A lot of folks claim that chickens are a gateway animal. That is to say, you start out a normal, suburban-living person who decided to get a handful of chickens – just for the eggs, you say – and a few years later you’re moving out to the country to pursue homesteading full time.
I wouldn’t know, I didn’t start out with chickens.
Years ago, that “gateway animal” experience happened to my mother when I gave her a baby chick for mother’s day. A classmate had brought the chick, named Henna, to school because her parents wanted to get rid of it, and she was afraid to find it mysteriously vanished upon returning home. Henna was an Easter chick, a dubious practice long since discouraged or even banned in some areas. Children were given these day old chicks as playthings, often with disastrous consequences for the chicks who needed more delicate care than the average five year old is prepared to give. I volunteered to take Henna to a safe forever home, knowing my mother would delight in the little bird, and years later we did move from our suburban home to house on 3 acres where my mother’s chicken obsession truly blossomed.
For instance, did you know that there are chicken shows? Surprise! Apparently, there’s a competition for everything. My mother got into raising heritage and specialty breed chickens, and really delved into the genetics of each breed to bring out the finest qualities in her stock. The above picture is her with the Best of Breed trophy and the winning Serama (a bantam, or tiny, breed of chicken). I got quite used to sorting eggs to make “rainbow egg cartons” and, as this was in my early vegetarian-because-I-hate-animal-cruelty days, the fresh eggs from chickens who were allowed to roam free really came in handy. But when I moved out on my own, it was to a tiny 400 square foot house without any room or allowance for chickens, and when we finally bought our farm 5 years (and a marriage) later, my first animals were goats.
But I always intended to have chickens, and DJ built me this fantastic chicken coop/tractor on wheels. Which then sat empty for many many months. My mother raised some chicks for me. Even when my chickens were ready to come home, there never seemed to be time, our schedules never seemed to coordinate. Even when they started laying eggs. But, at last, I was able to bring my flock to the roost, so to speak.
I have ten hens, which is the maximum I feel comfortable with in this size coop/run. Two each of: White Rocks, Gold Laced Wyandotte, Silver Laced Wyandotte, Amerucauna, and Buff Orpington. Every day I get an assortment of colored eggs.