Monday, August 10, 2015

Backyard Chickens

     Chickens are popping up in backyards across the nation.  With the price of eggs and chicken increasing, many have decided to decrease their grocery bills and start raising their own flock.  Chickens are resourceful and can eat many vegetable and fruit items that may be considered spoiled in our refrigerator.  In addition to recycling produce, chickens eat bugs, worms, and vegetation found outside. 

    My family is doing an experiment this year with chickens.  We wanted farm fresh eggs and several broilers, so we ordered 14 chicks online (plus a bonus exotic chicken with our purchase!) and started the process.  We are lucky enough to have almost 5 acres of lands, so our chicken pen choice was a “tractor” or mobile pen that could be moved every week to provide fresh grass, bugs, and worms for the chicks and fertilizer for our yard. 

     The chicks, only a few days old, arrived late in the season on June 23rd.  We set up an old dog crate with a chicken water can and fresh chick food.  Since our grass clippings a saved, these were added to the bottom of the crate.  Evenings are chilly in Iowa even in June, so the chicks lived in our garage in their dog crate for several weeks receiving fresh food and water daily, in addition to frequent grass clipping changes.

     While the chicks ate and grew in the garage, we started building their perfect home with 10 foot by 4 inch lumber, chicken wire, a 10 foot by 3 foot piece plastic siding, screws, and lots of staples.  At last the masterpiece was finished and placed in the backyard in a great grassy location.  My family moved the chicks to their outside paradise chicken tractor, complete with chick feed and water container. 

    With a sigh of relief, I started cleaning up the chicks’ mess left in the garage, cleaning the cage and recycling the grass clipping on my garden.  My family went to movie in town and arrived home two hours later to a murder site.  Three of the beautiful black chicks had decided to explore outside the chicken pen sticking their heads through the chicken wire to be found by a hawk.  After wiping tears and cleaning up, the chicks moved back into the garage hideaway until we could provide a hawk-safe location.

    Back to the drawing board we went to find a safer solution for our chicks.  My husband came up with a great idea to wrap the outside of the chicken pen with a finer gauge chicken wire.  Another trip to the local farm store provided us with the necessary wire and more staples to secure it. 

     Several weeks have passed now, with our fabulous 12 chicks growing and eating outside.  My children delight in seeing them run and fly (yes, chickens can actually fly short distances) around their backyard oasis.  Who knows, in a few months we might actually be eating our own farm fresh eggs for breakfast!

Written by:  Angela Ask MPS


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