Adding to our Flock of Chickens- Did You Know You Can Get Baby Chicks in the Mail?

If you have chickens of your own, you’ll understand this… Five chickens was just not enough. Have you ever heard people joke about chicken math? It is the idea that once you have chickens, you keep adding to your flock while trying to convince yourself that you don’t have as many chickens as you actually do. Though this does not exactly describe us, I can definitely see how it could be an issue if your chickens are completely free range. We, on the other hand, have a limited amount of space, so we planned exactly how many chickens we wanted to complete the flock and built our chicken coop and run to accommodate that number of chickens.

For us, twenty-one was the magic number. We came up with that number by determining the appropriate amount of square footage needed for a single chicken and looking at the materials we had on hand for construction. Taking those two numbers together, we determined that we could accommodate twenty-one chickens. We started out with four hens and one rooster – not necessarily by choice. See my earlier post to hear the story of how we got started with chickens. We have two red hens (I think they are New Hampshire Reds, but I am not certain), a Black Australorp hen, a Leghorn hen, and a Leghorn rooster.

Here’s a photo of my adult chickens (from left to right – Myrtle, Snow, Pecky, Coalie, Clarabelle):


When I started looking into expanding the flock, I began to research different breeds. I looked at their temperament, their weather tolerance, their egg laying averages and colors, and their appearance. I started making a wish list of breeds that I liked. I immediately decided that Silver Laced Wyandottes had to be on my list. Their black and white feathers are just beautiful to me! For the same reason, I added Plymouth Barred Rocks. Next up was the Easter Egger. I love the beautiful egg colors that they lay. Ameraucanas were on my list, too. I had to do quite a bit of research here because I kept getting conflicting information about whether these two were actually the same or not. I finally found that they are not the same and that Ameraucanas are a little more difficult to find than Easter Eggers since the Easter Eggers are actually a hybrid. Ameraucanas are still on my wish list, but I was unable to find them when I got ready to order, so I decided the Easter Eggers would have to suffice for now.

My six-year-old holding one of the baby chicks:

I liked the idea of the heritage breeds, so I added some Buff Orpingtons to the mix. I like supporting heritage breeds because I feel like we are preserving a bit of history by doing so. Finally, since we have just one Black Austraulorp, I decided to get her a flockmate so that she would not be alone. In the end, after a good bit of number crunching, my list consisted of four Silver Laced Wyandottes, two Plymouth Barred Rocks, four Easter Eggers, five Buff Orpingtons, and one Black Australorp. Next, since I am not very patient, I began to search for a way to get these chicks in a hurry. I was excited to find out that you can order chicks online from hatcheries and have them sent directly to you by way of the U.S. Postal Service. Yes, you read that correctly – they will ship live chicks to you in the mail!

This is how they looked the moment we opened the package:

I found great reviews for two hatcheries, and ended up deciding on Meyer Hatchery since they had what I wanted available for delivery the following week. I placed my order, read the information provided, and began gathering supplies. The following week (the week of the expected delivery), I contacted my local post office to tell them that I was expecting a delivery of live chicks sometime that week. They called me on the morning that the chicks arrived, and I went down to pick up my peeping box.

This is a photo moments after we put them all into their new home:

We followed the directions and dipped each of their beaks into the vitamin water that we had mixed for them, placed them in a container with water, food, and a 125-watt heat lamp, and we were off and running. We are in the third week now, and they are all growing like crazy, so we must be doing something right! Follow my blog for more updates. I will share all the lessons we learn as we continue this adventure. You can also follow me on Instagram @backyardfarmproject for photos.

Chicks happily eating:

 

For the Love of Chickens – Building the Coop and Covered Run

We live in the country – wide open fields, green grass, pastures, hills, blue skies, and lots of wildlife. With lots of wildlife, you also get lots of predators. We are blessed to have two super watchdogs who keep guard over our chickens, but we wanted to be extra sure that nothing would happen to them, so we put a lot of thought into the design of our coop and run.

My husband is a really talented guy with a variety of skills and a creative mind, so my research paired with his ingenuity resulted in what (so far) has been a great design. He builds fences and decks as a side job, so we had a lot of spare materials from jobs where he had to first tear down an existing structure to make way for a new one. We have saved everything we felt might be salvageable, and it was becoming an eyesore, so we were happy to find a way to repurpose a lot of it.

We started with a basic size in mind and knew that we wanted our chicken coop to be positioned off the ground for a couple of reasons. First, it allowed the chickens to still walk beneath it, allowing us to utilize all of our square footage. Second, it seemed like it would be safer than if it was sitting directly on the ground. We wanted to provide every method we could come up with of security from predators. Once we had a basic design in mind, the first step was to build the frame. We decided on chain link for the run since we felt it would be easier to move from one location to another than wood. My husband began measuring, cutting, and welding poles together to create a frame.


Once the frame was in place, the next step was to add the chain link around the edges. After some discussion and trial, we decided that in addition welding the chain link to the frame would be the most secure method. We saw a couple of YouTube videos where foxes pulled the chain link out from the frame and got inside, and we did not want that to happen, so this seemed to be a good alternative.

In the following photo, you can see the reclaimed hardwood flooring inside the coop. By cutting it to fit snugly and leaving out the screws, it is easy to flip the boards over to clean the coop. You can also see the roost running the length of the coop. This is where our chickens sleep each night. The opening is their entrance. They fly up through the opening to get into the coop.

Our son (and one of our many cats) had to get in and try out the coop before the roof was installed.

Our favorite feature of the coop is this little spying window that my husband came up with and built. He framed a small piece of plexiglass and added a little shutter to the outside. This allows us to peek inside when the chickens are in the coop so that we can see what is going on. It is nice to be able to determine which hen is using which nesting box – and it is also just fun to turn the light on inside the coop and look inside when they are on the roost. When we build a fire on the porch and prop open the shutter, they look at us as much as we look at them. 🙂

Up next was the installation of the nesting boxes. Again, we were trying to save money and use what we had, so we decided on these little lightweight plastic crates. They are made for stacking, and we just screwed the top and bottom ones together but left the pairs separate so that they are easy to move. You can see where we cut a large opening in the front of each of them for the hens to enter through. We cut a smaller hole in the back of each to use for retrieving eggs from the outside. In this photo, you can also see the metal roof.

After the construction of the coop was finished, we painted it and painted all of the welded parts of the chain link. The little red rectangle is the window.

Here is a view from the end.

This is a close-up of the nesting boxes from the outside of the coop. We lined each box with a piece of cardboard then added hay. They are easy to remove through the opening in the back and clean out when needed. The door has two locks, and my husband welded a piece that drops down into the locked door latches to keep anything from flipping the latches open.

The last structural element was the lower fence that covered the portion below the coop on the back. You can see my hubby hard at work welding the chain link onto the frame.

We used some old metal roofing from a shed we tore down to cover half the run so that the chickens could enjoy walking around a pecking the ground even when it is raining. Steve is on top of the run, fastening down the metal. You can also see a couple of the extra items I added. There is a tire that I painted red which holds a dirt/ash mixture for their dirt bath. There are also two stumps at varying heights that they sometimes like to perch atop.

Below, you can see the tow straps attached or the four wheeler. We used these to move it close to where it needed to go then moved it the final few feet by hand. The metal frame is fairly easy to slide on grass. 

The last element we added was the compost bin below. I made this by taking the sides out of this wooden box and replacing them with screen for ventilation. We add vegetable waste, the pine shavings that we clean out of the brooder box, grass clippings, etc. It’s perfect because the chickens eat what they want and scratch and turn the rest. We should have a nice set of compost to add to our garden this spring. They get so excited each time we add something to the bin!

I would love to hear your favorite elements from your chicken coop and run. Let me know in the comments below what you like most from your experience because I love to hear new ideas!