Our Backyard Chicken Journey

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I shared our Tardis chicken coop in an earlier post, which can be found here, but now it's time to share our journey with the chickens!

Raising Baby Chicks

We decided to start out with five baby chicks, which was the max our city would allow for our residence. We got our chicks from Anoka-Ramsey Farm & Garden. We contacted them through Facebook to see if they had the breeds we wanted. They were very friendly and let us know when our chicks were in! 

Since we live in the city, roosters aren't allowed, so we went with sexed chicks, but even then they are not able to guarantee the sex, and we did end up with one male Buff Orpington, Don(na), who we had to rehome, so we ended up with only four chickens: Clara the Silver Laced Wyandotte, Thirteen the Golden Laced Wyandotte, Missy the Australorp, and River the Welsummer.

Due to this experience, we have decided when the time comes for new chickens, we will probably go with pullets instead so we don't have to worry about rehoming again.

How To Care For Baby Chicks

We kept our baby chicks in a very large cardboard box, lined with paper bags covered in pine shavings, in our basement laundry room. We created a wire mesh lid so they could not fly out. In hindsight, it was definitely not the best choice as chickens are messy and they got dust everywhere. Ideally, we would have kept them outside, but we were still building the coop at the time.

Baby chicks will need a small waterer and a feeder. As we felt it would be wasteful to buy these since they would only be little for a short time, my husband made ours using an empty plastic juice bottle, yogurt container, and take-out bowls. 

We bought chick feed and a heat lamp. To help keep our box warmer, we would cover half of the box with a towel, so not all the heat would escape through the wire mesh cover we had made. My husband already had an infrared thermometer, so we used that to make sure the box was warm enough for them.

For the bedding, there are two methods, there's the deep litter, where instead of changing the bedding, you just add fresh bedding on top, and then there's the change it all completely when it is dirty. We did a combination, so I think we only completely changed the bedding twice, maybe three times, while they were living in their box.

When the chicks reached six weeks of age, we moved them outside into the chicken coop. At six weeks, they no longer need a heat lamp.

Taking Care of Chickens

Once in the chicken coop, which we lined with straw, we set up the main waterer and feeder. We would cover the door to the run at night to keep them in until they got used to using the ramp from the coop to the run. Now we leave the door uncovered so they can come and go as they please.

At around eighteen weeks we switched our chickens to adult layer feed

If you live in a climate that has four seasons, you will want a heated base for your waterer to prevent the water from freezing. 

We refill the chickens' water and food once to twice a week as needed. We also freshen their bedding about once a week as well, just turning it with a rake so their droppings fall underneath the straw, and then add some fresh straw on top. Since it is winter, we won't do a complete bedding change until spring arrives. 

We got our chickens in August 2020 and they started laying eggs in January 2021.

Gathering Eggs

When our chickens started laying, we did not have nesting boxes as we honestly thought they would wait until spring, but nope, they gave us the first egg in January, and in February we started getting up to three eggs a day!

My husband managed to make a "poop board," which he installed under their roost. It's basically just a wooden board with a vinyl top to make it easy to scrape the poop out of their coop and to give them a clean place underneath to lay eggs. The chickens have been laying their eggs underneath it the board since he installed it in the coop. He will make them proper boxes once it gets warm enough to work in the garage. 

One thing we struggled with is on below-freezing days, sometimes we wouldn't make it in time and we would find a frozen cracked egg. We aimed to go out once an hour, but our chickens lay at random times, and we discovered that it did not take very long for an egg to freeze, so even with our hourly checks, we would still end up with a cracked egg every now and then. 

For safety reasons, we toss the frozen eggs but have heard others will cook them and give them back to their chickens to avoid being wasteful. Some chicken keepers are even brave enough to use them for baking as the oven supposedly gets hot enough to kill any bacteria that may have seeped into the cracked egg.

We do not wash the eggs until we are ready to use them. We store them in plastic egg cartons that we saved from when we bought eggs at Target. When it comes time to wash them, we use a bowl of warm water and a washcloth to gently wipe them clean and then rinse them under running warm water. 

We do have a UV light sterilizer that we contemplated using to kill any potentially harmful bacteria, but when we asked around in various chicken groups, no one seemed to do more than use water to clean their eggs. I still can't find any information using UV light to help lower the risk of salmonella and e.coli on backyard chicken eggs. So far we have opted to not use the sterilizer as it seems the risk is very low, but we may later.

And that's all there really is to chicken keeping! They are surprisingly not that hard to care for and a lot of fun. Most of the hard work is just getting the coop made and ready. 

Follow @whovianchickens on Instagram to see more photos of our chickens!