Baby Chicks And Other March 2021 Expenditures
We’re getting chickens. When we moved to our homestead in May 2016 with a six-month-old Kidwoods, we made a pact to not get farm animals until our human animals were more self-sufficient. Littlewoods was born in February 2018, which restarted the human baby self-sufficiency clock. Now that our human babies are three and five, we’re ready (“ready” might be too strong a word… ) to tend some animal babies.
I’m still on the fence about this whole thing, but we just spent $500 on that fence–and it’s electrified–so I’d better get off it. Before you start scrolling for baby chick pics, THE CHICKS HAVE NOT ARRIVED YET. We’re scheduled to pick them up in early May, but we started Chicken Infrastructure Prep in March.
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Why We’re Getting Chickens (the list I use to remind myself that this is a good idea…. )
The person who will be MOST excited about this is our oldest human baby, Kidwoods, the animal lover. Lover doesn’t even capture it–she communes with animals. We recently visited baby lambs at a neighborhood farm and she dove into the straw, adeptly hoisted a lamb and then sat next to the lamb’s mama, petting them both and cooing. Ditto our friends’ chickens, rabbits, dogs, cats, cows, horses… Kidwoods loves them all. She loves animals so much that we haven’t even told her about the chickens yet for fear she wouldn’t sleep until they arrived.
When asked why we’re getting chickens, the rationale is as follows:
- For Kidwoods, the animal devotee who currently wants to be an ornithologist/veterinarian/ballet dancer when she grows up.
- For the eggs because we do eat a lot of eggs.
- For the chore/responsibility opportunities for the kids. I envision Kidwoods being interested in raising animals for 4-H in a few years, so this’ll be a great first project for her.
- For the photo ops. I mean come on, what’s more pastoral than a bunch of chickens derping around????
- To test our aptitude and interest in having farm animals. Chickens are the entry-level barnyard creature, so we’ll see how it goes.
The $1,000 Egg
I want to point out that getting chickens is not a route to “free” eggs. At least, not for the first, uh, ten years or so…. There’s a ton of stuff one needs to buy/procure/make in order to safely keep chickens, which is why I always get a bee in my bonnet when people espouse the beauty of “free” organic, free-range, happy eggs.
Also, these things won’t even start laying eggs for MONTHS at which point it’ll be winter and then they won’t lay because it’ll be too cold! So we’ll have eggs in… a year?
As Mr. Frugalwoods and I’ve learned with every single other homestead endeavor, “free” is relative when you consider the labor and the equipment. I’m not booing farm animals, just pointing out the economics.
What we calculate with all of our endeavors–our gardens, our perennial trees and plants, our maple sugaring operation, our chainsaws/tractors/various tools–is that eventually, over time, it might equal out in such a way that we’re saving money by, say, making our own maple syrup. But the reason we do all this farm-stuff is because we enjoy it. We love it. We want to do it.
I say this to caution anyone who sees all the stuff we make ourselves and thinks we’re saving a ton of money in so doing. I assure you that so far, we are not.
Here’s what we’ve bought so far:
1) Twelve baby chicks. A $20 deposit was required to reserve them and we’ll pay the balance when we pick them up in May. I researched breeds extensively, favoring those that do well in cold temperatures and have calm, friendly, pet-like demeanors, and landed on the following for our first flock:
- Two Black Austalorps
- Two Golden Comets
- Two Barred Rocks
- Two Buff Orpingtons
- Two Ameraucanas
- Two Lavender Orpingtons
2) A 100 foot long, 48 inch tall moveable electronet fence. This fence will surround the exterior of their coop and will (hopefully) allow them to free-range safely. We have incredibly high predator pressure here, which is unsurprising since we live in the woods. Given the prevalence of coyotes, foxes and bears, we can’t let the chickens roam around the yard unmonitored or they will be eaten (based on our neighbor’s flocks, this is essentially a 100% guarantee). Our hope is that this electrified fencing will keep the predators at bay while allowing our chickens to free range.
What We Haven’t Bought Yet
1) Most notably from a cost perspective are the materials for the coop. Mr. FW, resident handyperson and builder, is in the process of designing and building a mobile chicken coop.
This will enable us to move the chickens around the yard, allowing them to free range in different areas. The coop will have nesting boxes, a covered run, and access to the outdoors, which will be encircled with the electronet fence.
2) Baby chick feed. If you have recommendations, let me know! I’m still confused on whether they need medicated or non-medicated and if the feed should contain grit? Clearly I haven’t done much research on this yet…
What We’re Borrowing From Friends
1) Brooder supplies, baby chick feeders, baby chick waterbottles, heat lamps, brooder warmer, brooder box, etc. Before the baby chicks can go to their coop, they need to live in our kitchen and be kept warm. Allow me to tell you, on a scale of 1 to 10 how excited I am about having twelve pooping, cheeping babies in my kitchen: -5. Allow me to tell you, on that same scale, how excited Kidwoods will be to have in-home farm animals: 11.5.
Since a number of our friends have forged this path before us, they are very kindly letting us borrow their baby chick items since we’ll only need them for a few weeks. Enormous thanks to AL, RG, MH and RC for these baby pooper supplies. I guess I’m grateful.
More Chicken Info To Come, I Promise
You’re joining us on the ground floor of this chicken adventure so, fear not, there will be lots of poultry-related content in the coming months. If you want to see the first baby chick photos I take, follow me on Instagram as my account is sure to become chicks-tagram soon.
Personal Capital: How We Organize Our Expen$e$
I use a free online service called Personal Capital to keep track of our money: our spending, our net worth, our investments, our retirement–everything!
Tracking expenses is one of the best–and easiest–ways to get a handle on your finances. You absolutely, positively cannot make informed decisions about your money if you don’t know how you’re spending it or how much you have. If you’d like to know more about how Personal Capital works, check out my full write-up.
Without a holistic picture of how much you spend every month, there’s no way to set savings, debt repayment, or investment goals. It’s a must, folks. No excuses. Personal Capital (which is free to use) is a great way for me to systematize our financial overviews since it links all of our accounts together and provides a comprehensive picture of our net worth.
If you’re not tracking your expenses in an organized fashion, you might consider trying Personal Capital. Here’s a more detailed explanation of how I use Personal Capital (note: these Personal Capital links are affiliate links).
Credits Cards: How We Buy Everything
We buy everything we can with credit cards because:
- It’s easier to track expenses. No guesswork over where a random $20 bill went; it all shows up in our monthly expense report from Personal Capital. I spend less money because I KNOW I’m going to see every expense listed at the end of each month. .
- We get rewards. Credit card rewards are a simple way to get something for nothing. Through the cards we use, Mr. FW and I get cash back as well as hotel and airline points just for buying stuff we were going to buy anyway.
- We build our credit. Since we don’t have any debt other than our mortgage, having several credit cards open for many years helps our credit scores. It’s a dirty myth that carrying a balance on your credit card helps your credit score–IT DOES NOT. Paying your cards off IN FULL every month and keeping them open for many years does help your score.
For more on my credit card strategy, check out:
- The Easiest $486 I’ve Ever Made: How To Use Cash Back Credit Cards To Your Advantage
- The Best Credit Cards (and Credit Card Rewards)!
- The Frugalwoods Guide to a Simple, Yet Rewarding, Credit Card Experience
If you want a simple cash back credit card, here are some good options that don’t have annual fees:
1) Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express offers a hierarchy of cash back percentages:
- 3% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%)
- 2% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores
- 1% Cash Back on other purchases
- Earn $200 back if you spend $1,000 in in the first three months of having the card
2) American Express Cash Magnet® Card:
- Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
- Earn a $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 or more in purchases within the first three months of card membership
3) Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card:
- Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases
- Earn $200 if you spend $500 or more in purchases within the first three months of card membership
4) Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card:
- 3% cash back on dining and entertainment
- 2% at grocery stores
- 1% on all other purchases
- Cash back won’t expire for the life of the account; no limit to how much you can earn
- Get $200 if you spend $500 on purchases within the first three months from account opening
- 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase
- 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores
- 1.5% on all other purchases
- No minimum to redeem for cash back, rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
- Earn $200 if you spend $500 in your first 3 months from account opening
If you’re interested in travel rewards, a lot of people love the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
The best way to find a credit card that’ll work for you is to search for it yourself; I have a guide to help you do just that: The Best Credit Cards (and Credit Card Rewards)!
Huge caveat to credit card usage: you MUST pay your credit card bills in full every single month, with no exceptions. If you’re concerned about your ability to do this, or think using credit cards might prompt you to spend more, stick with a debit card or cash. But if you have no problem paying that bill in full every month? I recommend you credit card away, my friend! (note: the credit card links are affiliate links).
Cash Back Earned This Month: $38.85
The silver lining to our spending is our cash back credit card. We earn 2% cash back on every purchase made with our Fidelity Rewards Visa and this month, we spent $1,942.56 on that card, which netted us $38.85.
Not a lot of money perhaps, but it’s money we earned for buying stuff we were going to buy anyway! This is why I love cash back credit card rewards–they’re the simplest way to earn something for nothing.
To see how this adds up over the course of a year, check out this post: The Easiest $486 I’ve Ever Made: How To Use Cash Back Credit Cards To Your Advantage.
Where’s Your Money?
Another easy way to optimize your money is to use a high-interest savings account. With these accounts, interest works in your favor as opposed to the interest rates on debt, which work against you. Having money in a no or low interest savings account is a waste of resources–your money is just sitting there doing nothing. Don’t let your money be lazy! Make it work for you! And now, enjoy some explanatory math:
Let’s say you have $5,000 in a savings account that earns 0% interest. In a year’s time, your $5,000 will still be… $5,000.
Let’s say you instead put that $5,000 into an American Express Personal Savings account that–as of this writing–earns 0.40% in interest. In one year, your $5,000 will have increased to $5,020. That means you earned $20 just by having your money in a high-interest account.
And you didn’t have to do anything! I’m a big fan of earning money while doing nothing. I mean, is anybody not a fan of that? Apparently so, because anyone who uses a low or no interest savings account is NOT making money while doing nothing. Don’t be that person.
Be the person who earns money while sleeping. More about high-interest savings accounts, as well as the ones I recommend, here: The Best High Interest Rate Online Savings Accounts.
Yes, We Only Paid $24.87 for Cell Phone Service (for two phones)
Our cell phone service line item is not a typ0 (although that certainly is). We really and truly only paid $24.87 for both of our phones (that’s $12.44 per person for those of you into division). How is such trickery possible?!? We use the MVNO Ting (affiliate link).
What’s an MVNO? Glad you asked because I was going to tell you anyway: It’s a cell phone service re-seller.
MVNOs are the TJ Maxx of the cell phone service world–it’s the same service, but A LOT cheaper. If you’re not using an MVNO, switching to one is an easy, slam-dunk, do-it-right-away way to save money every single month of every single year forever and ever amen. More here: My Frugal Cell Phone Service Trick: How I Pay $10.65 A Month*
*the amount we pay fluctuates every month because it’s calibrated to what we use. Imagine that! We only pay for what we use! Will wonders ever cease.
Expense Report FAQs
- Want to know how we manage the rest of our money? Check out How We Manage Our Money: Behind The Scenes of The Frugalwoods Family Accounts
Don’t you have a rental property? Yes! We own a rental property (also known as our first home) in Cambridge, MA, which I discuss here.
- Why do I share our expenses? To give you a sense of how we spend our money in a values-based manner. Your spending will differ from ours and there’s no “one right way” to spend and no “perfect” budget.
- Are we the most frugal frugal people on earth? Absolutely not. My hope is that by being transparent about our spending, you might gain insights into your own spending and be inspired to take proactive control of your money.
- Wondering where to start with managing your money? Take my free, 31-day Uber Frugal Month Challenge. If you’re interested in other things I love, check out Frugalwoods Recommends.
- Why don’t you buy everything locally? We do our best to support our local community and buy as much of our food as possible directly from our farmer neighbors. Our town doesn’t have any stores, so we rely on online ordering and big box stores for necessities. The closest stores are 45 minutes away and Mr. FW goes once a month to stock up on what we can’t get from our neighbors or online.
But Mrs. Frugalwoods, Don’t You Pay For X, Y, Or Even Z???
Wondering about common expenses you don’t see listed below?
- We pay bills in full the month we receive them. That’s why you won’t see monthly payments for things like car insurance or property tax. These expenses show up as the full annual (or bi-annual, etc) amount in the month we pay them.
- We don’t have any debt (other than our mortgages) and we paid cash for our cars.
- Our health insurance is paid for by Mr. FW’s employer (who he works for from home).
- Here’s how we make charitable contributions: How We Donate To Charities Like Billionaires and also How We Make Meaningful And Tax Efficient Charitable Donations.
- Here’s an overview of how we save for our kids’ higher education: How We Use 529 Plans To Save For College
- We live on 66 acres in rural Vermont, so our utilities and household expenses are different from traditional urban and suburban homes:
- We don’t pay for water, sewer, trash, or heating/cooling because we have a well, a septic system, our town doesn’t provide trash pick-up (we take it to a transfer station once a week in bags we purchase from our town), we heat our home with wood we harvest ourselves from our land, and we don’t have central air conditioning (we use window units during the hottest parts of the summer).
- There are, of course, costs associated with maintaining these systems (such as having our septic system pumped and inspected) and those expenses show up in the months we pay them.
- We have solar panels, which account for our low electricity bill.
- For more on our rural lifestyle, check out my series This Month On The Homestead as well as City vs. Country: Which Is Cheaper? The Ultimate Cost Of Living Showdown
If you’re wondering about anything else, feel free to ask in the comments section!
Alright you frugal money voyeurs, feast your eyes on every dollar we spent in March:
|Electronet Fencing||$507.53||48″ electronet fencing for mobile chicken coop action|
|Gasoline for cars||$138.08|
|Craft beer||$114.72||Lovely, local, expensive craft beer for our beer tasting hobby.
If you’ve ever wondered why we spend so much money on beer, it’s not that we drink a ton of it; rather, we savor small amounts of very, very expensive liquid. We split one beer between the two of us on weeknights for our daily date.
We also view buying super local beer as a good way to support local industry here in Vermont during the pandemic (and after the pandemic too!).
|Three pairs of prescription glasses for Mr. FW||$106.35||Purchased online from Eye Buy Direct (affiliate link).|
|Seed starting compost soil||$93.98||120 qts of Vermont Compost Fort Vee for starting our vegetable garden seeds|
|Liquor and wine||$55.54||Including bourbon to soak wood in for wood smoking meats.|
|Household Supplies||$46.43||Thrilling items such as: toilet paper, toothpaste, craft supplies for the kids, vitamins, etc.|
|Children’s books||$38.14||Ok these were an impulse buy, but I don’t regret it.
It’s sugaring season and we just had to get some seasonal stories! Highly recommend them both: Sugarbush Spring and Sugaring (affiliate links).
|Face Shield for metal grinding||$32.87||Another item for our repertoire of safety equipment: a face shield to be worn while grinding metal (affiliate link).|
|Art markers||$27.82||Art markers for me. I mean THE KIDS, definitely for the kids… (affiliate link)|
|Cell phone service for two phones||$24.87||This is so cheap because we use an MVNO called Ting (affiliate link). MVNOs resell wireless service at discounted rates (but it’s the same service).
MVNOs are the TJ Maxx of cell phone service. If you’re not using an MVNO, check out this post to see if you can make the switch. The savings are tremendous.
|Utilities: Electricity||$24.14||We have solar (which I detail here); this is our monthly base price for remaining grid tied|
|Baby chick deposit||$20.00||The deposit to reserve our 12 baby chicks|
How was March for you?
Advertiser Disclosure: Frugalwoods partners with CardRatings for coverage of credit card products. Frugalwoods and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers at no extra cost to you.
Editorial Disclosure: Opinions, reviews, analyses and recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.
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Dans le Lakehouse keeps chickens, and is thoroughly in love with them, and has harsher winters than you. Check her out: https://www.danslelakehouse.com/backyard-chickens
We just ended a 5-year run of having urban backyard chickens, and though they laid waste to our back yard with their natural fertilizer (ahem), it was totally worth it. With the cost of the coop and the feed, I don’t think the eggs ever pay for themselves, but they are delicious and convenient. And ours was just a modest backyard set-up — yours sounds like chicken Shangri-La!
One thing I will say is that chickens can have a short life span. Even with the best of precautions to protect them against predators, we lost several to raccoons, and in other areas coyotes and hawks are the ones to watch out for. We also had one or two that just up and died and we never figured out why. So a word of warning that you may have to prepare your daughters for the fact that death happens, including to chickens.
HAWKS. Consider a chicken tractor. We made a very inexpensive one out of some arched PEX, nylon bird mesh and a little plywood for a solid end and egg boxes. A couple of wheels on one end. Kind of like an upside down wheelbarrow. We had chickens for about 5 years (maxed out at about 12 at once), and whenever we gave them unsupervised (i.e. we weren’t out with them, ‘protecting them’) open sky in the country, hawks were a concern. We lost a couple out in the yard this way. We did not have a perimeter fence. But they are fun, and taught me a lot about what I thought were human traits…they’re not, they’re in the vertebrate brain stem. Pecking order, sibling rivalry, etc. We had Orps, mostly. We also ate a good number of them, though I don’t think you’ll do that given Kidwoods’ abundant love.
Also, chicks in the house are DUSTY. I had them in a spare bedroom with a bookshelf, and when we moved two years later, I could still see chicken dust on the shelves when I unloaded the books. I have since had a similar problem with our Labrador, and discovered that a rag rug draped over her kennel keeps the dust much more manageable. If I were to do chicks inside again, I’d do a similar thing.
OMG! YES THE DUST IS INSANE!!!! But they are fun to watch 🙂
I echo the chicken dust disgust! We live in MN and our baby chicks (the children convince me to buy about a dozen every spring: ) go straight out to our shed. We keep a heat lamp on for them out there and they do just fine. If you insist on putting them in the house, at least put them in the basement. Chicken dust is a real thing…
Yes, — hawks. At least here in the Colorado mountains, trying to have chickens outside without some kind of cover means hawks will consider them a free buffet. As I like to say — everything loves chicken!
I got 4 chicks and all their brooding supplies off my buy-nothing group on facebook a week ago. Let me tell you, you fall in love with those tiny dinosaurs quickly! But MAN am I ready to get them out of my house. I opted to buy a fancy tractor style coop, because it was worth the money to me to not spend the time building one. Eventually when I decide how my yard should be, I may build them a chicken palace. Cannot wait to read about your adventures with chickens!
Green mountain feeds has all your need for baby to adult chick and all animal feed. Right in Bethel VT you can go pick up in bulk and most feed stores sell it
Green mountain feed is what we have used for our chicks/layers for 2 flocks now. They were happy healthy birds, so I second this recommendation.
12 baby chicks kept in a clean pen with clean feeders and waterers probably won’t need medicated chick starter. If you were getting turkey poults I would absolutely recommend medicated feed.
I can’t emphasize enough how much dust, smell and noise those chicks will produce. Having a draft free place ready to move them to in an out building would be an excellent Plan B.
It sounds like you did what we did for our first batch of chicks, pick birds in different colors so you can easily tell which ones you like best. Then if you rotate between your favorites every year when you reorder you know how old each hen is.
Baby chicks, how exciting!
Oh you will LOVE having chickens. Indeed, it is not a financially-sound decision, but the sheer pleasure of their company, not to mention the amazing egg bounty, is SO worth it.
Yay! You’re finally getting chickens! I wasn’t terribly excited about the pooping babies in the mudroom either, but you might just fall in love with the adorable chicks, just in time for them to start molting and looking like weird dinosaurs. The entertainment for the kids goes a long way towards making it all tolerable, and you already know how much better free range chicken eggs are than the things they sell at the grocery market. Have fun! I just wish we were going to moved in time to get chicks this year, but it won’t happen….
First of all, I laughed so hard at the accuracy of the $1,000 egg! We’re now 8 months into eggs from our girls and I’m sure they’re still about $1/egg:)
I echo Sarah about hawks (at least until the girls are full-sized at 4+ months) and the dust. I kept our five chicks in a brooder in my office until they were fully feathered, which made for very sweet conference call background sounds and dust that I am still getting out of my small loveseat.
As for feed, I did extensive research and believe that if you have a small flock which you are monitoring closely, there is no reason to use prophylactic medicated grower feed as you’ll notice quickly if any infection . Or you can start with medicated through week 4-5 to strengthen their immune systems and then make the switch. The main reason to forego medicated feed is because of the potential presence of hormones in the feed. But beyond that, it really does seem to just be a matter of preference.
For grit, I purchased it separately from food with the chicks were in the brooder. When they were super young (the first 2 weeks) I mixed it into their food. As they seemed to grow stronger and more aware, I moved the grit to a separate dish so the could self-regulate their grit intake.
The one thing I do wish I’d learned a little more about before getting our chicks was pasty vents. This happens in the very early days and can be very harmful to these delicate babies. We found a gentle warm compress helps but you need to be really careful not to pick at or pull at the clog since it can cause protruding of the vent. Anyways, can’t wait to read about your adventure and the thrill of your first egg! I’d also love to hear your thoughts about the different breeds. We have Buff Orpingtons, Rhode Island Reds, and Ameraucanas — their personalities are so different and funny and sweet to watch evolve!
Thank you for the proper term, Cary — “pasty vent” sounds so much better than “poop-bound!”
We did lose at least two chickens to hawks or eagles…but if you have an overhang or nearby coop to run into, they’ll generally take care of themselves. Our problem was more the on-foot predators, particularly the neighborhood fox. The automatic chicken coop door solved nearly all of these problem, as did a sturdy-built coop. Once the door closed at late dusk, all was well.
We did have one chicken get her foot stuck on the roost, and of course it happened when we were gone for the day. Ex-chicken. Another managed to stick her head in a loop of binder twine UNDER The coop, got her head stuck, and another ex-chicken. They can be remarkably smart…and sometimes remarkably stupid. Just like people, I guess.
One more thing — they LOVE mice. They are meat-eaters and enjoy ham fat, etc., but they like their mice alive and kicking, so they can chase them around. (They’ll take them dead, too, if that’s the choice.) We used to joke that they were really tiny dinosaurs.
I currently have baby chicks in my garage. They can be messy, smelly and noisy! I would suggest maybe a basement or outbuilding would be the best place to brood them. Also, you don’t want to risk contaminating your food in the kitchen since there will be raw chicken poo in close proximity to your food. You don’t need grit until they start eating other foods beside the chicken feed pellets or crumbs. The grit helps grind up any vegetation/insects that they may eat. We were sure glad to have our chickens during the pandemic food freak out when there were no eggs at the grocery store!
I agree with keeping baby birds not-in-the-house, especially if kids want to hold the chicks (get poopy) and then have a snack immediately after. We put our guinea keets (chicks) in the garage with a heat lamp. This works well for monitoring handwashing. They are loud and stinky…and oh so cute (the keets/chicks I mean, probably small children too).
Hmmm I am wondering since the friends have extra baby chicken supplies for you to borrow if they have given up on their baby chicken this spring….lol??? Baby chicken poopers in your kitchen will delight a kid… the mom, not so much….. Seriously, I am looking forward to the pictures. I am just glad I am not the one dealing with baby chickens because they are expensive , but oh sooo cute!!!!
I would recommend getting vaccinated chicks so you wont need the Amprolium in the food. Medicated food is to prevent Coccidia and is a real concern so one or the other should be used. As for keeping them in the kitchen? I really really do not advise you on that. Baby chicks are super dusty as they grow out feathers and it gets in every thing. A back porch or the coop with two heat lamps is better. (two just in case one burns out and you don’t see it right away.) I’m going to assume you know how to regulate that heat and how to keep drafts out of the brooder. Also, No square corners in the box as the babies can pile up and smother each other. Good luck and have some fun. I love raising birds.
And as mentioned above, overhead predation is the most common cause of death. So consider ensuring that the chickens have cover AT ALL TIMES…either shrubs or a recess under their traveling coop that won’t let the hawks and owls swoop in/under.
I keep my ladies in a very large (maybe 1/4 acre), permanent enclosed yard. The fencing is heavy-duty polypropylene mesh mounted on 7’ high steel T-bars spaced every 15-20’. We added two electrified wires around the perimeter last year after the bears repeatedly broke in. The slightly wobbly nature of the plastic mesh also deters climbing predators, such as our local bobcats, according to our neighbor from the Game Commission.
Their yard has many shrubs and small trees, as well as covered areas under steps, and an improvised pallet-covered ‘porch’.. So good weather-resistant spots for stormy days, in addition to offering security from predators.
I knew nothing about chickens, but my country neighbors offered great wisdom, along with a few good references such as the Storey Guide to chickens.
I have removable insulation for their coop for winter, but don’t heat it. The coop has a metal roof and faces due south. In summer I add a large sunshade mounted between trees to keep the direct sun off the roof. The orientation and metal roof, along with the chickens’ combined body heat generally keeps it around 40 degrees, even when the nights go down to the teens. You will have to see how it goes for you next winter. But design can make a huge difference.
Check out Lisa Steele’s website at http://www.fresheggsdaily.com. She’s great, from Maine.
Medicated usually means it has probiotics (at least that’s what Purina has), not other meds as you would think when you hear the word. You buy chick grit separately. They don’t need a lot of it, so it comes in a much smaller bag.
You might consider building a more permanent coop for winter that has more insulation. VT winter/snow, like MI winter/snow, might overwhelm the chicken tractor.
Having had a large garden protected by an electric fence while my son was a toddler, I feel the need to tell you about it. The fence was installed because of the dogs. It was operated by battery. It was very efficient but my son would like to roam the garden and was forever getting zapped. The crying finally got me to take the electric zapper off. I could not stand the wails ! Be prepared !
Such an adventure!
I have chickens in the suburbs and we entertain each other.
Please remember flying predators 😬
I mean, I’m here for baby chick pictures and chicken stories….but why not start with a dog or cat?! 😂😂
I was today years old when I learned there are different types of chickens. I SHOULD have known, but did not. #cityslicker
If you need any additional information re. chickens please check out Deanna at Homestead and Chill (homesteadandchill.com/category/chickens). She has a ton of posts that may be helpful.
Very cool! We’ve been on our chicken journey for 3 years now – be careful – they are totally a “gateway drug” of an animal. 🙂 Started with 4 hens and up to 16 now….we also started raising broilers and after a successful batch of 25 scaled up to 50.
We use 100ft of the same netting along with a Justin Rhodes inspired chicken tractor and it’s kept the predators at bay where we live in Michigan, surrounded by cornfields. It’s pretty easy to move around the yard as needed. We use hay bales for insulation in the winter months and haven’t had any issues with frostbite on the hens. 🙂
I second Joshua’s comment here. Chickens are truly the gateway drug of farm animals. 😄 We have had ours for 18 months. Started with 9 fall chicks which meant eggs in the spring. I added spring straight run chicks last year, which was a BIG mistake as we ended up with 3 roosters. Straight run was the only way to get our beautiful Lavender Orpingtons at the time, and we enjoyed the rooster experience…until we didn’t. They were brutalizing our hens so we learned how to “dispatch”, which truly sucks….but, it gave us the experience and knowledge to try raising meat birds, which we did last fall. It’s been an incredible journey.
We now have ND goats and 2 4-H bunnies for our kiddos. Highly recommend bunnies as they are easy and soft 😊.
Also, Justin Rhodes is amazing and his channel has a ton of great info.
Two book recommendations!
Sonya’s Chickens by Phoebe Wahl (https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/24960945-sonya-s-chickens) …just in case there is a chicken tragedy. It’s a beautiful picture book about a little girl going through a chicken tragedy, and her family very lovingly discussing predator/prey/ecosystem stuff. The illustrations are gorgeous. Might be good to buy in advance, just in case…
Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm by Alice & Martin Provensen (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/280896.Our_Animal_Friends_at_Maple_Hill_Farm) this is just an amazing picture book with tons of personality and simple, lovely pictures, and it’s how I’m envisioning your homestead in a few years!
Can’t wait for baby chicken photos and hearing more about what you’re learning! It’s something I’d like to do in our sprawling backyard when our kiddo is a little older as well.
Very wise!! Thank you for these recommendations!
(You are very lucky to have your health insurance paid through the employer, by the way. Husband is post-65, so he’s covered…but my insurance STILL costs as much — or more — as us together, when his employer covered part of the cost. I can just guess what the kiddoes would be, if you had to pay that yoursellves.)
We don’t have chickens right now (live in a fifth-wheel), but had them for years. I dote on Black Australorps…. they’re easy to care for and are consistent layers, surprisingly so in wintertime. (Be sure to keep a bulb burning in your coop in the winter — it’s light that triggers the urge to lay. We made it a heater lamp, to help keep the coop warm, as well.) They also can handle the cold, which is important. They were easygoing, but didn’t particularly seem to enjoy being held or picked up. (Which might be a factor re Kidwoods — unless she does this regularly with them as chicks. That might change things.)
The Ameraucanas lay cute eggs — but they’re small. I’ve heard good things about them being handled, though. Very friendly.
We just visited a farm where the owner was raising chicks — she got a breed (Rhode Island Red/white mix – she said ‘Fox genus,’ I believe) that’s supposed to lay an egg a day! You might look into that…
Yes for medicated feed. (It’s not a bad idea to add something to their water, too. Instead of investing in wood for the coop, why not check Craigslist — or use that decorative wood shack you keep showing in photos? You really don’t have to spend that much money to keep them, unless you want to be decorative or fancy. A good coat of white paint does wonders in that area.
And of all the chicks we raised, we only lost two — one was sickly to start, and another had poop that kept sticking to its backside. I cleaned it too thoroughly, I guess — because I managed to accidentally pull its innards out with the stickiness. (Lesson: you can NOT push them back in, and hope for the best.) If your chickies get poop-bound, just let them soak in warm water and gently brush the loosened poop off. DON’T SCRUB.
The first 3 weeks or so are the hardest. You have to check on them a lot. (Keep them in the basement if they’re driving you crazy in the kitchen…because they peep. A LOT. Our dogs loved going over and staring at them.) We used a dog carrier, as well as large plastic bins, with a heating lamp, and a screen door or window on top to prevent escapes. The lamp went into the coop when they moved there, and the bins /carrier got scrubbed out and back to their regular uses.
Oh, and something that earned its money over and over!! Get a solar-powered chicken door that automatically opens at sunrise, and closes at sunset. It’s not cheap (ours was $250 probably five years ago), but it works great, lasts forever…and you don’t have to be forever trotting down there to close/open the coop. The hens will learn to adapt — we only had a few get stuck outside at first (so you need to check the first few weeks). The coop door, once it closes, will open again for about 10 min., which is more than enough for the stragglers to get inside.
With a door like this, and big feeders and waterers, you can actually go away for a day or two — and the chickens will do just fine.
And the fresh eggs? They’re wonderful. But I’d get at least another dozen chicks…and people pay well for fresh chicken eggs. ($4.95 a dozen seems to be the standard.) They can easily pay for their own feed this way. (If you ever want a guest column on how to raise these guys on a shoestring, I’d be glad to submit something.)
I still miss them. Ironically, so does our dog Charley, who was their special protector. Whenever there are chickens clucking in movies, he perks up and looks around. Good luck, and the kiddoes are going to love these!
My son recently built a custom chicken coop from discarded wood pallets and created a YouTube video on how he did it (Mason Dixon Acres). Also started raising chicks and created several videos of that journey and what they learned along the way.
Kidwood sounds like my spirit animal! I grew up in 4-H with horses. To this day, some of my best memories are from my 4-H days. I’m so happy to hear you’re interested in pursuing it with your kiddos. Just be careful, those chickens might morph into sheep, goats, ponies, etc. the more you get into 4-H! 🙂
I built the best “chicken tractor for tractors” on the east coast. We bought an Amish built chicken coop then I bought the steel and converted it to a mobile coop with a metal frame, raising swing arm on the back, and a trailer hitch on the front. Lifted it with the 3pt hitch on my tractor and could move it around anywhere. See post #35 in the link below for pictures:
I encourage the use of 1/2″ hardwire cloth for any enclosure including the chicken tractor. Do not use chicken wire as it is not strong enough to deter wild animals. Animals such as raccoons can easily reach through chicken wire and grab your ladies. When the permanent structure is built be sure and bury the hardwire cloth in the ground to prevent diggers like foxes and dogs from getting in. It isn’t an inexpensive option but seeing the destruction brought upon your ladies because it wasn’t used can be devastating. I have had chickens since 1985 and have learned many lessons the hard way – harder on my chickens than me unfortunately. I finally have what I consider the perfect chicken ‘pen’itentiary. A previous commenter encouraged cover for your ladies – Yes, Yes, Yes!!!!
WARNING to Liz! When my late husband and I got our baby chicks, we would go out in the morning to let them out and feed them and we found them so cute and fun and engaging that sometimes (ok a lot) it would be noon before we realized it and nothing (workwise) had gotten done all morning! Be careful, you may fail in love
Also, and I’m being serious, if you have windows in your coop I’d highly recommend Mr FW welding rebar over the windows to prevent bears from punching through and grabbing your girls. They are immensely strong and nothing but steel will stop them punching through windows. We lost half our flock down here in Virginia due to a bear attack. Nature is not soft a cuddly. It’s a freakin war zone and you have to have a soldiers mindset if you want your flock to survive. Chicken is on everyone’s menu.
I had a bear rip the door off my very sturdy coop last year, but it was going after a small feed container inside. The girls survived, thankfully. But a few weeks later the bear came back and took one. (I’ve since added an electric fence around the yard enclosure!) My neighbor, who works at the Game Commission, tells me that bear attacks aren’t common, but they certainly DO happen.
Here was our March:
Grocery 846- High because I paid for Costco Instacart twice. Nine months pregnant and loading up for new arrival.
Baby Supplies 56- 3 new bottles, sippy cup, 1 can formula
Diapers 45- 240 count size 5
Cell phones 99- 3 lines
Personal Care 256- 2 massages, antacid medication, fancy creams, toilet paper
Pets 148- 30lb dog food + 1 haircut
Clothing 340- kids clothing, delivery gown, new underwear
Eating out 263- takeout/ fast food/ cafe
Transport 98- gas, parking
Gift 33- wine for visiting family members
Heating 165- natural gas- carbon taxes are killing Canadians! Doesn’t matter if we use less gJ- they increase the tax
Internet 116- 300 MB speed- must have best connection/speed
Other Expenditures- we are still renovating
260- dumpster bin
220 – labour install one door, paint 2 doors and one hallway
965- landscaping/ 30 cedar trees delivered and planted plus dirt
690- install labour 3 windows
105- other small related costs
Total – $2240
Monthly total- $4705
House is paid off/ family of (almost) 4/ urban living Vancouver, Canada/ other bills like insurance and taxes not reflected unless paid on month due.
Congratulations. We had chickens for 15 years. I never bought medicated feed. I just got starter crumbles from our hardware store. Then I just got layer pellets. They ate a ton of kitchen scraps. A ton. You don’t have to be all scientific about this. We started out thinking we need to read everything and do everything according to books and honestly it’s not that hard. You can get smashed up gravel or proper grit and have it in a dish separately. We live in town and have incredibly high predator pressure! We did not use electrified fencing. Most of ours that died were killed by hawks. If you find one beheaded that is what took it probably. When we didn’t have a predator proof coop we lost a few from raccoons. I recommend flooring the bottom of any coupe with hardware cloth or somethings so nothing can dig underneath. Plenty of creatures tried. You will lose some to birds of prey. It’s inevitable. Our kids learned that the hawks have to eat too. The darker colored birds live longer and if you have them running in an area with some shrubbery they will live longer because they can hide underneath it.
It was a great experience for our kids. When they were old enough they formed a business to sell eggs. With prompting they created a newsletter to go along with each carton and it had chicken puns and “farm” happenings and whatnot. Their customers were very charmed. Anyway it’s a good experience and chickens are easier than dogs and cats we always say.
We’re just at a stage where we don’t really want the hassle of arranging for the chickens to get locked up at night if we are out of town and because the yard is small the coop is fairly close to the house and flies were a constant nuisance. You have a lot of property so if you can locate it further away from your house you will not have the issue we did.
Chickens are great. They have a ton of personality. The eggs are fantastic. Have fun!
PS just saw somebody warning you not to get chicken wire. I cannot emphasize that enough. With the very first chickens we got, we were woken in the night by the screams of a chicken being eaten alive through the chicken wire by a raccoon. I wish “chicken wire” were not called that — then nobody would buy it for chickens. Hardware cloth all the way.
Yes! We are planning on using hardware cloth!
I’m team medicated feed when starting chicks indoors in a brooder box. If I skip it while they are confined indoors I always end up with coccidiosis problems. Once they are outside on grass, I find they are fine without medicated feed. In a brooder box they just manage to get poop into their feed and water too easily! We’ll have a post out in a few weeks on prepping for baby chicks on our homesteading blog. With a few more tips 🙂 http://www.cottagefarmstead.com
We took the short cut and bought pullets instead of chicks 😂 so hats off to you! I was not that brave. We have about $300 in our coop and enclosed run and spend maybe $15/mo in feed for our three gals. I think it’s relatively cheap for the eggs and the learning experience combined, plus the pure pleasure of watching them waddle-run across the yard!
I was SO tempted to get pullets, but the thought of Kidwoods holding baby chicks changed my mind–TBD if this was the right approach!
Oh! That’s great! We used to raise chickens – we had Ameraucanas, Buff Orpingtons, BB Reds, Silver Seabrights, Black Jersey Giants, Wyandottes, some others I have forgotten, and oh, yes, we were given some game chickens (fighting chickens) from a man who got them from a man who had given up fighting them. (Side note — I detest the “sport” of cockfighting and would have reported the fighter, but the other man wouldn’t tell us who it was.) I don’t recommend game chickens around children – they are aggressive — but I will say that the rooster held off an oppossum that broke into the hen yard one night. We ran out at the noise around midnight, to see a slightly bloodied rooster furiously spurring a much bloodier possum which took his chance to run when we came outside with lights.
We started with 3 chicks. We ended up with 75 chickens. They can be addictive. I was frantically giving away eggs. My husband had a health issue and we had to get rid of all our chickens (NOT TO FIGHTERS!), but I still miss them. Your neighbors and extension agent, I’m sure, can give you good advice on protection, housing, and feeding them, and there are quite a few good books out there.
Chickens are useful. Got fruit peelings, greens trimmings, carrot peelings, etc? Pick a hornworm from a tomato plant? Give them to the chickens.
Chickens are helpful in a garden when confined temporarily between plant rows. Scrape up the droppings under the roost and let them age, then use them for fertilizer. And don’t worry, you’ll be making egg dishes several times a week before you know it.
Kelso. That’s the name of the fighting chicken breed I couldn’t remember till now. Large, good at escaping, and very serious about perceived threats.
I don’t have any chicken advice, but I just wanted to say your blog is delightful and I’m so grateful to you for sharing a little slice of your life with us each month.
Thank you so much!
You’ve gotten some very good advice here so I will try to not to repeat anything (sorry if I do, though!) We have had chickens for 16 years (started before children were born and now said children have grown enough to do much of the care themselves and earn money selling eggs.) Things I find that work for us are:
1. newspaper in the brooder box for the first week or so as some chicks are prone to eat wood shavings. After that time, switch to wood shavings. Clean the brooder box religiously which will become more than once a day as they get older. Cleanliness yields good health.
2. Feed unmedicated starter crumbles but use probiotics and apple cider vinegar (organic or homemade with the mother) in their water. The additions to the water should prevent any pasty vent issues. Some probiotics formulas will tell you to also offer plain water so the chicks have a choice. We usually do this but find they seem to like the water with the ACV. If you get to select your chicks, chose ones that do not have a pasty vent. Easier to avoid than to fix.
3. Make sure your coop is easy to move or you simply won’t do it. Chicken tractors work best with fewer than 12 birds, in my experience, but moving it every day is not bad if you have flat ground and you have considered ease of moving in your design.
4. If the electric fence you mention is the type sold by Premier1, they really don’t intend for you to use it in the winter. So, plan for winter housing. Some people just keep their chickens in their coop all winter (which you can do if it is big enough – plan on about 3 sq. feet per bird) or put them in a greenhouse where their pooping and scratching is beneficial to the growing areas.
5. Once grown, do not feed them too many kitchen scraps or too much scratch (usually cracked corn or a cracked corn/wheat combination.) Both can cause digestive problems and should not account for more than about 20% of their total diet. That said, scratch is useful in the winter as it creates a lot of internal heat and can keep them warm. We just use it as a treat in all months except winter and it is a good tactic to getting them to come to you.
6. Even if you have purchased sexed chicks, be prepared that one (or more) of them could be a rooster. We love our current roosters but have had a couple we had to rehome because they were aggressive to our children. Not their fault – they are just protecting the hens as nature tells them to but a rooster can leave a nasty scratch on a child and scare them from ever wanting to have anything to do with chickens ever again. Be prepared if you get a rooster that is not child-friendly and have a way to rehome them in mind.
7. Once they are laying, get in the habit of collecting the eggs as often as you can (which may be several times a day.) This helps keep the eggs clean and can help prevent the unfortunate habit of breaking and eating eggs as some hens will do. Once this habit is in your flock, it can be very difficult to halt and they can teach this bad habit to each other. Often times, the only way to stop it is to cull the guilty chicken(s). We have not had to do this since we collect the eggs often. This is, fortunately, one of the tasks children love the most and I swear my children learned to count by collecting eggs.
Above all, have fun and don’t be afraid to ask others questions especially about illnesses or injuries. I have the unique skill of knowing how to tube feed a chicken. Long story. Enjoy your wonderful adventure!
Thank you for all of this wonderful advice!! I have a feeling Kidwoods will be out there collecting eggs three times a day 😉
Not sure if anyone has commented on this yet, but be sure your mobile coop has a wire “roof” on it because of airborne predators. Eagles and other large birds of prey LOVE to fly off with chickens.
We just went full redneck on the chicken thing.( the latina version). We build with old bricks, got some leftover roofing, added a shade netting, got the fencing from a building side. The chicken are drop out from battery farming, we get them for free, they look and smell terrible and totally improve in 2 weeks. Very low cost and chicken are fun.
Don’t mean to go all PETA on you buuutttttt did you only buy females? What is your supplier doing with all those males that are born and not purchased? 🙁 this is why even backyard chickens are problematic from a moral standpoint. I hope you will care for them like lovable pets and not just a food, fertilizer source.
But they’re not pets, they’re food. While they’re also hoped to be fun to rear, this is a farm. Morality comes into taking care of the animals, but the end result is food.
I relate SO MUCH to the picture of Littlewoods.
And, my older sister was very much Kidwoods.
We’re still friends. But I don’t pet the animals. I leave that to her.
Can’t wait to see pictures!!
Young chickens could be a job for glamour shed and a heat lamp! After they lose baby fluff, they grow pretty quickly. I had some in my basement and before I knew it they were finding ways to escape my rickety setup.
I, too, identify with Kidwoods. I’d also get a dog to bark warnings at predators.
I had chickens for 10 years in my urban backyard. Nothing more fun than having a Yorkie raise hell at possums in a tree near the chickens.
Meanwhile, I’ve had all kinds, but I think white and speckled Sussexes may be the sweetest of all. Just make sure the girls handle them all the time when the chicks are young.
P.S. a big yes on not leaving them without some covering. Chickens are actually woodland animals I think. They like being in the woods and roosting in trees. (obviously dangerous in your state). They are also good at keeping down bug populations and are hilarious to watch.
Owls are predators, too. In my small urban yard both owls and small hawks visited (but raccoons and possums were more successful).
I vote that you get a nice Great Pyrenees or Newfoundland to help guard the chickens!
What worked when we had a hen who started breaking and eating her eggs was to take an egg, blow out the contents and fill the egg shell with a hot mustard. We had to do it a few times but it killed the habit quickly. We live in Alaska and have an insulated coop and during the winter we put greenhouse plastic glass on the run and top of the run. It allows them to go outside even when it has started snowing; we take it off in the summer. Our birds have a light that stays on 14 hours a day and though there is some decrease in the numbers of eggs produced by our four hens, we usually get at least two a day. Right now daylight has increased enough that we turned off the light and also the small heater we keep in there so we can help keep things warm when it gets to zero or colder.
I am the most anti-pet person ever, but I LOVE our chickens! Once they’re outside, they’re pretty darn low maintenance as far as animals go, and one of these days when we invest in a self-opening door set up to a timer with the sunrise and sunset (YES, THEY EXIST!), they’ll be even more low maintenance. We bought our chickens purely based on their egg color and my oldest sells them to neighbors and family and friends. I’ll admit that I can’t really handle store-bought eggs anymore because they just don’t taste as good!
Anyway, super excited for your chick venture. Just make sure you check them for pasty butt every day for the first week or two since that’s one of the main reasons chicks die so young. Good luck!
So excited for you! We have Buff Orpingtons, Black Australorps, and Lights Brahmas. They’re all a delight, and unique in their own way. And you are correct, it doesn’t get any less expensive. I’ll second the tip for hardware cloth mentioned by several others – we buried 18” of it around the perimeter of their secure area, so nothing can dig in. We did a secure run (also screened with hardware cloth) attached to the coop, with an automatic “Pullet-Shut” door that closes the coop after dusk. We also let them free-range, but if we aren’t home, they’re always safe in this space. My other tip is to put together a first-aid kit BEFORE you have the chicks (there are some good lists available online) and to locate an avian veterinarian as well. I felt so prepared and confident when we started keeping chickens, but found that I needed both first-aid items AND a vet when one of the girls fell ill. (Luckily, the chicken in question is still alive and well, but she required several months of TLC at home and the vet visit was very expensive). I’ve since learned a few more skills, but as a new chicken keeper, I really did need vet assistance then. Final thought – if you have friends nearby who also keep chickens, take care to not wear the same footwear to visit their chickens as you wear in your own chicken area.
Look up venison for dinner and three rivers homestead on Instagram. Both have chicks they hatch themselves and post about them
I’m so excited you are getting chicks! I’m a long-time reader, first-time commenter. My (human) girls are 7 and 5 now, and we had 4 hens before the kids. Now we’re up to 15 chickens and getting 3 more tomorrow! My girls love them.
Once you have adult hens, hopefully one will go broody (want to sit on eggs and not leave the nest, or lay) every spring. Then she can raise the baby chicks for you, so you won’t need to put them in your house. Our broody hen is sitting on golf balls now, and tomorrow (day 21 of broody-ness) we will put 3 day-old chicks under her and she will think they hatched!
We like to get new chicks every spring, so we get eggs through the winter every year (although we live in the California Bay Area so the climate is quite different). Our hens usually lay their first winter, but not subsequent winters.
We always use medicated feed, but in our case are introducing our chicks to the rest of our flock.
Good luck and enjoy! What fun!!
My mind is mostly blown by the fact that there are so many chicken breeds! So jealous of your chicken adventure, it’s going to be so great for the kids.
That’s so exciting! I raised 5 chicks last year and they are year old hens now. All our our hens starting laying in and throughout the winter, they usually don’t molt (and stop laying) until their second winter so it’s possible that you may have eggs sooner than you think. Congrats. Chicken math is real!
We are planning to move to another province and will eventually be building a new house out in the country after first living in town in a house that we will eventually rent. My husband told me I could have chickens if we get “enough land”. How much is enough? I’m not sure what his idea of enough is, but just having heard those words was so exciting for me. I look forward to your documentation of the whole journey, so that when I get there I’ll have some idea of what I’m getting into!
As I understand it, you don’t need much land to keep chickens–especially if you have a small flock. Lots of folks have urban and suburban coop set-ups. Good luck :)!
Perhaps get a Llama to protect them!
I highly recommend that you enclose or put screening over your brooder pen. Chicks learn to fly before you think they can. We had a few escape out of their pen before we knew they could fly! We used the screens off of our house windows to cover their pen. Backyard Chickens. Com is an excellent source of info for EVERYTHING CHICKEN! The chicks will run around like crazy & then suddenly drop in their tracks & you’ll think they’ve died, but they’ve just fallen ASLEEP like a toddler! Also they will be very dusty & STINKY! We kept ours in an unheated building w/ heat lamps for them to get under if they got too cold. They also need to be able to get away from it to cool off.
I used to be an American from Texas but I have called Australia home for nearly 50 years. I have a fairly sizable ranch and raise about 250 Black Angus cattle. I also keep about 24 or 25 chickens. Chickens are called “chooks” here. Mainly Australorp and Isa Browns. You will have lots of fun but never underestimate the critters that will want to eat your chickens. The critters will burrow under, fly in, jump and just go through your mesh. Our main predators are 5 foot giant lizards called goannas, we have foxes, dingos/wild dogs, eagles, quolls and even 12 foot long pythons. I think you are underestimating the amount of electric fence that you’ll need. You’re only allowing for an approximate 25′ x 25′ pen and that isn’t much at all. You’ll need at least three to four times the amount of electric mesh. Also don’t skimp in the fence energiser. Get at least 10 K volt. I assume that it will be solar if you want to move it around your property. How are you going to keep your children out of the wire? Electric fence shocks will make you feel like your heart will stop and blow out your teeth fillings. I speak from experience as my cattle fences are electrified. Did you know that getting chickens will also attract vermin? Be prepared. No matter how clean you keep your coop they’ll be there. I keep my chicken layer pellets in large drums with lids that I can seal to keep the vermin out. You will also need a supply of clear, fresh water for them as well. I hope all of the above isn’t discouraging but once you get in the routine, it’s not really work. Also keep in mind that once you get animals for your farm you won’t be taking any long holidays as the animals will need attention every day for food, water and security. Finally it might be a good idea to keep in mind that chickens can fly short distances and will easily fly over a four foot electric fence. Be prepared to clip the wing feathers of you chooks. But only clip the feathers on one wing, not both wings Clipping the wing feathers on one wing will keep them off balance when they try to fly. Maybe you might consider some meat birds after you get the hang of raising laying chickens. Home grown meat chickens taste wonderful. Good luck and have fun !!!!
I’ve used the Quicksilver Capital One card myself in the past, and have only great things to say about that in terms of cash back. Like yourself, I’m a big fan of looking at cashback cards (or phone apps like Slide or Ibotta) to help supplement my daily expenses. I think it’s amazing how you were able to cut down on your expenses by implementing these money saving techniques – my husband and I are actually thinking about installing solar panels ourselves. It sounds like the solar panels are able to reduce your bills quite drastically. Thanks for sharing your insight!
I use medicated feed for the first 50 pound bag. After that you can switch to regular. When they are a week old or so I start pulling grass/weeds for them to root through. They enjoy scratching through it and will start eating some small pieces especially clover or dandelions. I pull a clump out by the roots with a little of the dirt attached which gives them a bit of natural grit.I would not keep them in the house past the first week. They grow fast and get really messy. Put them in the basement and life will be much better! Ameracaunas don’t lay as many eggs sometimes only 1-2 a week but they are different so that is fun. They will start laying in the Fall. If you want them to produce all winter use a light in their coop. Have fun! Watching chicks is so entertaining. Better than television. lol
You’ve gotten a lot of good advice so far. There is a lot of death with chickens but I think it’s actually a fairly good way to introduce the idea of death to kids (ours is Kidwoods’ age). She still talks about losing her “favorite” chicken.
Backyardchickens.com is another wealth of information. We have spent a lot of time there when we chicken ailments, etc.
p.s. after reaching the limits of my DIY capabilities, we just spent $200 having a vet drain an abscess on our ducks’ foot. They aren’t quite pets like our horses and cat but we still want them to live long and happy lives. So yes, the cost per egg is substantial!
So excited to follow your journey with the baby chicks!
I haven’t read any comments, so my apologies if I’m just repeating what others have said.
We have always house our chickens the same way – moveable coop and electric net – and have had no problems with predators. From the sounds of it, you may have discovered Justin Rhodes on YouTube. We’ve gotten a ton of great info from him! We’re experimenting with a chicken composting system this year (edible acres on YouTube lol) and are excited to see how it goes! We overwinter our birds in a greenhouse (no heat in the coop, Canadian winter) and that’s also worked well for us. We have no problems with smells or dust because they’re always moving in the summer and are deep bedded in the winter.
If you get your birds vaccinated for coccidiosis, then they don’t need medicated starter, at least in my neck of the woods. You can offer grit separately. If you haven’t read it, Harvey Ussery’s book, The Small-Scale Poultry Flock, is a wealth of information and a very enjoyable read.
Chickens really are the gateway farm animal! I grew up on a farm but as an adult I started with chickens and have expanded considerably. 😂
We have australorp/leghorn crosses mainly and they are pretty good layers over a longer period than other breeds that pump out an egg a day and then drop dead. I second the suggestion of an automatic door for the coop. Ours can operate by the sun but I prefer to set it on a timer as the sensor is under a tree and I couldn’t be sure it would work consistently. We installed this after my other chicken carer family members forgot to shut them in when I was away overnight at work and one got eaten by a fox. Climbed a 2m fence and came in the house and stole the poor girl off her perch and this is in the suburbs of a big city. The door has been a game changer for us as it means we can go away for a few days and not worry as they have their treadle feeder and automatic watering system. Our neighbours also installed one as without this it means you have to get house sitters or find someone willing to come morning and night to let them out and in. We also made a sloped layer box where the eggs roll away behind a partition so they can build up without getting stepped on, pooped on or eaten. Apart from the $250 auto door and $50 treadle feeder we built the chicken house from scrap lumber and roofing material and fencing from found wire mesh so it has not cost too much. The door is totally worth it because you will forget and you will worry if you are out of an evening and late home to shut them in. But you have to accept you end up with free loading pets after a while as they stop laying after a couple of years and you have to get more young ones. It sounds like bears will be a big challenge if your set up is at all flimsy.
I’m about to pull the trigger on switching from Verizon to Ting…only has taken YEARS of reading this. And trying to convince my parents, too. Any reasons I shouldn’t? I mostly text and am in a college town for the most part for coverage, if that makes a difference.