Hey folks! Even though we had backyard chickens before (briefly) and learned quite a bit before and while we had them, I figured we would still learn a lot more about chickens going into it this time too. I had no idea! We've been learning a lot of things the worst kind of way lately: the hard way. So today, I would like to share some of our shenanigans with you in hopes to help you out in the future if you're thinking about getting chickens of your own!
The biggest one that is flashing in my head right now? GET MORE BIRDS THAN YOU THINK YOU WANT OR NEED! I know this might seem counter-intuitive, but hear me out. First of all, even if you are purchasing pullets (that's a fancy word for female baby/teenager chickens), you still run the slight chance of having a rooster and even more so if you purchase “straight run” chicks. (That means they are not sexed and you get what you get.) Some people like roosters, others don't. But just know that YOU DO NOT NEED A ROOSTER FOR YOUR HENS TO LAY EGGS. To cut to the chase, if you don't want roosters, you might consider buying an extra bird or two just in case one of them needs to go to “freezer camp” early.
You might also consider getting more than you want or need because, well, shit happens. Our first casualty was one of our Easter eggers who got splayed legs (not uncommon in chicks, but sometimes fixable) and also stopped eating and drinking. It passed away less than two days after we got it.
This past week has been nuts as far as chickens kicking the bucket go. One of our Silver-laced Wyandottes just disappeared Monday. John thinks a hawk or falcon may have gotten it. I went out to let the girls out this morning and check things out and discovered both of our new Silver-laced Wyandottes had passed away in the night as well as our new Silver Hamburg. John thinks the first two just stopped eating for whatever reason and the Hamburg looked like it had gotten squashed by the others. :(
We have bought chicks 4 times this spring. FOUR. How ridiculous is that? We bought 10 originally, one died, one got picked off. Then we decided to get two Brahmas and a replacement Easter egger...Then a Silver Hamburg and two Silky bantams, just because...Then another Silver Hamburg so the first one would have a friend, two Silver-laced Wyandottes to make up for the ONE that got picked off, and two Easter eggers, just because they are fun and pretty and because we can! 3 of the last 5 are the ones that died last night, so we are at a grand total of 16. Now, am I telling you you should go as overboard as we have? No. But I still recommend buying some extras, the amount dependent on how many you are wanting originally.
Other than buying extras, what else have we learned? I learned that when in doubt, turn the heat lamp on for the little chickies. It could just be coincidence, but I thought it would be ok last night temperature-wise and like I said, one of the Hamburgs looked like he got squashed. I can't help but think maybe he was on the bottom of the pile of them trying to huddle together for warmth! :/
Don't try to separate chicks that you brought home together. We tried to do this with our Brahmas and their Easter egger friend and they all basically went into panic mode. We were wanting to put the Brahmas with the big chickens because they are going to be huge and were already too big for the “baby area”, but alas, they wanted their little buddy with them, so now they all get to free range with the big girls already, as much as I don't like it.
Chickens will attack (and eat) lizards and snakes. In fact, I just watched my older girls gang up on a small snake in our own yard the other day. Don't believe me? Look it up on YouTube. I loathe snakes and it was the most awesome thing ever to watch. Lol
Many breeds of chickens are good with kids. And those that are skittish (at least ours) will at least tolerate them. Our friendly Buff Orpington, Bertha, let Myka pick her up the other day and it was just about the cutest thing ever!
Even if you let your chickens free range during the day, they still eat an absurd amount of feed. We just bought a 50 pound bag Wednesday. I am writing this on a Sunday night and they are damn near through half the bag already. O.o But, there are 11 of them eating from it now. (The little babies still get special baby chick feed.)
I'm sure there are some things I'm forgetting and there are certainly other things I could include, but I think I'll stop there. If you're reading this and considering chickens I don't want to overwhelm you. ;)