Monday, February 24, 2014

Meet Our Goldhen Girls!

The time had come to get the chicks!  After weeks of research and discussion amongst each other, we each chose a breed for our backyard flock.  Here are our picks:

The Rooster's choice: Easter Egger - Green eggs and a sweet disposition

Our girls' choice: Plymouth Barred Rock - Great layer with decorative coloration

ChickinBoots' choice: Buff Orpington - Solid winter layer, attractive and docile

(Breed descriptions provided by the book A Chicken in Every Yard

The day we picked up our brooder box supplies the Rooster and I talked with Healing Ponds Farm and Garden Store about our breed choices.  We learned that in order to get the chicks we wanted we would have to compromise getting day-old chicks for 2 and 3 week-old chicks due to their availability and age compatibility. After doing some thinking the Rooster and I decided that in the long run the breed type was more important to us than the age so we decided to move forward. Besides, 2 and 3 week-old chick are still small and cute!

There was a lot of excitement and surprises the day we picked up the chicks.  Expect the unexpected, right?

Surprise #1
We got our first surprise the morning we showed up at Healing Ponds to pick up our chicks.  The store had gotten in an unexpected batch of newly hatched chicks, which included the Ameraucana and Buff Orpington. This now made it possible for us to purchase day-old chicks in the breeds we wanted, as well as a very small 2 week-old Plymouth Barred Rock.  Healing Ponds boxed up our chicks and we happily headed home to the sound of their tiny cheeps.

The Girls

Surprise #2
We weren't home for more than two hours when we got our next surprise.  Healing Ponds called to tell us that there was a mix up with the newly hatched chicks they received and what they thought were the Ameraucana and the Buff Orpington were actually a Brown Leghorn and a Buff Santa Clair. Whoops! 
We returned to the store, swapped out the day-old chicks for a 2 week-old Easter Egger and a 3 week-old Buff Orpington and once again happily headed home.

Without further ado, here are our sweet chicks...

Introducing the real Goldhen Girls!

Our Goldhen Girls

Edna - The sweet, curious Easter Egger

Agnes - The young, quiet Plymouth Barred Rock

Nelly Dean - The friendly, motherly Buff Orpington

The Goldhen Girls are such sweet chicks.  We couldn't be any happier!  Stay tuned for more chicken adventures.  

Thanks for reading!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Preparing the Brooder Box

The time had come to pick up the chick supplies!  We had planned to do all our shopping at the Urban Farm Store, but recently the Portland area went through a snow and ice storm that caused the store's roof to collapse. Thankfully no people or animals were injured, but we were saddened to hear the store would now be closed until further notice.

Due to circumstances at the Urban Farm Store we had to change our plans and find a new store. After some quick research we found Healing Ponds Farm and Garden Store located in Beaverton, OR. Not only did they sell farm and garden supplies, chicks and ducklings, but also sold pastured raw milk, pastured meats, pastured eggs and ferments. Now this was our kind of place! 

The girls playing with 3 week old chicks at Healing Ponds.
The woman that was working the day we stopped in to purchase our supplies was incredibly friendly, knowledgable and helpful. She loaded us up with all the chick necessities and allowed us to loiter and watch the chicks for a good 45 minutes.  The girls were sad when it came time to leave, but we promised to return the next morning to bring home the chicks.  On returning home, the Rooster and I got to work preparing the brooder box.

Items for the Brooder Box
Here are the following items needed to prepare the brooder box for 3 chicks:
Additional items to have on hand:
  • Disposable gloves (For brooder box clean up)
  • Dust mask (For brooder box clean up)
  • Hand Sanitizer (Keep by brooder to use after handling the chicks)

The Brooder Box
There are MANY choices for a brooder box.  In the end we chose a 54 gallon Rubbermaid plastic tote.

Inside of the brooder box

The Brooder Box Lid
To prevent the chicks from flying out the Rooster designed a special lid.  He cut out the middle of the tote lid and secured hardware cloth with screws, nuts and washers.

Brooder box lid

Brooder box lid

The Heat Lamp Stand
The Rooster designed a heat lamp stand using the following materials:

  • 2  -  1"x 1" x 3' square wood dowels
  • 1  -  2"x 2" x 3' square wood dowel

He used the 1"x 1"x 3' dowels to build the legs and arms of the stand and the 2"x 2"x 3' for the body. He drilled evenly spaced holes in the body so that the arm could be adjusted.

Heat Lamp Stand

The brooder box is ready to go.  Now it's time to pick up the chicks!  I hope I can sleep tonight.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Doing Some Research

Let's do this!  Now that we have read our how-to book, called the city planner and told the neighbors our minds are swirling with ideas as well as questions about how to get prepared for the chicks. What better place to start our research than at the chicken store owned by the authors of the book we read, A Chicken in Every Yard .

We made a field trip to the Urban Farm Store in Portland, Oregon.  With my first step in the door I knew I was going to love this place!  On my left was a shelf holding gorgeous fermenting crocks and beautiful blocks of beeswax.  On my right were shelves lined with rubber boots in an array of colors and a display of books covering topics from chicken care to fermenting to gardening.  Now what caught my children's eye was completely different; CHICKENS!  Real, live, chickens!  Their feet couldn't have carried them faster to the back of the store where our future feathered friends were being kept.  It was love at first sight.  For the next 10 minutes they grinned and giggled as they watched the chickens through the wire cage.

The salespeople at the Urban Farm Store were extremely friendly and helpful.  After we explained to them our chicken background and that we came to do research, they gave us some useful information about choosing a brooder box (a brooder box is where you keep your baby chicks before they are old enough to go outside in the coop). We mentioned that our original thought was to purchase a galvanized tub for the brooder and then repurpose it into a vegetable garden container after the chicks moved into the coop. He said that was a good plan, but pointed out that the tubs can be expensive.  He suggested using Farm Innovators Baby Chick Starter Home Kit as an inexpensive alternative.

Here are some pros and cons we came up with for the Farm Innovators Baby Chick Starter Home Kit :

washable and reusable
collapsable for easy storage 
comes with an adjustable height brooder lamp

no base
no wire top for when chicks start to fly out

Decisions, decisions.....

For all you chicken farmers out there or those of you who know others who've gone through this experience: What do you suggest for a brooder box?  Photos welcome!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Telling the Neighbors...

One of my biggest anxieties about preparing for our chickens was telling the neighbors.  What if one neighbor put up such a stink that it derailed our plans?  I was so nervous about this step that I actually tried to enlist the Rooster for the job.  Then it dawned on me...why not have our 5-year-old daughter come with me to tell each neighbor?  How could they say no to a cute, little girl?

On our chosen "tell all" day I had my daughter practice what she was going to say. Once I felt she was up for the challenge, the girls and I went from neighbor to neighbor to share our plan.  Each time my daughter perfectly executed the following lines: "We are going to get chickens.  No roosters, just three hens.  If they are noisy, please call us." My 2-year-old daughter then politely handed over a small piece of paper with our name and phone number.  

Here were the neighbors' reactions:

Neighbor #1 - "Oh fun!  I actually wanted chickens when my girls were young."

Neighbor #2 - "So just call you if they start squawking a lot? Thanks for telling us ahead of time." 

Neighbor #3 - "I think that's great.  My son and roommate had a chicken and it was very quiet."

Neighbor #4 - "Thanks for letting us know.  We just got a puppy so don't hesitate to contact us if she creates any problems."

Neighbor #5 - "Now let me tell you my story.  For work I go to bed at 9:00pm because I have to get up at 4:15am.  I really don't want anything to interfere with my sleep.  Also, I hope you are aware of the predators around here.  Thank you for letting me know.  Good luck with your project."

Neighbor #6- "I would love to get chickens, too!  I would love it if they flew over the fence and came in my yard!"

4 out of 6 enthusiastic neighbors.  Not bad!  I really wanted to skip this step of the process entirely. However, I am glad we did not because three good things actually came of it: 

  • One, all of our neighbors approved of our plan.  
  • Two, they were all very appreciative of us informing them ahead of time. 
  • Three, telling our nearby residents made us feel like we were being good, considerate neighbors. 

So the moral of my story is trust what the chicken experts say and TELL THY NEIGHBOR.

Phew!  I feel like a giant weight has been lifted off my shoulders.  Now my family and I can focus on preparing for the chicks to arrive.  We can't wait! 

Do any of you have a good story to share about telling your neighbors about your plans to raise chickens?