Get Those Backyard Chickens Going

| 2/26/2010 12:40:00 PM

GRIT Editor Hank Will at the wheel of his 1964 IH pickup.I'm exercising a bit of restraint in the backyard chicken arena this year by resisting the urge to add another thousand or so chicks to our already sufficient flock. Oh, I tempt myself practically every evening by poring over colorfully-illustrated catalogs from some of my favorite commercial hatcheries. But, my laying hens turned up the egg production a few weeks ago and reminded me that I need to grow our egg customer base before I can rationally think about expansion. I will place an order for meat birds later in the year, but for now the backyard flock, as it exists, will have to suffice.

Purebred Buff Catalana Chickens

Of course, just as I write that, I am reminded that the backyard chicken flock will grow a little this year because I plan to increase the numbers of purebred, and fairly rare, buff Catalana birds on the farm. We have just a single Catalana rooster and three hens at the moment -- the birds are about 6 months old and have exhibited sufficient signs to indicate that they've passed through puberty. The hens have begun laying eggs -- my plan is to collect a few incubator loads of the eggs later this spring and see whether I can increase the numbers right here on the farm. I'll never give up the motley crew of brown-, speckled-, mauve-, and green-egg laying chickens for purebreds entirely, but it will be fun to add the slightly off white Catalana eggs to our cartons in the future.

Hank's Hens

For those of you with backyard chickens in the works, or in the plan, now is a good time to book your mail-order chicks, especially if you have your hearts set on any specific breed. And if you don't want to deal with disposing of unwanted roosters, be sure to spring for the pullets, as opposed to straight run birds. Either way, just remember that you need to have a brooder of some sort, feed, feeders and waterers set up before the chicks arrive. You can brood the chicks in something as simple as a cardboard box, plastic tote or a small stock tank -- and all you need is an incandescent light to keep them warm. You can read all about brooding chicks here and how to build a chick brooder for virtually nothing, here.

Even if you don't have a backyard chicken coop worked out yet, you will have plenty of time to build or buy one while the chicks are confined to the brooder. So don't let the lack of a coop keep you from placing your order. If you feel lucky, you can sign up to win a Cadillac of a backyard chicken coop here.

Aunt Bea
4/11/2010 8:28:05 AM

Ive been trapped living in the city and hope to win a bid on a country house tomorrow. I have always wanted chickens. The property next to "ours" has a huge barn with wooden fence around and you can hear a LOT of roosters any time of day that I have been there. Please someone tell me they do not crow all night long too? I know there must be a ton of other birds around but you cant hear them. By the way there is no house on the property. Ive never seen any people....just a bunch of chickens. Oh one more thing...strung across the ckicken yard is a halloween ghost that moves in the wind. Does this maybe frighten them? It must be there to scare off something!

Hank Will_2
3/11/2010 3:31:37 PM

Oz Girl -- The Dorkings also won the ALBC's "Chicken Choosin" blind taste test last year. Here's my report of the event:

Oz Girl
3/1/2010 3:32:00 PM

Thanks Hank ... hubby did some work on the coop yesterday, and I'm thinking some Dorkings since they are dual purpose, but I'll look at the ALBC's website again (just looked at it last week but was looking at the horses then). Looks like we're going to get a few guineas too - one of my friends has 4 and I love watching them. And Caleb, I too question the quality of our produce AND the meat we buy at the store. I'm buying the least amount I can get by with these days and trying to buy what they label "organic" etc, even though I know better...

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