Backyard Chickens

This post is by-request. I take no responsibility for the subject matter. I don’t honestly know why my wife wants me to write this particular post. I can’t think of a way she will come out of this post looking remotely sane.

It all started sometime around Easter. I don’t recall the exact date, but I could easily look it up. I just have to roll back through my bank statements and look for the sale from the local farm store. I don’t live on a farm. I live on a tiny quarter acre lot in the nice part of town, just far enough away from the golf course to not have to have Plexiglas covering my windows. Ok, to be fair, with destructo-Kitty running rampant around my house, everything should be covered in Plexiglas, but that’s a whole other story. Let’s just say she earned the name over and over and over and…

Back to the part about the farm store and me not living on a Farm: Yes, this is one of those posts.

I think it might have been my fault from the start. I was the one that suggested my wife take my daughter (the aforementioned destructo-Kitty) to the Farm store to look at the baby chicks and ducks that they carry at that time of year.

“Can I get one?” my wife asked.

“No,” I said.

“They’re small,” She said.

“No,” I said.

“They’re Cheap,” She said, “And they cheep. They’re cute.”

“No,” I said.

“Kitty will want one,” my wife said.

“Fine, get a chick or a ducky,” I consented, “But only if you can get what you need to keep it for about ten to fifteen bucks.” I figured we know enough people that have chickens, we can probably give them away when they stop being cute. I know, it’s not the way people should be with pets, but chickens are farm animals, not pets. I have a friend with a farm. I thought the plan to give them away when they got big was obvious.

“Can I get two? One might be lonely?” My wife asks.

At this point, I’m done with the conversation, already having admitted defeat. “Fine, whatever.”

The box my wife came home with had three chicks. She was only slightly over budget after buying food and feeders and litter. Expenses so far: $20. Not bad for a little bit of a farm experience for my kids. We set up one of the several aquariums we have in the basement from my wife’s repetitive habit of trying to keep fish alive – which she has never succeeded at for more than a few weeks at a time. The third chick is the fallout of that history – in case one of the other two die.

Chicks have to be kept at ninety five degrees or something way above where I keep my thermostat. Ok, we have some grow-lights in the basement from our attempt at gardening. (Also a failure due to the fact that the south side of my yard has an eighty foot tall oak tree that shades my whole back yard.) 250 watt grow lights produce heat, so we set one of those up on top of the fish tank that contained the chicks. Then we have the realization we don’t actually know how well the light is working.

A trip to the pet store and a cheap stick-on thermometer tell us it’s working. Total expenses now up to $23. (Not including gas to and fro the stores.)

Two hours later and I’m watching the Borgias on TV after my kids are asleep and six feet to my right, a loud crashing sound and the blur of a black cat running up the stairs. The cage is intact, but the light is now a thousand shards of sharp glass scattered around my living room. In runs screaming destructo-Kitty (my daughter, not an actual cat.) The crash woke her up and she was worried for the chicks. I had to simultaneously prevent her from entering the glass shard filled room and assure her the chicks were fine.

I hand off Kitty to my wife and then return to unplug the former light from the wall. I clean up the glass. Unfortunately we gave up the Potato habit months ago, and I’m stuck with the remnants of a light bulb stuck in a socket. A quick inventory revealed a carrot in the fridge big enough to surround the socket so I managed to salvage the fixture, but this wasn’t helping the chicks who were now screaming – something they do when they get cold.

So off to Wal-Mart to get another light bulb. Only Wal-Mart doesn’t carry the right lights, so we end up with just a bright light accepting that any light gives off heat, knowing we’re going to have to replace it in the morning. another 250watt bulb almost raises the temperature to 90. Accepting it’s the best we can do, and after fastening the light with tin-foil and tape to make it cat proof we finally make it to sleep around 3am. Add another $4 to the chicken expenses. Then another $25 when we buy a proper heat light and fixture designed to hold a heat light since my wife read somewhere that plastic or metal fixtures were not as good as ceramic fixtures.

Chickens grow really damned fast. Less than two weeks later we have the chickens living in a dog kennel that is barely big enough for a German Shepherd. Add a second light fixture as well as a few pieces of poster board to keep the draftiness down. Those three little chicks have now cost me $75.

Then I notice my wife looking at websites that sell chicken coops. This is when I realized we never actually discussed the fate of the chickens once they stopped being chicks. Apparently, we were keeping them for their eggs. Suddenly I remember attending a friends birthday party in the back yard of someone who had a chicken coop in their yard. I should have realized my wife’s plans earlier. I really should have.

At this point in time, my budget was still recovering from an insufficiently planned trip to Vegas. I talked about that a few months back. Buying a Chicken Coop was not going to be an option. I started formulating designs in my head. I can build anything out of two-by-fours. Okay, so I realize two-by-fours are over-engineering for some things. I decided to be less over-engineering this time and actually used some two-by-twos, which are, as a bonus, cheaper.

Somewhere along the way, I learned my friend Nick was building a Chicken Coop for my friend Rob. Only Rob didn’t actually want a Chicken Coop. I mentioned my plight and became the intended recipient of said chicken coop, whenever it was actually finished. I got a preview of said coop and it looked suspiciously like a converted dog-house – because it was a converted dog house. Still it was free and well constructed, so I’m not complaining at all.

Still I needed a Chicken Run. A drive to Home Depot and sixty bucks later I have all the parts I need to build a run. Ninety minutes after that and the run is completed. The picture to the right is the completed run with destructo-Kitty standing by, oddly for her, not destroying anything. 

 It was another month before the Coop was ready to be picked up. I made some slight modifications to make it fit where I wanted it to fit. In the process I discovered not one, but two black widow spiders in the coop.  The coop had been sitting in my driveway for several days by this time, so there’s no telling when they got in there.

I have personal rules about killing anything without good reason. Simply existing too close to me is not good reason. Being in my house is. This was my driveway, so I took a hose and washed them down the driveway, but didn’t kill them. They were small, between the size of a nickel and the size of a quarter and I know they are not actually an aggressive spider.

Anyway, I finished cleaning and modifying the coop and attached it to the run. Three Chickens now live in my back yard.

I don’t know anything about them other than they are egg-laying types of chickens. I do know it will be years before they break even in terms of eggs to expenses. But,it makes my wife and daughter happy to have them. I suppose that’s something.


6 thoughts on “Backyard Chickens

  1. We didn’t actually buy the ceramic based light we just talked about it. I mentioned from the very beginning we were only getting 2 because we are allowed 2 by the city. The 3rd one was just insurance. If I had gotten 2 one would have died by getting 3 I ensured they would all live. That’s how Murphy works. They are hens and they will make eggs much healthier and safer eggs than you can buy in the store. And as you mentioned laying hens are easy to find homes for it should come to that.

  2. my wife handles the chickens. She says we spend $15-16 for a bag of omega-3 enriched feed which lasts five or six weeks. Set-up expences aside, I think we come out to a few cents less than $3 a dozen. It’s not exactly a money-saving venture, but we know exactly where the eggs come from and know the birds are well treated. There’s also the pet-like aspect of having chickens.

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