So a lovely friend who I met through an online business community we are both members of commented asking about what it takes to raise backyard chickens. I had already planned on creating a post on this very topic, so I decided to dive in and get it written. Here goes! The first couple of weeks were a bit intense. I had no idea what I was doing, so I made a few newbie mistakes but it was a fun learning process.
Building the coop was an insane amount of work (for my husband and his helper, our 12-year-old daughter).
Once the chicks were in the coop, the biggest issue for me personally was my fear of the predators I was warned about. People who have raised chickens told me horror stories about coyotes, weasels, raccoons, and neighbor dogs killing their chickens. Everyone told me that there is no such thing as a ‘predator-proof’ chicken coop’. I felt responsible for these little beings, so I went to the extreme to keep them safe.
I the picture on the right, you can see my husband and daughter installing wire mesh over the coop window (which is needed for ventilation). I figured it would make it impossible for anything to tear through the screen to get in. We installed locks on the coop door and reinforced any holes (there are two vents on either side of the roof) with the same wire mesh.
I also installed a baby monitor, lol. I kept it beside my bed at night ready to fly out the door (which I did unnecessarily multiple times) to protect my brood of vulnerable sleeping chicks. I also read somewhere that mint keeps raccoons away. My neighbor (an old school farmer) came driving by and unfortunately saw me sprinkling mint essential oil around the base of my coop, lol. He was truly amused.
The chicks arrived on my birthday (August 30th) so they are now almost 3 months old. We started with 16 chicks and in a brutal moment, one of our dogs managed to very quickly kill 2. One died instantly and the other died in my arms as I held space for her. It was sad and it was also our fault. We learned a harsh lesson and have been much more careful since that fatal day (if you look above, you will actually see Bindi, our heeler cross slinking by the coop almost as if she knew we were going to put chickens in it.
Once the initial work was complete and the chicks were old enough not to need a heat lamp (for us, about 6 weeks old) things got MUCH easier. I wake up, walk out and open up the coop, feed, and water the chicks and sprinkle out the table scraps I’ve saved them. I check on them throughout the day if I’m around, but they have a covered area (the brush along our fenceline and the connecting forest so they are protected from birds of prey.
At the end of the day, they all huddle up safe and warm in their spacious coop (over 4′ of interior space per bird). I close and lock the door and call it a day! As for eggs, they don’t lay until around 6 months old, so we aren’t going to get eggs until Spring…for now, the only benefit is getting to watch them and interact with them. They are curious creatures for sure. When they are laying, we will get as many as 14 eggs per day! Enough for our huge family plus some to sell or share.
To me, it’s well worth the effort! I am truly enjoying my backyard brood!
That’s all she wrote,