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Chickens! November 24, 2008

Chook

No, we don't have any chickens. Not yet.

Lala has been pushing for chickens for a while now. At first, I thought she was just plain crazy. We had chickens when I was a kid, and I remember them as nasty, smelly creatures. We were paid a penny a snail to pick them from the gardens and pitch them out of the bucket to the chickens. Have you ever tried to throw snails out of a bucket? They stick.

Unpleasant memories there.

So everytime she's brought up the idea of chickens, I've said either NO WAY IN HELL or if you get chickens, you're on your own, buddy.

Which is why I'm astonished to find that I want chickens.

Suddenly. Out of the blue. I would like three chickens. I would like eggs. I have no interest in eating a pet chicken, not because I couldn't (although that's a distinct possibility) but because I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I couldn't kill one. It's hypocrisy, yes. But there it is. Novella Carpenter is able to kill her own poultry, and she's rad and is a fellow Oaklander. (If you haven't read her classic on urban turkey-killing in Salon, you must read it here.) But not for me. No.

But chickens! In a nice little hutch, with a nice-sized enclosed run, which could be moved around the yard to help with both fertilization and weed control? Totally free-range during the hours we're home to keep an on both them and the garden, free-range outside in their wire pen when we're not? Under the trees? Eggs?

And they're so pretty.

But money is an issue. Chickens are dirt cheap, maybe four bucks each. But the housing is where it gets you. We could build a chicken coop, yes. I've done some (okay, a LOT) of research already on them, and there are some great plans out there. But after the cost of lumber and tools (we really have no tools to speak of), it would cost the same as other options. The Eglu iMac house for chooks is DIVINE, but comes to more than $800 with shipping (ouch!). We ain't got that kind of scratch.

We have already dogeared our copy of Murray McMurray. Loving Backyardchickens.com. And Gwen has promised us a tour sometime of her coop.

Any clever ideas? Anyone with a chicken coop they want to offload? Anyone with stories? Mmmm?

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Comments

We are thinking about raising chicken and have the same book. My husband I guess will be eating all the eggs since I'm vegetarian.

I just this past week put up a blog and put pictures of my weaving.

Jerri

And the blog address did not display I think: http://justjera.wordpress.com/

Chickens? Really?

Huh.

I absolutely love how often you completely and utterly astonish me with your blog.

Cause at first, I was like, "Ewww... why would anyone want chickens?" And now I've thought about it. And I can see the appeal.

Fresh eggs... mmm....

What?! Lezbeens without tools?! Tsk.

You could probably construct a reasonably decent coop with salvage lumber for fairly cheap if you take the time to look around, and without necessarily needing fancy tools. In the Bay Area you won't need to have a fancy schmancy insulated deal, just someplace to keep them safe at night from marauding raccoons and coyotes (I'm assuming the latter also venture into the area). You also wouldn't need an especially big one if you're only building for 3 or 4 birds. According to this publication, you would be more than fine with a 4 x 8 coop for 4 hens (which would also work perfectly with standard lumber dimensions):

http://www.ext.vt.edu/pubs/poultry/factsheets/10.html

Craigslist? Freecycle? Post a "barter" on Craigslist -- knitting for hammering?

Chickens appear to be the new yoga. The NEW, new yoga.

Okay, I've got a charming little book for you: http://tinyurl.com/5r88zp

They are pretty tempting - my coworker has three (in a regular old residential neighborhood, not a farm) and they are really cool. They really have personalities, and they even let you pet them!

I think they built their coop, it seems pretty basic - couple of 2X4s, some plywood. You can do it!

I love chickens! They're so darling and sweet in small bunches, and home-laid eggs are infinitely more delicious.

I'm pretty sure Home Depot rents out tools, and for materials you can get stuff for free on Craigslist or go to one of those salvage yards that sells stuff from old houses for cheap. You know what I mean? Like people donate extra roofing tiles & old toilets and stuff? They usually have extra lumber, roofing, wire, etc.

Even if you can't hammer a single nail, never underestimate the sheer power of zip ties.

If you haven't already, I highly recommend Natural History of the Chicken. It's available instantly on Netflix.

My husband wants chickens too - as do I. We just need to figure out 1) how they'd be housed, 2) would they have enough space and 3) would our dopey dogs chase and terrorize them? I've always wanted chickens - I envied my friends who had them and got to go collect their eggs every day. Yay chickens! (And sorry I can't help with any answers to your questions.)

An earlier generation of those eglus was basically just an igloo-shaped dog house with some modifications -- maybe you could buy the dog house and do the mods yourself?

Chickens. YES

I subscribe to this catalog

http://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/index.html

I had bantams as a kid

Chickens! Heather and I are very seriously considering joining forces with a third neighbor for a communal chicken coop.

Yeah, chickens. I was raised in the country and we always had lots of chickens. Never killed one but have watched my parents do it and have dressed the chickens myself. (Don't think I can do it now that I am a NYC gal. Ha.)

You don't have to spend a lot of money to house the chickens. Mel and Shaina's advise is right on the money. (or lack thereof)

Still coming to NY beginning of Dec? Looking forward to finally meeting you.

Yeah, chickens. I was raised in the country and we always had lots of chickens. Never killed one but have watched my parents do it and have dressed the chickens myself. (Don't think I can do it now that I am a NYC gal. Ha.)

You don't have to spend a lot of money to house the chickens. Mel and Shaina's advise is right on the money. (or lack thereof)

Still coming to NY beginning of Dec? Looking forward to finally meeting you.

I've had chickens, and I get the appeal, but .... You have to keep them safe from predators (even your own dogs until you've trained them not to chase chickens, or crave a chicken dinner.) The fencing also has to be good in order to keep them in. They will destroy your garden, or your neighbours' gardens. And lastly, they shit a lot. This is good, and bad. Bad because you do have to deal with it. Good because, when composted, it is great for your garden.

I now just get eggs from my in-laws' chickens.

Oh, and one more thing. You kind of have to decide if you want them to be pets, or just egg producers. Most farmers put the hens in the stewpot (or so to speak) when they are no longer laying enough to be worth the feed. With my last chickens I just let them all die off from old age. I didn't want to do any more killing. I'd done a few, and it wasn't much fun.

Me again! I'm sorry! I didn't mean to be a downer about chickens. I do like chickens. Besides having fresh eggs whenever I wanted, I really liked to watch them. I had one favourite. She was a tiny little banty, and she came to us with a batch of chicks. She was great mother, and one time even took on other chicks who's mama got killed by a possum.

I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of chickens you get!

Can you convince your publisher that you need chickens for reasearch for Book 2 (and that they should pay for the chickens + coop)?
What about Book 3? Sheep? Alpaca? Convertible sportscar?

I got three words for ya, babe: tool lending library!

I was just gonna mention the tool lending library too! When I lived there, I thought it was the coolest thing, that there was a place you could borrow tools. It made me sad that I never had occasion to borrow any.

Many, many years ago we had chickens. We live on a small lot in the city and use to let them loose in the backyard - they ate every snail, slug and sowbug. Unfortunately, turned out they were illegal where we lived and we had to get rid of them. I've been wanting chickens ever since.

Have you checkout large dog houses or kennels to use as a coop? Add a door (we use to use a piece of wood and a brick) and there you go.

I don't know from chickens but Suzanne McMinn does. You should visit her blog http://www.suzannemcminn.com -- there's lots of great information about raising chickens. And about keeping them safe from harm.

I just know that the Universe (aka Craigslist) will deliver a coop to you in no time.

I, too, grew up with them (and geese! and a donkey!) and we're working on doing it again. Spoiled me forever from commercial eggs.

a) you are nuts. b) I am going to look tonight for my picture of chickens my best friend raised. Apparently in his apartment.

Doesn't the Temescal branch of the Oakland library have a tool library? I looked into it when I needed a saw; not quite sure how it works but that might help?

Wow-love the comment about getting the publisher to spring for them(and THEN the convertible). My sister just did this-bought 5 chicks and has raised them up. My brother in law is really handy and built the coop out of PVC(cheap and durable)and used wood on the bottom edge, the nesting boxes, stuff like that. Think it was relatively inexpensive and they should be getting eggs soon. On another note-you inspired me with your run and I ran my first EVER run, 5K, on the 15th and had a blast and a a good time for each mile. Good luck with the chicks!

A tool lending library sounds great. I bet you also have friends with tools you could borrow. And you could do a barn-raising style chicken coop party - lure some smart, able friends with food & music, and they will probably build you a coop in no time from stuff they have lying around in their garage.

I want chickens. GG keeps pointing out that we don't have much space, we don't eat that many eggs, we have a fox and local cats... Still want them. For now though they are just forming part of my dream house with the garden big enough for a mini orchard, chickens, veg patch and flowers.

I will be Very Jealous of yours.

I've been planning to get chickens for ages now, but I have the same housing cost problem. Just the other day I found this site:

http://www.catawbacoops.com/

He sells plans for $20, which are apparently very detailed and simple, geared for the amateur, no fancy tools needed. He gives you a materials list, which will apparently cost about $250 at Home Depot.

Not cheap, but very affordable compared to other coops!

I have the same aversion towards chickens. I was chased by a Rooster when I was really young, and since then, not a fan of chickens. I could see how fresh eggs could be a good perk though...

With that said, I am a cage-free egg buyer. So that IS a perk.

I keep begging for chickens, but N. thinks the dogs will terrify them. I claim they will know they are all one family.

Have you read Kingsolvers "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle"? Her youngest daughter Lily keeps chickens, and the Lily parts of the book are some of my favorite.

A lot of businesses give away wooden shipping palettes. Drive through some industrial parks and look for the "Free" signs.

Got any handy neighbors who might let you borrow some tools or pitch in on building the coop in exchange for a regular supply of eggs?

I love my chickens! You want chicken stories? Ok, here you go!
http://maplecorners.blogspot.com/2007/12/pheasants-are-funny-turkeys-are-too.html

Dude, I totally want chickens, too, and am just as astonished at myself as you are!

I've been trying to figure out how to bypass the "no livestock" bylaw in my city by passing them off as pets and promising eggs to my neighbors as a way of buying them off so they won't report me.

Oh, man! Could you wait till spring when I have a passport and some dough in the bank? I'm a carpenter! It would be too cool to impress you and Lala with a chicken coop!

ooh - pretty please get chickens. we desperately want some, but we live on a postage stamp sized city lot and have no space for the coop (that wouldn't be directly under the neighbor's kitchen window. that seems mean.)
the peeps across the street built their own plywood coop, but i must admit that it's not cute (though perfectly functional). good luck with the chicks!

ha! didn't even realize that cari had beat me to the punch.
must go gently harass third neighbor (with much larger yard).

Carol and I will gladly lend you whatever tools we have. Yay - chickens! I'll lend Lala my chicken-care books too. I'd be up for a coop-raising party. I bet you could raffle off tickets for handknitted socks and raise some $$ for the project....

Email Lori O at happygoodluck.com (another knit blogger). She has raised chickens in her backyard -- even knit her Henny-Penny a hat! It's on the mast head of her blog!

Good (c)luck.

Chickens are pretty cool and interesting, but they are super messy in a small yard. They will decimate a garden, not only by eating everything, but they tear up stuff with their feet.

We only have one chicken left, and all she wants to do when she's out of her coop is get in the house. It's her main goal in life. The garage is as close as she can get, and if she didn't poop all over I wouldn't mind.

The dogs leave her alone, and the cats have never messed with her.

Maybe you can get your chicken fix here until you can get your own: http://luckycluckfarms.com/page/2/

We had chickens when my husband had that small ranch in Arizona. Although they had a HUGE yard to run around in, and a HUGE coop to set in, they still insisted on trying to dig a hole under the fence. It was Chicken Run all over again!

They can sleep in a doghouse. Just make them go in at night or they'll be roosting in the trees. And the aren't that destructive. And the eggs are so much better than store bought. And the dogs will learn not to chase them if you keep the dogs in and the chickens out unless you are home to scream at them like banshees.
I let mine sit on my lap like oversize cats. They are no trouble. Just make sure when you buy them, you get the sexed kind-you want all hens and no roosters. You don't need them for nothing. All they do is make noise and act all psycho.

Get some whack looking chickens. They are more fun.

Oooh, yes, chickens are fabulous pets--cheap to keep, fun to watch and interact with, and they provide eggs! Coops can be very basic and easy to complex beautiful buildings. I bought a bunch of plywood and lumber, salvaged a bit that was to be thrown away at a building site (got permission), and threw a chicken-coop-raising party, and people came, and we managed to put something workable together, and my chickens seem pretty happy with it. Good luck, and have fun!

Girl. One word: ducks. ok, 3 words,
as in Khaki Campbell ducks. Awesome friendly ducks, much easier to keep happy, they lay more eggs than da chicks and the eggs are better for you and biggah. just sayin'.

My parents got chickens this summer and I looked at some of the online info. I was surprised at the variety of housing available! Chicken Spa?! The house made to look like a garbage can?! Many others. Now my dad wants a heated water bowl for Christmas.

Can you rent tools??? Or borrow? I'm sure someone would build you a coop for handknit socks!

Ha! I know Novella! I was going to suggest you read her blog but you are already there!

I look forward to showing off our coop, such as it is. You will suddenly find that anything you do will likely be wonderful and thorough and well-made.

Now, if you were trying to do a rabbit hutch, well, we've got everyone beat. Luxury digs our rabbit enjoys.

Funny thing is that my husband built both of them. The rabbit was my idea. The chickens were his.

Have you thought about a large plastic dog crate? Also, check craigslist for pallets, a lot of businesses give them away for free, some sell them dirt cheap, and you can wire/tie four of them together for a loose jointed little coop. You might also think about one of those chain link dog kennels for fencing them in during the day.

Get the chickens - they are so much fun! Ours were hatched on June 4th and 10th (we got three and then another one when we went back for more food the next week!). They will be in the house for the first 6-8 weeks in their brooder anyway. We have one dog (Australian Shepherd) and four cats - all do well with the chickens (actually the chickens chase the cats - it's pretty funny). We finally got our first egg on 25NOV - only one of the girls is laying and we know it's the Amerucana (Dixie) because of the color of her eggs (bluish green). We have a brooder and what I call the "summer house" - it was their first, temp coop and is a 3 x 8 A-frame coop with a small house. E-mail me if you are interested - I'm not far from Oakland.

I have wanted chickens for-freakin-ever. I would need to build a cage run with a top, though, as I'm sure the raccoons would get them otherwise (and could maybe get them anyway, ugh).

I want the kind that lay all colors of eggs. Too cool.

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