Do you remember that I was the ultimate city girl?? Had big Texas hair, nails done, liked big jewelry?? You look at me now and probably can’t see that girl anymore. And that is okay with me!
I have been asked by many people, “How did you start this farming journey? What was the first thing you did?”
As soon as we knew we were moving to Idaho, we started the farming adventure. I asked Daryl’s aunt where she purchased her chickens, and I placed my first order of chicks. The local hatchery’s last shipping date was a month before we arrived so my mother-in-law graciously raised them their first month.
Egg-layer hens are the easiest way to start your farming journey. In most towns, you are allowed to raise at least a couple of egg-layer hens as long as you DO NOT have a rooster! They are the obnoxious ones. And you do not need a rooster to get eggs, only to hatch more chicks. I do happen to love roosters, and they do a good job taking care of their ladies. But I live in the middle of farmland and am only disturbing crops if the roosters crow too much!
Egg laying chickens are very easy to keep. You need a shelter (that can be as basic as a dog house), nesting boxes for the chickens to lay their eggs, food, and water. I feel that everyone should have chickens. They provide entertainment as you watch them do their thing – chasing bugs, dust bathing, and eating our kitchen scraps. We call it “Chicken TV”. And as you sit and watch them enjoying life, it helps you calm and enjoy the present.
Chickens also help with kitchen waste. We keep a bucket by the kitchen sink that we dump all our leftovers and food scraps in, and then at chore time, we share it with the chickens! There are only a few things I have noticed that they don’t eat – raw potatoes and onions, avocados, and citrus peels. They LOVE rice and pasta as it looks like little worms and bugs. It’s so funny to see them fight over the scraps.
I honestly cannot tell you how many chickens that we have. Over 100???? It also depends on the time of year, since in some seasons we’re raising meat birds. I do know we have 2 roosters! One in each coop. We can have more roosters, but it depends on how mean they become. If they get mean, they turn into the hired man’s dinner!
We have two coops. The farm’s original one that is one hundred years old. It isn’t very big but is very hard to clean out due to it’s design. But my mother-in-law loves giving them her scraps. And the chickens add ambiance as they run around the barnyard. The barn cats don’t appreciate these chickens as they try to eat the cat food every morning.
We built a new coop in 2015, and it is wonderful! Daryl and I spent many hours planning it out. Our tiny town has an amazing building supply business – we told what we wanted, and they created a kit for us to assemble. They are the same company that provided all the wood and trusses when we built our house in 2013. One thing I love about this company is that they built an orphanage in Malawi that they continue to fund. Kaylee has become pen pals with one of the girls who lives at the orphanage. Their relationship makes my heart melt.
But I digress! I do that a lot!!!
Our new coop is a large rectangle. There are three windows on each side, an automatic chicken door that opens in the morning and closes at dark, a big double door on the south side that we open for them in summer. We have two sets of nesting boxes and many roosting bars for bedtime, but most of the chickens fly to the trusses in the ceiling to roost at night! In one corner we made a smaller box (for lack of a better word) that becomes our brooder when we have chicks that need to be kept warm. It has a heat lamp hanging in it and is covered to prevent the bigger birds from coming in. We lined the entire coop with linoleum to help make cleaning out the old wood shavings easier.
We did splurge and bought an automatic chicken door. It opens every morning when ever the sun rises and closes whenever the sun sets. It makes life simpler as we only have to visit the coop once a day. It runs on solar power and I feel it is a must have.
Chickens like to lay when they have plenty of daylight. In the winter, their egg production slowly decreases and then stops, so I use a timer to add a few hours of artificial light, so that they don’t completely stop laying. I have too many chickens to feed, and they need to earn their keep all year!
Egg-layer hens are great as they are so simple to start with! You just need their simple supplies and about 20 minutes a day to feed/water/gather eggs. And they bless you by eating your scraps and making your breakfast!!
Bloom where you are planted!