Monday, March 14, 2011

It's chick season

The boys and I went chick shopping. Actually we went to feed stores so I could find a book on raising chickens. We could see some peeps this way. The first store we went to was in Alamo, CA. I have passed by the store for years driving to work. The guy who works there knows nothing about chickens except they have four kinds. We played with the chicks a little while. It was a little troubling seeing my boys who are not gentle at all handling something so delicate. Next we went to Feed & Pet Supply 228 Hookston Rd, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523-3921 (925) 940-1200 ‎ They have a guy there that knows chickens. Their chicks are separated and labeled by breed. They have a calender of when each  breed of chick will arrive from the hatcheries. The chicks are vaccinated and some have been sexed.  I think a sexed chicken is separated male from female. I am still not clear on what that means?? They have chicken supplies including choices of coops and guided me to a book about raising chickens with kids he says he has heard nothing but positive feed back. Also told me about a chicken rescue who will take a rooster if we get one by accident. I bought the book and some red wiggler worms for my compost.

The book is called Your Chickens. by Gail Damerow. From what I can tell she wrote a whole series of books for kids about raising farm animals. I read the entire book  while letting my kids roam at Chuck E. Cheese. I'm glad I read it. It brought up a lot of answers for questions I've had.

Now that Warren is supportive of my chicken idea I need to know what I'm getting myself into. Chickens are not cats or dogs. There is a lot to learn about them that is not common know how. With cats or dogs it's easy. They need a place to go potty, eat and drink. You take them to the vet for vaccines and handle them so they are tame. There is not a lot or restrictions or permits on cats or dogs.

Chickens as a pet. I live in a suburb, in a rental with a backyard. For me I have the need to know before presenting my land lord with the idea of a chickens. This web site will show you what the laws are in your area around chickens. In Concord CA where I live I can have up to 12 chickens and roosters are OK. No permits are required. Chickens keep all the bugs away from your home. There are two major up front costs when raising chicks. First is the Brooder. This is a box or tub with a heat lamp. Chicks need to 100 degrees and the temp needs to be reduced 5 degrees every week until the chicks have all their feathers. This is when they can be introduced to their coop the second and much larger expense.

The Brooder you can buy premade or make one your self.  I have seen some really expensive brooders up to $400 and some really cheap home made ones. The basics you need in a brooder is to keep the chicks warm, clean and safe. In the book they say you can use a box with litter on the floor and a lamp you can hang over the top. The closer the lamp to the chicks the warmer they are. You'll need something to hang the lamp from, a feeder and a waterer. If you have a cat or other pet that will be interested in the chicks you will need a lid you can fasten to the box, to keep them safe. Most people keep the chicks in their house during this period.

The coop can be very pricey. The one I like is $1100 and comes with a fox proof run, is easy to clean and houses 10 chickens at Omlet . Another brand I saw at both feed stores has some less expensive choices starting about $160 dollars. They looked poorly made to me but the chicken guy fromt the second feed store said they were fine after you improve on them some.  There are also plans you can get for coops to build your self. has a few small businesses that build and sale coops as well. The main thing in your chicken coop is to make sure other animals can't get to your chickens, it should be draft free, kept dry with a nesting box and a perch.

You can let your chickens run free in your yard. They will eat all the bugs and anything else the can find. Chickens learn from pecking and the area your chicken is allowed in should be free of objects that can harm them. A fench too keep dogs out is prefered and a net or chicken wire will keep other creatures from getting to your birds or your birds escaping. Young birds and smaller ones will fly.

Seem like a lot of work I don't mind doing I just worry about moving. To us a rental is temporary. We have been looking for the right house for over a year and I can't imagine moving five kids, a cat, a dog and a flock of chickens. So this year I think I'll research more seriously this year and hopefully Warren and I will find that special place where we can have chickens. I just think I need to be a grown up instead of a eager child and wait a little longer for my chickens. It seems I still have a lot of research left and shopping to do.

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