Tuesday, March 4, 2008

raising chickens: the one year recap

(I see a lot of folks are visiting from the article in Plenty Magazine, so welcome to the Urban Chickens blog!)

Considering it's been just over a year since I was inspired by an article in the San Jose Mercury News to start raising chicknes in our own backyard, I thought it might be useful to recap the year for those contemplating joining the movement. (longtime followers will recognize the bullet list from my six-month recap)
Once the excitement of getting the first egg had worn off, I have to admit that tending chickens in our backyard has become a very normal, everyday routine. As routine as taking care of the dog, so if anyone has their doubts about being able to keep up with chickens once you have them, don't worry about it.

My biggest concern over the winter (a wet and cool winter here in the Bay Area) was that the girls would dislike being cooped up so much since I wouldn't have time to hang out with them before or after work on account of darkness. Thanks to help from LeftCoast Mom, the hens got enough leg-stretching time during the days that the girls seemed quite content to keep producing eggs at a pace of about eight a week between them (down from their peak of twelve a week in the Fall).

The chicken-raising routine looks something like this:
  • Everyday: fill the food bowl, change the water, check for eggs, add wood chips to the nesting box if needed. (takes 5 minutes)
  • Twice weekly: empty the droppings out of the Eglu, very easy to do by design, thanks Omlet! (takes two minutes)
  • Weekly: clean the Eglu by rinsing and scrubbing the interior parts (20 minutes)
  • Semi-monthly: purchase 50-lb bag of layena crumbles at the feed store (cost is $12 and is worked in with other errands)
When possible, we let the girls out of their run so they can free-range in the yard, and every time I see them snap up a bug or devour a weed seedling, I smile at the thought of such cute free labor.

So you see it's negligible work to keep chickens on your own, and the satisfaction of cracking open your very own eggs each morning to cook up for breakfast (sometimes even warm from the nest) is simply to die for. This spring, I'll be able to use our own chicken-poop enriched compost on our garden, thus completing the circle.

Oh, and since raising chickens has become so routine for us, this blog has started to spotlight the plight of other urban chicken farmers who aren't so lucky as to live in a municipality that allows a small flock of hens.

I think there's a lot of misconceptions about the noise, smell, dirtiness, etc, of raising chickens in an urban setting, and where possible, I'd like to dispel these notions and get more folks to reclaim a bit of the food chain for themselves.

If anyone has any questions about raising chickens, the comments are open. (Oh and any other urban chicken farmers -- you can see a few in the blog roll to the right -- please chime in to fill in any gaps I may have left in the story)

21 comments:

Johanna said...

Congratulations on adding hens to your family and getting through the first year! I have had a small flock for a couple of years now, with some traumas as well as happy moments (today my first home-hatched hen layed her first egg! Hooray!)

Visit our family at http://www.busysolitudefarm.blogspot.com

--Johanna

ThomasK said...

Congrats on completing the full cycle, Johanna, and welcome to the urban chickens blog! (I like your farm name)

Linda said...

Wow, a year already! Congrats!

I think I've told people that taking care of chickens is about as much work as taking care of a cat. I think the daily routine I follow takes 10 minutes tops: about the same amount of time feeding/watering a cat and scooping out the litter pan takes. Except these lovely ladies give us eggs every day. Let's see a standard household pet do THAT!

Even though I AM flooded in eggs (3 a day in a 2 person household adds up fast), I want more chickens.

robinjohnsonsimpson said...

Fabulous! I've got the brooding box ready, the kids are amped, and we're picking up our chicks tomorrow. We're just north of you in Belmont. If all goes as planned, I will be getting two each of Barred Rock, Australorp and Ameraucana. We're a year behind you guys. I'm a little nervous, but looking forward to the journey.

ThomasK said...

Thanks, Linda. Hoping your spring comes soon so we can see your chickens out in the sun again in Chicagoland.

And RJS, it's great news to see you're adding even more urban chickens to the Peninsula! Are you getting your chicks from Half Moon Bay Food & Fuel? Please be sure to drop us a link to your blog so we can follow along on your adventure.

Mrs. B said...

I've hatched eggs in my kindergarten class and raised the hens for eggs here in San Carlos. I had problems with rats so we had to let my girls go. I miss the feel of just layed eggs.

kiwichick said...

Congratulations and thanks for your blog. It's thanks to you that I bit the bullet and purchased an Eglu. Discovering someone local on this adventure was awesome. And discovering other folks on the Peninsula raising chickens is fantastic. My biggest concern is always the neighbours :-)

ThomasK said...

Hooray, Kiwichick! Welcome to the Eglu owners club (it's a delightful group you've joined). Maybe we can get an Urban Chickens Meetup going here on the peninsula soon?

kiwichick said...

now that would be fun.

goldenmoonbear said...

This is great! I just moved to Redwood City and am interested in chickens...no experience with them whatsoever. Are there restrictions on getting some? I'll be reading back in this blog's archives for sure.

ThomasK said...

Hey GMB, welcome to the neighborhood! You'll find in the archives all the info and resources you need keeping chickens here in Redwood City. If there's anything I haven't covered, drop me an email at urbanchickensblog [at] gmail [dot] com

Kkane said...

Hi there,
Are there rules in RWC about how far chickens must be kept from property lins or anything like that?
Thanks!

ThomasK said...

Hi kkane, there's nothing that I see in the ordinance here in Redwood City about coops and property lines. You can check yourself via the RWC ordinance links in this post February 2008.

Sandi said...

Thanks for the blog & all the terrific info. I have just brought 3 new chicks home to Sunnyvale.

ThomasK said...

That's great news, Sandi, what kind of chickens did you get?

Welcome to urban chicken farming! When you start writing, please share a link to your blog so I can add you to our Blog roll.

Gael said...

I just found your site today, and it's wonderful! I live in Redwood City, CA too, and am looking for information on starting a little coop in our backyard :) What are the laws regarding this in Redwood City (how many chickens you can have, etc.)? Thank you!

Yippy said...

Sustainability is about efficiency and maintenance: urban folk could form cooperatives and find a farmer to build the coop, provide the water and feed, keep the girls safe and wash the eggs, slaughter, etc.

Densely populated areas are not the places to add more critters - why multiply disease vectors when the news reports avian flu pandemic approaching?

Pregnant women should NEVER handle any feces including unwashed eggs.

Thomas Kriese said...

Hey Yippy, thanks for visiting the blog. I think it's more sustainable to have the chickens in one's own backyard so as to cut any and all transportation costs out of the equation. And I'm raising chickens for eggs only, not slaughter, so I don't need someone to dress the birds for me.

Oh, and I'm not sure where you're getting your data from concerning avian flu, but please do check your facts before spreading more disinformation re: "critters" and an avian flu pandemic. Thanks!

. said...

From our Barred Rocks to yours, "Hello!"

Photos, video, and description of our chicken tractor at www.optoutenmasse.com. Based on a Joel Salatin design.

Glad I found your blog!

Alagalah said...

Hi there,

I think this is awesome, did you have any problems with neighbors?

Smithfamily said...

We got 10 baby chicks in early May, with only one being lost...we are not at 5 months yet but we are seeing are 1st few eggs...It is so much fun to go eagg hunting each day...I think I only have one laying so far....

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