23, 2007 | By | Comments (4)

Chickspecking2

We need some chickens. And we need them soon.

// \u003cspan class\u003dq\>> will give us tasty eggs, plus they\’ll eat our vegetable garden scraps\u003cbr /\>> and provide us fertilizer.\u003cbr /\>>\u003cbr /\>> So this week, Team Chicken was engrossed in research. Should we get\u003cbr /\>> adult hens or baby chickies? Should we go for fancy  chickens — often\u003cbr /\>\u003c/span\>\u003c/div\>”,1]
);
D([“mb”,”\u003cdiv style\u003d\”direction:ltr\”\>> called banties [link]– with pompadours on their heads and hilariously\u003cbr /\>\u003c/div\>”,1]
);
D(["mb","\u003cdiv style\u003d\"direction:ltr\"\>\u003cspan class\u003dq\>> feathery feet? Or should we stick with tried-and-true varieties like\u003cbr /\>\u003c/span\>\u003c/div\>",1]
);
D([“mb”,”\u003cdiv style\u003d\”direction:ltr\”\>> our American native Rhode Island Reds?[link] Hens that lay fantastically\u003cbr /\>> colored eggs? (They\’re called Ameraucanas [link], but for reasons we don\’t\u003cbr /\>> understand, it\’s pronounced "auracana.") Solid layers like b[cap B?]uff\u003cbr /\>> Orpingtons? [link]\u003cbr /\>\u003c/div\>”,1]
);

// ]]>

In our plan for a one-block diet — a meal composed primarily of food that we’re going to grow right here on the Sunset grounds, chickenswill give us tasty eggs, plus they’ll eat our vegetable garden scraps and provide us fertilizer.So last week, Team Chicken was engrossed in research. Should we get adult hens or baby chickies? Should we go for fancy  chickens

with pompadours on their heads and hilariously feathery feet? Or should we stick with tried-and-true varieties like our American native Rhode Island Reds? Hens that lay fantastically colored bluish-green eggs? (The American breed is called Ameraucana; their South American cousins are Araucanas.) Solid layers like buff Orpingtons?

// \u003cspan class\u003dq\>>\u003cbr /\>> We did make some decisions. Finding ready-to-lay adult hens — ones\u003cbr /\>> that are at least four months old and fully feathered — is\u003cbr /\>> surprisingly difficult. Our first call was to Half Moon Bay Feed &\u003cbr /\>\u003c/span\>\u003c/div\>”,1]
);
D([“mb”,”\u003cdiv style\u003d\”direction:ltr\”\>> Fuel, a local feed store. [link] They sell only baby chicks — and get a new\u003cbr /\>\u003c/div\>”,1]
);
D(["mb","\u003cdiv style\u003d\"direction:ltr\"\>\u003cspan class\u003dq\>> shipment every Thursday. Then I tried feed stores in more rural areas.\u003cbr /\>> No, no. One clerk suggested that we check out the Modesto poultry\u003cbr /\>\u003c/span\>\u003c/div\>",1]
);
D([“mb”,”\u003cdiv style\u003d\”direction:ltr\”\>> auction,[link] which happens every Monday at 11 a.m. (Thanks but … no\u003cbr /\>\u003c/div\>”,1]
);

// ]]>

// \u003cspan class\u003dq\>> thanks. Poultry auctions scare us.) Another person suggested hitting\u003cbr /\>> up local SPCAs to see if they had chickens. Not a bad idea, but not\u003cbr /\>> how most people start their chicken-raising experience.\u003cbr /\>>\u003cbr /\>> Most people, we realized, get chicks and raise them to adulthood.\u003cbr /\>> (Hens start laying at the earliest at four months, although some hold\u003cbr /\>> out until they\’re eight months old.)\u003cbr /\>>\u003cbr /\>> Raising chicks is both easier and harder than getting grown-up\u003cbr /\>> chickens. They have to be cared for gingerly for their first few weeks\u003cbr /\>> of life, warmed with a light and kept indoors. (Our chicken mentor,\u003cbr /\>> Jody Main, suggests keeping them in a cardboard box. When we visited\u003cbr /\>> her home, she showed us what she used: a box from Aidells sausage.\u003cbr /\>> Presumably not chicken sausage. She just used it because it was the\u003cbr /\>> right size, irony aside.) And they take at least four months to start\u003cbr /\>> laying.\u003cbr /\>>\u003cbr /\>> On the other hand, we\’ll get to hand-raise them, which Jody says makes\u003cbr /\>\u003c/span\>\u003c/div\>”,1]
);
D([“mb”,”\u003cdiv style\u003d\”direction:ltr\”\>> them sweeter. [HOW ABOUT "NICER"? SO IT DOESN\'T SOUND LIKE A TASTE QUALITY?]\u003cbr /\>\u003c/div\>”,1]
);

// ]]>

We did make some decisions. Finding ready-to-lay adult hens — ones that are at least four months old and fully feathered — is surprisingly difficult. Our first call was to Half Moon Bay Feed & Fuel, a local feed store. They sell only baby chicks — and get a new shipment every Thursday. Then I tried feed stores in more rural areas. No, no. One clerk suggested that we check out the Modesto Livestock and Poultry Auction, which happens every Monday at 11 a.m. (Thanks but … no thanks. Poultry auctions scare us.) Another person suggested hitting up local SPCAs to see if they had chickens. Not a bad idea, but not
how most people start their chicken-raising experience.
Most people, we realized, get chicks and raise them to adulthood. (Hens start laying at the earliest at four months, although some hold  out until they’re eight months old.)

Raising chicks is both easier and harder than getting grown-up chickens. They have to be cared for gingerly for their first few weeks of life, warmed with a light and kept indoors. (Our chicken mentor, Jody Main, suggests keeping them in a cardboard box. When we visited her home, she showed us what she used: a box from Aidells sausage. Presumably not chicken sausage. She just used it because it was the
right size, irony aside.)

On the other hand, we’ll get to hand-raise them, which Jody says makes

them nicer.

// \u003cspan class\u003dq\>And we won\’t have to worry about putting chickens who\u003cbr /\>> are strangers together and having them squabble. (It\’s not called a\u003cbr /\>> pecking order for nothing.)\u003cbr /\>>\u003cbr /\>> We\’re still exploring the possibility of getting a couple of\u003cbr /\>> full-grown hens — more on that later — but our current plan is to\u003cbr /\>> get most of our flock as chicks. They\’ll peep into our lives the first\u003cbr /\>\u003c/span\>\u003c/div\>”,1]
);
D([“mb”,”\u003cdiv style\u003d\”direction:ltr\”\>> week of August [SECOND WEEK,NO? AUG. 10?] from Half Moon Bay Feed & Fuel.\u003cbr /\>\u003c/div\>”,1]
);

// ]]>

And we won’t have to worry about putting chickens who are strangers together and having them squabble. (It’s not called a pecking order for nothing.)We’re still exploring the possibility of getting a couple of full-grown hens — more on that later — but our current plan is to get most of our flock as chicks. They’ll peep into our lives the second

week of August  from Half Moon Bay Feed & Fuel. We’ll see what kind of chicks they have that day, but we’re thinking about getting a couple of fancy ones, which are reportedly finicky layers; and the rest tried and true hearty layers: Rhode Island Reds, Ameraucanas, Buff Orpingtons, and maybe a Barred Rock. Getting different varieties will give us some insight into the difference between the breeds, and it will help us chicken newbies tell which is which.Sunset readers, do you have any suggestions for chicken names? Please leave them in comments!

—-
A note about my last blog: Our senior researcher, Michelle Lau, tells me that her husband raised chickens as a child, and he often gave his chickens eggshells to eat. They never bothered their own eggs. So maybe what I wrote last week was an urban — or, rather, rural — legend. Readers? Any experiences to report?

By Elizabeth Jardina, Sunset researcher

COMMENTS

  1. thecitychicken

    I’ve fed the eggshells back to my chickens for a decade now. It never prompts them to peck at their own eggs. –Katy
    Check out http://WWW.THECITYCHICKEN.COM ! !

    August 29, 2007 at 7:13 pm
  2. Pat

    Are you planning on free ranging or cooping the chickens? If you plan on keeping them in the coop did you think about a mobile coop. That way you can have them eat insects and fertilize.

    They can make great pets. We had a rooster who hung out with the dogs.

    August 2, 2007 at 6:27 pm
  3. Robinson

    If you want to add adult chickens later, just wait until your birds are roosting for the night and then add the new birds then. Chickens aren’t the brightest of creatures and they seem to accept any chicken that they wake up with as a chicken that has always been there. It worked like a charm for us.

    We don’t name our chickens but sometimes names evolve. It’s harder, emotionally, to lose the ones that have names and there will be losses. Especially if you let them free range, which will give you the tastiest eggs.

    July 25, 2007 at 1:53 am
  4. Cheryl Reeves

    Hello, I live in Texas. I love my chickens. I actually started with adult chickens because my neighbors wanted to get rid of some. We kept them inside their pen for a couple of days to teach them where “Home” was….also start out by letting them out just a couple of hours before dark for the first time out and gradually work your way up to the morning. This helps because it limits their free time out and the ability to get lost or in trouble. They will come back to their home to roost at dark and we just come along and shut the door..(we have coyotes, hawks, and snakes to worry about here)..and they now free roam over our 3 acres with no problem going to neighbors etc. We trained them this way by sprinkling their food in the area that we wanted them to stay. I would call them back during the day and give them more food if they were wandering in the wrong direction. Now, they are well trained and eat many of our plentiful bug supply as well as fruit scraps etc. And in answer to the egg shell theory. I saved, washed, dried, and crumbled with rolling pin, the eggshells and sprinkled it in with their food. This is to help them have the calcium they need or somesuch and their eggshells are supposed to be stronger. They never bothered their own eggs. I did find, however, that for me and my busy schedule, it wasn’t worth the time to do all of that. We just purchase the food at the feed store for laying hens to supplement their yard eating. They have great eggs. We have one that lays blue/green eggs and we love her. I just love my “home raised” eggs. They taste SO MUCH better!! and I am sure they are a lot better for you than the average store egg. I think that you will be happy with your chickens. They do get messy the more that you get. So, start easy and move on up. Oh yes, we had one that was a pet. My husband would catch grass hoppers and make a clucking sound. (I had to use gloves) : ) When they came, he’d hold out the grasshopper. Over the next several days, he just got closer and closer until he held it up and she had to hop up on his leg to get her delicious treat (for they LOVE those). And that became her treat. All we had to do was go out and cluck and they would come running from down the field to get whatever we had to serve.
    WEll, good luck.
    p.s. We have also had our chickens lay and hatch some “surrogate” eggs. Our chicken started “setting” and I felt so sorry for her because she wouldn’t give it up even though we removed eggs regularly etc. So, since we only have unfertilized eggs, no rooster on the property because of complaining neighbors…….so I went to a farmer friend and got some of their fertilized eggs and our hen proudly hatched 12 eggs. Out of those 12…..10 hatched……two died fairly early and the rest were raised. So, cute!! I love to watch them follow their momma around. When the roosters grew up, we had to give them away.

    July 24, 2007 at 4:35 pm

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