Monday, April 28, 2014


And here they are, our little peepers! We ordered three silkie chicks through our local feed store Standard Feed, and after waiting for about two weeks we finally got the call we'd been waiting for with bated breath: Your chicks are here for pick-up!

We wanted silkies for their cute looks and less so for their egg production. As I mentioned a little while ago, we aren't in it just for the eggs - those are a neat side effect of having chicken. As a breed, silkies really appealed to us and we are madly in love with their looks. They are also a Bantam breed so they are smaller than the average chicken, but we were very surprised to see just how much smaller they are. The chicks were -tiny-!

We went with three different color for ease of identification: blue, white, and black. Since our family has Irish roots (and I'm a bit Iron Druid fan) we went with Irish names: Danu (pronounced "Da-noo") for our little blue chick, Niamh (pronounced "Neev") for our little white one, and Morrigan for our little black one with the attitude.Aren't they adorable?

See how tiny they are? This is Danu, our snuggle chic. she loves to cuddle right into the palm of your hand when you pick her up! They are about half the size of regular chicks of the same age.

And here's the peep squad rocking out under the red light of the heat lamp!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Hatching A Coop (Part I)

With our chicks safely tucked into their brooder box for the next couple of weeks, it was now time to start planning and building our chicken coop.
Pinterest proved invaluable in collecting information and inspiration. There are so many different types of coops around, from plain and utilitarian to fancy and whimsical, in all sizes, colors, and even architectural styles. After a while your vision goes blurry and your brain will stop working. It's great to have pinterest to collect all the inspiration in one neat spot:

(check out my chicken board here)

We really, really loved the Hobbit Hole type of coops, but for our small urban backyard, space considerations played a major role in deciding on a coop design. Since we are required to keep our hens safely fenced in and need to protect them from birds of prey and the cats during the day, we needed to include a run while keeping the coop a whopping 5' away from the property line to boot. Not a small feat when half your yard is already taken up by an above-ground pool and two A/C  compressors - ugh!
That pointed us into the direction of two-story coops, the kind of coop with a run as the ground level and a cute little ladder going up to the second story penthouse!

Like this one.

 (Pin here)

Or this one.

(Pin here)

We also discovered the Smartcoop (tm) online and really, really like its look, but there were a couple of details that didn't mesh with our requirements, for example we wanted a coop with floor for our silkies (they aren't big on flying and roosting due to their fluffy feathers) as well as a separate door to access the nesting boxes, so we didn't go for that one.
However, after building our coop and adding up the expenses I'd say go for it, especially if you aren't handy with tools. Right now they are even offering free shipping!

At the end of the day we decided on a two-story coop with fold-up roof for easy access and clean-up, a separate door for access to the integrated nesting boxes, and a bottom run. Those two stories with a measurement of 3'x4' give us 24sqft of living space for our chicken without additional attached run (future project alert!).

Not wanting to use pallet wood due to its chemical soaked nature we went shopping at the big blue box first! Stay tuned!

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Broody Box

As somebody who considers anything below 79F "sock weather", I can seriously relate to chicks needing warmth to thrive. Hell yeah! Even I would consider a heating lamp over my nest absolutely creature comfort.

So, in preparation for the arrival of our babies (special ordered silkies) we had to create a brooder box for them to keep them warm, safe from cats and dog, and contained.

We started with a large-ish plastic bin. We picked the clear plastic for entirely selfish reasons - we wanted to be able to see our baby birds from every angle, and we're glad we went this route because OMIGOD they are cute!

Our plastic bin came with a handy warning label that you cannot put babies into it with the lid on, so we cut a hole into the lid and covered the opening with some hardware cloth.

We wanted to make sure that neither cat nor dog could get their paws onto the peepers while at the same time allowing for plenty of ventilation. The top was easy to cut with a sharp knife. Not quite like "buttah" but not too bad either. Just stab and slice, and keep going.

Working with hardware cloth is painful - it seems to consist entirely out of sharp edges and stabby spikes - but it is so much more solid and thus safer for your chicks than chicken wire. I used a pair of pliers to tuck back the pointy ends so nobody would get hurt.

I used a drill to drill holes along the perimeter of the opening and then used thin wire to 'sew' the hardware cloth to the top.

Chicken wire should really be renamed to something like Veggie wire; it's good for keeping out birds from your veggie beds but you're not supposed to use it for anything chicken related, really, because it's too flimsy and doesn't offer protection from predators. Go, figure!

I drilled two more and bigger holes into either side of the box and ran a dowel through it for a quick and easy roost.

Final touches were the water bottle which was fashioned from a simple water bottle to which we attached a drinking nipple (drill hole into lid, screw in nipple - done!) and a store-bought feeder. We line our brooder box with paper towels so the peepers don't slip and develop a case of spraddle leg, and then top it off with a layer of pine shavings (Remember - No cedar shavings; they are toxic for chicks).

All set and ready for some baby birds!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Cluck Yeah!

Life's been crazy - that seems to be the norm over here these days and I'm not particularly crazy about it - and while there's not been a peep from me here ,life did not come to a stand-still. Oh no, no such luck.

Biggest news - chicken are legal now!

Thanks to the initiative of Lauren Trad and "Hens in Jax" and the wide-spread support throughout town, Jacksonville is finally embarking on a limited two-year pilot project allowing up to 5 hens (no roosters) in combination with single family homes in residential areas. A few neighborhoods opted out but fortunately for us, Historic Springfield is on board!

In order to snatch up one of the 300 coveted backyard hen permits, Little Man and I signed up for the required class (we both enjoyed that very much thanks to the fun speakers), received our chicken class certificate, and then filed for our permit the next day. In less than a week we were holding our backyard hen permit in our hot, sweaty hands.

Cluck yeah!

Why chicken?
For the heck of it.
 I mean, we are not in it -just- for the eggs. At the end of the day it'd be cheaper to keep on buying organic eggs at the store, especially with our silkies who are not known for consistent egg production, but it's not nearly as much fun and as rewarding.

We ordered our Silkie chicks and while waiting for our chicks to arrive, we did major research on which coop for our hens, planned where to put it, did some slight rearranging in our backyard and got going on building a home for our feathered pets with benefits here at our little old house.

More on that later!