Chickens: 4 Months
At 4 and a 1/2-ish months, we’ve settled into life with backyard chickens. You think it’s something like this.
Me and the Joanie Chicken. Early mornings, cooing and coddling at the Ladies, collecting imaginary eggs, and gently scooping them into their fresh air tractor. Tralalala. Urban Homestead pastoral.
Really it’s more like this.
Bossy boots Lady Gaga. Not wanting to be caught. Get in the damn tractor you stupid bird, because I am late for work, and I’m pretty sure there is now chicken poo on my shirt. How do I know there’s chicken poo on my shirt? Oh, because it happens about two times a week. Really its a flaw in the schedule. Note to self: Deal with chicken transport prior to getting dressed to leave the house.
Inadvertent contact with poop aside, this ain’t that hard folks. If not a chicken in every pot, how about a bunch more in backyards? These chickens are exactly what I wanted them to be (minus the egg bit). They are easy to handle, pleasant, not too smelly, and not at all afraid of dogs. That last part may be to their detriment at some point in time. The Ladies seem to have no understanding that Rocco could kill them. In fact, he probably plots it regularly. Gaga is brave. And very very stupid.
Chicken chores on the daily are as follows:
Between 7:30am – 9:00am (which is totally pushing it): Open coop door, and windows, bring fresh water, 2 scoops of food. If weather permits, provide manual transport to mobile tractor unit, where Ladies will spend their day.
This is the most labor intensive chicken task I do. Pick up chicken. Walk to tractor. Toss in chicken. Repeat 5 times. You also need to relocate the tractor about once a day, usually a whole 5ft or so.
Total time investment: Including tractor transfer 15 minutes max. This accounts for the occasional escapee who must be lured with snacks. Snacks which look like this.
Ewwwwww. Meal worms. Yet another reason to wear gloves in chicken dealings. Excellent bait for tricking the wayward chicken into doing your bidding though.
The Ladies get restless in their tractor, so we usually let them out mid-day. They follow me (not The Husband, he has other methods) from tractor to run in a orderly fashion (for chickens). Takes under 5 minutes. Usually more like 2.
Between 7:00pm and 8:30pm (these are their summer hours): Bring in kitchen scraps, 1 scant scoop of food and close up shop. Lock windows and doors. Good night Ladies.
Total time investment: Less than 10 minutes. Way less if I’m not feeling like much of an avian conversationalist.
That’s it. What are we talking here? 30 minutes max. About once a month I take a field trip into the coop to change straw and chips. That’s maybe a half an hour. Maybe. No big. If I were getting eggs out of this arrangement, it’d be totally worth it.
About those eggs, I knew going into my baby chick endeavor that it’d be months sans eggs. Them’s just the facts of life. I got it. In reality, I feel like these girls have been with me forever. I forget we are eggless in Seattle. Until someone brings it up. Then I’m suddenly jilted about my lack of eggs. Eggs I’m still paying $6 a dozen for. Ahem. Gaga, get busy.
The time is coming. I happen to know that other chicks from the same batch as my Ladies are now amongst the ranks of layers. Those girls are sex link, egging machines, but still… same time frame. Now laying. Closing in. Closing in. I’ve begun to supplement their diets with calcium. I’ve even taken a peak into the boxes a couple times, just in case I missed something.
I don’t want to paint the chicken investment as all roses. There are things to worry about. Beyond poop on your shirt. Raccoons worry me for instance. All the million and one ways chickens can get sick and suddenly die. That’s a concern. I say a little prayer every time I open the coop door in the morning. Please no carnage, please no carnage, please no carnage. In practice though.. ehhh, not so bad.
And I think my chickens are maybe spoiled. They aren’t good foragers. They like their processed crumble food. They do not devour veggie scraps with glee. They pick. They’d like me to cut it up please, and fill the feeder while I’m at it. I’ve created feathered monsters. Feathered monsters who are not afraid of dogs.
Eggs anytime, Ladies. Anytime.
Who wants to place wagers on when I’ll get the first egg? What’s your experience with backyard chickens? Are you planning a flock? Has our endeavor inspired you? Or am I perhaps crazy?