Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Chickens - day five. Cost, care and cuddling.

1 week old chicks
    As with anything I do in life I googled the hell out of the topic before making any decisions. What kind of chickens should I get? Are they easy to take care of? Am I going to regret this? Will a coop in my backyard make me look like an old'timey farmer or the new age sexy urban kind? After weeks of information gathering via my work desk computer, I dove in; last week Friday I bought 13 chickens with plans of giving 6 to my mom after they feather out.
    I chose 4 Barred Rocks, 4 Aracuanas "Easter Eggers," 3 ISA Browns, and 2 Buff Orpingtons. I wanted friendly, hardy birds for my backyard flock that not only look pretty but would also produce a reasonable amount of eggs and were fat enough to eat should I decide chickens in my backyard are annoying. The ISA Browns don't exactly fit this description; apparently they are skinny little egg laying machines and aren't quite as cute and cuddly as the rest of my choices, but hopefully their laying abilities will make up for it.
    I chose to purchase the chicks from my local feed store as apposed to Tractor Supply. The owner knew exactly where the chicks came from, the day they hatched, what they had been fed up to that day and I felt better about supporting the local store than the giant farm supply chain.

Total initial costs:
  • $19 for a 3' x 2' plastic bin (I should have gone with a more sustainable metal feed trough) 
  • $10 for a giant bag of wood shavings
  • $12 for chick starter feed
  • $8 for a thermometer to monitor the brooder temp (Is it ironic that I have a meat thermometer in there with them?)
  • $20 for a heat lamp and bulb
  • $26 for 13 baby chicks 
  • $0 free feeder and waterer from our neighbor
  • $20 for sexy rubber boots
  • Grand start-up cost of around $107.00
    I have 2 dogs and a 1 year old daughter otherwise I would have went with the free cardboard box option - not only is it a more sustainable option, its free. After I left the feed store I also felt that I should have gone with the un-medicated organic chick starter, but I saw flashes in my head of me laying on a psychiatrists couch after killing all 13 chicks from some unknown disease and opted for standard medicated feed my first time around with plans of switching to organic or at least locally produced feed before they start laying.
    My daughter is by far the most feared predator at this time and I keep the brooder on a table high above her curious outstretched arms. When presented with the fluffy bundle of joy she lightly touches it with one finger, she then lightly strokes its head and laughs and without warning goes in to grab its head and 'cuddle' it. The dogs look easy to train comparatively. 
    This week starts coop building. We bought the plans from The Garden Coop website with intentions of making mods to fit our needs since we will be using the deep litter method which appears to be the most maintenance free way of keeping chickens.
    Of course keeping chickens will add additional chores to the daily life, but its hard to put a price on fresh eggs, organic bug control and free fertilizer. Google tells me it will be between 4-6 months before these little gals start laying, oh the anticipation!

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