Sunday, February 1, 2009

you got to start somewhere

This was my first ever chicken coop. It sat on the back deck of the Idaho farm house. You can see the snap peas behind it crawling up the kitchen windows in the March sun. Yes, it's small, but it was all my original trio needed to keep me stocked in all the eggs I could handle. I positioned this coop in such a way that I could open the kitchen window and slide open the back panel of the hutch, and collect fresh eggs without going outside - still clad in a bathrobe. Now that's living. I also installed an inexpensive solar panel in it for winter lighting, making it the first off-grid house I ever bought. You got to start somewhere.

The pen itself is a small, portable, coop called the Chik-N-Hutch. These kit coops cost about a $160 and are all you need to house those first three hens in the backyard. They generally ship free, fold flat, are assembled in twenty minutes with just a screwdriver (so anyone of us can handle it). Which means, dear readers, you could transport your whole starter-chicken farm with some cat carriers in the back of a Geo with a folded back seat. I am telling you, if you want chickens, you can make it happen. These are not the birds of barn-owners and rural yuppies. They are everyman's backyard buddy. Chickens are easy, clean, hilarious, and perfect introduction to livestock. What I learned from my hens has carried over into breeding and raising rabbits, tending sheep, and keeping bees. They keep my garden pest free. They put up with beginner lessons on the fiddle. They feed me in exchange for room and board. They are the old standbys. I can't praise them enough.

If you are getting some spring birds—it's about that time to start planning your chick orders. Seeing as I am well stocked in the poulty department, I don't think I'll be buying many birds this spring. Probably just a handful of to replace any older birds that may die this winter or roosters i need to re-home. Now if you live near me, and just want a handful of birds as well, let me know and I can tack on your order to mine and we can both save on shipping (to just ship three chicks is ridiculously expensive), and you can pick them up here at Cold Antler. Hell, I'll even throw in a free rooster. Chuck Klosterman needs to go before Winthrop kills him in a were-chicken fit of hormonal rage.

For any of you folks just thinking about spring chickens, I strongly suggest you grab a copy of the Murray McMurray Hatchery Catalog. It's a full-color guide to birds for every backyard. Just having it on the kitchen table to page through over your morning cereal is a hoot (and educational, since it lists breed facts and history.) And hey, if you live in a city - where else are you going to order your hatchery-inspired trucker hats and amish egg baskets, eh? They also has everything you need to house your flock regarldess if you live on 30 acres or have a 30' lot behind your apartment. And no, Murray McMurray isn't paying me to write this. I just think they're a great place to get started and approach poultry in a freindly way. Honestly, I want chicks in the hands of everyone who wants them this spring. However I can enable that in you is fine. Even if it means hocking hatchery catalogs to you nice people. Pride is dead!

Request your free Murray McMurray Catalog here.

25 Comments:

Anonymous Sandy from Omaha said...

Your timing is perfect. I just got my Murray McMurray catalog in Friday's mail. Still trying to convince my husband that chickens are a good thing to have in a downtown, city backyard. We are allowed permits here for a limited number of chickens, but NO roosters allowed!

February 1, 2009 at 8:47 AM  
Blogger Ava Apple said...

Oh how I wish I were close enough to share a chick order with you! But I'm outside Seattle on Vashon Island anxiously awaiting next Sunday because I'm attending a beginner's chicken raising class! My partner and I are planning on getting chicks very soon and you are most certainly partly to blame...or more likely to thank profusely. Time will tell...
However, at this junction, I'm rolling with the gratitude. So thank you Jenna!
Ava

February 1, 2009 at 9:47 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

sandy and ava! congrats! (I know sandy's man will cave, i can sense it)

February 1, 2009 at 9:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jenna, your blog just makes me sick! Sick with envy and desire to come back home again. I am so very homesick you just can't know.
I am a Vermonter (42 years young) that is trapped in Florida. I miss the seasons. I miss snow, and apple trees in full pink blossom, the scent of fall, and Lilac festivals. Summer, and Fourth of July.
I would just about give anything to come home and do what you are doing. I can't grow anything in the sand here, I can't have chickens or sheep. I feel like half a person.
However, in my own little world I am still that Vermont Hippie Chick that everyone here knows insists that they give up the grocers, buy food locally, and process everything yourself. Now if I had the farm to go with that, and my Tie Dye'd shirts.
Peace!

February 1, 2009 at 10:01 AM  
Blogger kate said...

Jenna, a question for you.

Can chickens be left for any length of time, and if so, how long?

I live in a city, Albany, that does not allow chickens, but I have a tiny cabin with some acres in Vermont and might decide to spend more time there.

Also, if you know, can chickens spend any time indoors, such as a basement or garage (think old unheated city garage...) or is that a total no-no? If I had to take them back to Albany sometimes, there's probably a quirk in the law about how I do it (don't bother the neighbors).

Oh, my last question. Are chickens portable? (Honda Accord, with my dog and me).

Thanks!

kate

P.S. I could be talked into placing a chicken order with you and that company.

February 1, 2009 at 10:34 AM  
Blogger Shaun said...

I would so take you up on that offer if our town didn't suck.

February 1, 2009 at 10:55 AM  
Blogger sara amber said...

jenna, i just looked through the entire catalog online and i have to say - for a girl who has horrible memories of being pecked and bitten by the chickens on her great grandparents' old farm, the fact that you even have me CONSIDERING chickens is a miracle.

i think this year, the garden(s) and compost bin will be my main focus. but maybe i'll have a paper mcmurray catalog sent to the carriage house see what sort of reaction my landlords have when they bring up the mail...

February 1, 2009 at 11:39 AM  
Anonymous Michelle said...

I really want chickens, but I live in Mountain Lion country, so they would need a fenced in yard with a fenced "ceiling", and we get snow. How do you keep them warm in the winter?

Michelle
sissyjane98@yahoo.com

February 1, 2009 at 12:09 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

I've requested my copy of the catalog. Perhaps with pictures of little chickens in hand, I can talk my husband into it. If not, I'll focus on the garden this year too.

February 1, 2009 at 1:12 PM  
Blogger latinitasoyme said...

do you know of any resources (i.e. books and articles) that have info regarding raising chicken and setting up the chicken coop and all that? how many chickens did u have in your old hutch? it looks like it fits 3 comfortably maybe 4

you've got me excited, hopefully i'll have my own set up by next spring!

February 1, 2009 at 2:46 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

okay folks! this is what i like to hear!

for all chicken related questions, i would pick up the book "Living with Chickens" by Jay Rossier. It's for new chicken people, full of amazing photography, and an amazing resource for down the road. I would also get "KEEP CHICKENS!" by Kilarski, for anyone looking for urban birds, her book is more for city/suburban chicks.

Also, go to backyardchickens.com and mypetchicken.com for more info. my pet chicken has a downloadable free owners guide. Which is pages and pages of chicken info for nothing, and those guys will ship as few as three birds to your city.

hope this helped you guys!
-j

February 1, 2009 at 2:52 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Kate - I wouldn't leave a flock unattended for more than a day or two. do you have neighbors in VT that could watch over the flock when you aren't there?

Albany is weird, you can have chickens in Troy though. I'd change that law if I were you guys, NYC, Chicago, Portland, Seattle, they all allow chickens, why not Albany?

Michelle - My flock as a heat lamp hanging from the coop rafters. It keeps things okay in there, your birds won't need heat as much as they'll need a wind-proof/critter proof home. When I had my chicken hutch I had a wool blanket over the front to insulate it and keep wind out.

Latin - I would say three average chickens or 5 bantams in that coop. If they are free range birds and only sleep in it - 4 larger birds and 6 bantams. Anything over that is pushing it. If you want chicken info right now, download the pdf for beginners at mypetchicken.com

February 1, 2009 at 2:58 PM  
Blogger kate said...

Jenna,

No immediate neighbors I could ask in VT, but I bet if I asked around someone who drove by would maybe help out. (They might laugh at me too, since there are farms nearby, real farms.)

Albany does stand out as having these anti-chicken, anti-livestock rules. I'm sure there was one bad experience that changed it for everybody.

I'm going to have to think it through carefully, since I am a bit of a free spirit when it comes to impulsive trips with my dog. Not sure it's the right time to give that up.

kate

February 1, 2009 at 3:20 PM  
Blogger Harvest Moon Homestead said...

Congrats! You have won the blog of the month for January 09 over at Harvest Moon Homestead! You have received the Crystal Cow Award. http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_UyGllUSvpFI/SYYESTxSM3I/AAAAAAAAAJA/6aOnzRDsGkc/S220/Blog+of+Month+Jan,.jpg

February 1, 2009 at 3:59 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

kate, if anyone gets the impromtu dog travel life, it's me. that's pretty much been my entire story. no rush to get chickens this year, best to wait till your roots sink in a little. you can always visit mine if you get bored in albany.

harvest! thanks!

February 1, 2009 at 4:09 PM  
Blogger Melonie said...

Such perfect timing. I just read the chicken chapter in Made from Scratch last night. So neat to SEE your coop, complete with Team Quiche sign. (That name totally cracks me up, btw.)

I don't *think* we can have chickens here on base but I've seen them out on the economy, including a rooster who walked down the sidewalk next to me as I drove through traffic. I'm thinking I may ask the Housing folks if I can have a little backyard flock. Why not? People on my street have ferrets - and I've yet to figure out a use for THEM. ;-)

February 1, 2009 at 6:04 PM  
Blogger girlwithasword said...

oh you are such an enabler. Now I NEED this for my backyard!

February 1, 2009 at 6:46 PM  
Anonymous Louis C. said...

OK, I am taking the plunge...just ordered my own chick-n-hutch. The "cheep"est I could find was from critter-cages.com for only $85. That's 50% off because it has some cosmetic damage. Shipping to Texas was around $35. I don't know how many more they have, but they told me if it was still on the website, then they have them. Click here for Chick-n-Hutch
Thanks to Jenna for the inspiration!

February 2, 2009 at 9:27 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Louis that is amazing! What kind of birds are you getting? Where do you live? congrats!

February 3, 2009 at 5:46 AM  
Blogger LisaZ said...

I love that chicken coop, and just told my husband that if I didn't have him around to build me one (which he did last summer), that'd be the one I'd get. But how do you keep them warm in the Vermont winter? I have some ideas, but I was wondering what you do...I'm in MN so warmth is important. Our four hens have done quite well, though, in below zero temps for all of this miserable winter, I must say.

February 3, 2009 at 6:39 PM  
Anonymous Louis C. said...

I live in Corpus Christi, which is way south on the Gulf coast, so cold weather isn't much of a concern, and I think my starter flock will be fine in the hutch if I provide a little extra space for them to roam around. Unfortunately, I have a very small yard, and I don't want the chickens raiding my vegetable garden (which I started just last year!), so I may have to make a pen in the corner of the yard.

I think three hens would be perfect for me, certainly no more than that. I've been volunteering at a sanctuary for abused and neglected farm animals ( take a look), and the director has graciously offered to let me adopt some of her flock, so I'm not too picky about which breed I get. As long as they lay a couple of eggs a week, I'll be happy.

February 3, 2009 at 9:32 PM  
Anonymous Louis C. said...

Sorry, broken link in previous post. This should work...
Welcome Home Barnyard Sanctuary

February 3, 2009 at 9:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My first thought when seeing this cute-as-can-be chicken hutch was "Why does getting a few hens have to cost $160!!" But then I slapped myself when remembering that I probably spent that much remodeling and securing an old shed that held my first flock of 18, back in 1995. They were just the generic "multi-purpose brown egg layer" but with 18, I was selling eggs like mad!

My flock now (we are living in a different place)consists of 3 Buff Orpingtons, 3 Barred Plymouth Rocks, 2 Rhode Island Reds and 3 complete oddballs my darling hubby brought home from an auction.

We got a gambrel roof storage shed, 8' by 14' for free plus $75 for hauling it to our place. We put some insulation, then paneling on the walls and ceiling of half of the shed for the hens. Leftover building materials mostly. Now comes the expense: Hubby has gotten to like the hens. (Hope for some of the rest of you?!)So when the shed needed roofing this summer he put on STEEL. Nothing but the best to the tune of $400. Thankfully he installed it himself. Before autumn turned chilly hubby also added an attached sunroom for the hens winter pleasure (Here in Wisconsin!)Probably another $250. I did mention I was slapping myself, right?

Hubby actually mentioned that a couple mini-goats would fit in the other half... I said NO! I cannot have anything that needs to have a baby(s) each year to give milk. I could never give them up!

Hmmmmmm. But how about mini-sheep??? They could mow the lawn. Hmmmmmm.

You often make my day, Jenna. Thumbs up!

February 4, 2009 at 11:04 AM  
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