The Sassy Ladies – Rose & Blanche

Growing vegetables was a great start to homesteading. But while we are waiting for them to produce, we got to thinking about other ways we could save money. We don’t have enough space right now for large livestock, but then we thought, CHICKENS! We eat eggs like nobody’s business, so this could be a real money-saver for us.

We don’t have a lot of space to dedicate to chickens, because E and her friends are still young enough to enjoy playing in the yard. Plus, as a (current) household of three, we don’t need many. We aren’t planning on selling them (yet), so we don’t need a bunch of wasted eggs. I shudder to think of what nefarious uses E and her friends could find for the extra eggs.

First, we had to decide what kind of chickens we wanted. Who knew there were a million different species (literally, everyone but us). We went to our local hardware store to decide which type to buy. We also aren’t planning to eat the chickens once they stop laying (E would literally die – she doesn’t even want us to kill crickets). Therefore, we didn’t need “meat” chickens. We chose Leghorns because they can lay large eggs, up to one per day, and their eggs are white (T has a thing about food looking strange). We bought two chicks, because E didn’t want one to be by itself, and three seemed like too big a commitment.

Chicks

Meet Rose & Blanche!

At this point, it was still chilly at night, so we decided to keep them inside until they get bigger. Their initial setup was in a small galvanized tub with wood shavings. We also got a heat lamp, since chicks need to have access to 95°F when they are small until they  grow feathers.

Chicks Home

The first abode

We equipped them with water and a feeder. We started them on a starter feed since they are so small. As you can see, they immediately started kicking shavings into their water, so I eventually elevated it to keep it clean. Chickens can be jerks.

Although the Leghorns started out yellow and downy, they quickly lost the down and turned to their signature white color. I was constantly sweeping up the down (aka, stirring it up in the air and not actually cleaning anything).

They grew fast. Within a week, they were perching on the edge of the tub, and eventually flying out. I’ll spare you the details of me chasing tiny chicks around my laundry room. It wasn’t pretty. So, after two weeks, we decided they needed an upgrade.

We had an old rabbit cage from last Easter. E’s bunny escaped (actually escaped, not the “escaped” your parents tell you about when your bunny goes to Bunny Heaven), so it’s just been sitting in the shed. It was a perfect opportunity.

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New rabbit cage – and they can’t fly out!

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Tried to treat them with applesauce. They ignored it. Jerks.

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Our dog, Sam, is not convinced these chickens are a good thing. The feeling is mutual, I think.

As you can see, they’re quite a bit bigger than just 3 weeks ago. They still haven’t grown their head feathers, so they aren’t ready to go outside yet. But soon, my friends, soon. Next, we’ll tell you the (hilarious) process of building their final home, the chicken coop!

Any advice or words of wisdom for raising chickens?

-TBE

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7 thoughts on “The Sassy Ladies – Rose & Blanche

  1. I’m having a bit of a chuckle here. There’s tons of info out there and more advice I could give than you could digest within in a simple blog comment.
    It’s a little late but I’d say buy at least three! Most places require a purchase of at least six in the USA, but not all, because they don’t want people buying a couple of baby chicks as “pets”. Chickens are VERY social animals and only do well in groups, the ideal group size is around 10-15 but they can manage larger and smaller, but two is a little rough on them. A mirror in their pen or coop may help to alleviate anxiety. Also, chick sexing only has a 95% accuracy, so maybe you got two females? This is assuming you bought pullet or female chicks, and not straight run which are both male and female. White chickens are more prone to predation, and EVERYTHING eats chickens… Cats, dogs, raccoons, possums, hawks, eagles, foxes, weasels, skunks, snakes…. Which would all be problems with any breed, but are just a little worse with white birds. Leghorns are flighty birds, not very friendly usually, and they can and will FLY if you don’t clip their wings. I have found mine roosting in trees 8′ from the ground on 1″ branches. They are popular as production birds, but because of that are prone to reproductive health problems… Prolapse, eggbound, etc. Most do not have great longevity because of this. Also, because they lay more eggs throughout the year, they will lay for fewer years. While some heritage breeds may still be laying a couple eggs a week at 7-8 years old, these hens will burn out quickly (3-4 years would be a long time). They also handle cold very poorly and if you get snow, their combs will likely get frostburnt in the winter. Things go wrong a lot with livestock. There’s too much to learn to figure it all out at once. I am 5 years into raising chickens and still learning all the new ways my birds could die from my mismanagement. Having an extra bird or two means not putting all your eggs in one basket (or chicken in this case). Will your dog maul them if someone slips up with a leash or a gate? Do you have a 24/7 emergency vet that will even see chickens in case of illness or injury? This might be a good time to have a conversation with “E” about life, death, and life cycles.

    Also, many chickens lay eggs that are not commercially viable. There may be dirty, malformed eggs with shells ranging from thin to thick and even random lumpy calcium deposits on the shells, meat spots in the whites, and all from the same hen that lays you perfect eggs. Much like produce from your garden, it’s not always perfect, especially from young hens… So funny lookin’ food ahoy! (Of course, all eggs cook up the same.)

    Having said all that, I would not trade my chickens out for the world. Barring unexpected fatalities/injuries/etc, they are extremely easy to care for. I even own leghorns and they’re pretty great, though I can’t get within 6 feet of them (flighty). In general, if you can keep them safe from critters, free of diseases, give them enough space, and keep them fed well, they should do just fine. Chickens are fairly simple creatures and survive some really bad conditions with a surprising gusto. They can be very hardy indeed. I just think you’ve started chicken keeping on hard mode by starting with leghorns and your situation of a more delicate family.
    (Ps, they’re breeds of chickens, not species, much like dogs. I guarantee you are not keeping any species other than Gallus gallus domesticus.)

    Good luck!

    Like

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