Our guest blogger for today is my youngest sister, Chicken Farmer, who is one of the residents of Double S Farms. Guess what!? They are ready for chickens!
Many of you have read Noelle’s post, (A Small House, Transplants and Chickens), about our plans to bring some chickens to Double S Farms. Well, the time has almost come and our little chicks should be arriving in the mail next week. We are beyond excited.
We have lived at Double S Farms for just about a year now and have been toying around with the chicken idea ever since we moved in. This past October, we went on a self-guided tour of the Valley’s coolest urban poultry set-ups (The Phoenix Tour de Coops). Talking with the chicken owners, seeing their chickens and coop setups, and learning about the benefits of having our own backyard flock sealed the deal.
Since I don’t do much of the gardening at Double S Farms, I have volunteered myself to be the “Chicken Farmer” and have jumped into the role wholeheartedly. There are several things I have done to get us ready for our new adventure.
First and foremost, I had to get a pair of boots. I have always loved and adored boots of all kinds so getting my very own pair of Hunter Wellingtons, was a top priority (well, top priority to me). I know, I know….seriously, if I have to scoop chicken poop, I’d like to look stylish while doing so.
In addition, I’ve read countless books on raising chickens and have spent hours gleaning information from websites like The City Chicken and The Backyard Chicken. I’ve even joined the Phoenix Permaculture Guild and taken some local classes on raising hens.
The next thing on the agenda was to design the coop. We explored several different coop setups on the “Tour de Coops” and the coop we liked the best was made from a converted shed. So we converted an 8′ x 10′ shed of our own. The chickens will have plenty of room to roam in their 25′ x 20′ fenced in yard around the coop. We are hoping to let them out into the larger yard a few hours each day to do some “hunting”. We have a lot of scorpions around Double S Farms and chickens love to snack on them.
The coop is just about finished. We still need to paint the exterior, finish some work on the fence, and build up a berm around the fence to protect them from the flood irrigation.
Once we finished the majority of the coop, we started on our brooder. A brooder is a box or cage of some sort where you can raise young chicks and keep them warm until they are fully feathered and ready to move into their coop. Baby chicks can’t regulate their body temperatures so a heated brooder is essential. Fortunately, brooders don’t need to be too fancy so a giant Rubbermaid box, some pine shavings, a feeder, waterer, heat lamp and thermometer are all we need.
Once we had all of those preparations in order, we sat down and decided how many and what types of chickens we would order. Overall, we’d like to have a flock of 8 hens. Since egg laying productivity starts to decline after a year and a half or so, we decided to order 4 chicks now and then another 4 or 5 chicks next year. That way, we’ll always have a few hens that are in their egg-laying “prime”.
I have boys that are 2 and 3 years old. they will be very involved in helping me with the hens so it is essential that we have breeds that are a bit more friendly and social, which is why we chose to order two Easter Eggers (mixed breed), a Barred Plymouth Rock, and a Buff Orpington. Not only are they better “pets” than some other breeds, they are also hardier to our summer heat (although precautions still need to be taken when it gets extreme).
Buff Orpington Chicken (Wikepedia photo)
About a week ago, we ordered our four chicks from MyPetChicken.com. Sometime next week, they will express mail our little day-old chicks to us. I’m still baffled about receiving live animals in the mail, but apparently it is very common. Chicks can live for 2-3 days without any additional food or water since they are still receiving nourishment from their yolk so they should be fine in transport.
I’m sure Noelle will keep you all posted on our chicken raising adventures and I always appreciate any advice or tips that anyone has to offer a novice like me.
*Noelle here….I will keep you updated as to when the chicks arrive next week. I will be going with my sister to pick them up at the post office because I am sure you all will be waiting with baited breath to see photos of their arrival 😉