This summer I finally realized my 20-year dream of raising chickens. When we first moved to our property, I was excited to start raising chickens. But the next spring we discovered that the chicken coop on the property was standing in over a foot of water from the spring thaw. Well, that was a record setting winter, so maybe it would be different the next year, right? Nope. Every spring for three years in a row the coop was either inundated with spring melt or mired in mud.
Several twists and turns forced me to put the dream of raising chickens on the back burner. But then this spring a neighbor was moving and let me have his chicken coop. And now it is filled with 14 beautiful little chickens.
I ordered five each of Silver Lace Wyandotte, Gold Lace Wyandotte and Astralorp. We chose these breeds because they are good layers, well-tempered and especially cold hardy, which we really need in our brutal North Dakota winters. Sadly, one little chick was DOA (a very common occurrence when shipping chicks) and we gave it a proper burial amongst our wild roses. A week later another one looked to be at death’s door, but I was able to nurse her back to health and she is now as big and healthy as the rest of the flock.
The chicks spent three weeks in a brooder box on our porch before we moved them to the coop. Good thing too–we needed that time to make some minor repairs to the coop and make it pest- and predator-proof (or at least as predator-proof as possible) before putting the chicks out there. We installed 5′ tall fencing, but then added 1/2″ hardware cloth all around the bottom and buried it 1′ deep around the perimeter to prevent burrowing animals.
We also laid down 1/2″ chicken mesh on the ground before put the coop on top of that. It sits on paving stones instead of
the ground, to prevent rotting or moisture damage. So we then stapled 1/2″ hardware cloth all around the bottom of the coop to block off the 4-5″ gap between the floor of the coop and the ground.
Then, to stop hawks (we have a lot of those) from carrying off one of our chicks, we strung some cord across the run and tied strips of cloth on the cord to give the illusion of a fence on top.
So we kept the chicks in the coop for four days to get them acclimated to their new surroundings before opening up the door to the run. I thought they would be excited to get outside and run around. But no… They were terrified! They all clustered underneath the ramp to the run.
But after several days of coaxing them (and bribing them with kitchen scraps–which they LOVE!) they finally have decided that they like it outdoors. Now we’re trying to teach them to come in to roost at sunset. Again, they’re slow learners, but I’m sure we’ll figure it out.
And it turns out that I only have one Silver Lace Wyandotte, five Gold Lace Wyandotte and five Astralorp. It looks like I have two Blue Lace Wyandotte (a more expensive breed of
Wyandotte, so that’s good, right?) and I’m really not sure what the other five are. They are mostly black with some gold flecks, so maybe an Astralorp mix? I’ll have to do some research.
This whole process has been quite an adventure, and we’re only just beginning.
My husband says these will be the most expensive eggs we’ve ever eaten.
And it’s true, this first year we’ve had to put some money into this: predator-proofing the coop, repairing the coop, installing a fence, buying feeders, etc. But I expect that from here on out it won’t be so expensive and soon we’ll be glad to be eating fresh, organic eggs from free-ranged chickens.
We’ve had a crash course on caring for our small livestock and being good stewards of God’s creatures. It’s been a most excellent adventure.