By Fredrica Syren:
It’s been almost a year since our chickens moved into our backyard. We bought four hens from a neighbor — along with a chicken coop he had built. “The girls,” as my husband calls them, are an endless joy for our kids and ourselves. The kids named them Gunilla, Laura, Christy and Amelia. Since they love our compost and eat mostly our leftover food scraps, we see them as the cutest composters ever; in return, they provide us with both eggs and great fertilizer for our vegetable garden.
Before getting backyard chickens, make sure to contact your local health and zoning boards to check whether keeping chickens in your neighborhood is permitted. If so, find out how many are permissible and where they need to be in your garden. In San Diego, where we live, we’re permitted to have 5 chickens for our size lot — but no rooster. You also need to figure out if you have enough room for chickens and a coop.
The next thing to do is research the kind of chickens that would be best for you. I must admit we did not do this since we had someone who wanted to sell his chickens and coop cheap. (He had realized that he did not enjoy eggs as much as he thought he would. Hahaha!) Our “girls” were already 2 years old and, from what I have learned, that’s considered old for egg laying chickens. But our girls are good egg layers, so we get about 3-4 eggs a day, more than we eat. You can get the small baby chicks, but that comes with the risk of possibly ending up with a rooster, and figuring out what to do with it can be tricky.
Our chickens are outside all day long, and we have invested in a solar door for the coop so we don’t have to open and close it every day. At the beginning, we had a problem with the girls flying out of the chicken area and into our vegetable garden, and eating EVERYTHING. We even had a close encounter with our friend’s dog, so to prevent this, we have cut the feathers on one side of their wings so they can’t fly very well. This does not hurt them at all and just simply makes life easier for us.
We have an automatic water dispenser in the coop, so we don’t have to refill their water all the time. As well, we have a feeder that we can fill up once a week. This way, we can leave them for a few days. We buy 40-lb. bags of organic chicken feed from Costco for $30; and we buy bedding for inside the coop at Petco. We do buy the chickens dried mealworms as a treat, too. That’s all the money we spend on our girls, so they are not very expensive to keep. We clean the coop and the chicken run about once a week.
I never realized how much fun chickens are, or how friendly and funny they are. My kids love hanging out with them and caring for them, and I love listening our hens cluck quietly and softly all day long.
For more information about backyard chickens, go here: