I am coming on to my first year of backyard chicken keeping and I thought this would be a good time to reflect on what I have learned so far.
Number 1: I really adore my "girls", they are fun, curious and beautiful! I love the charming and peaceful clucking sound, I love that they come and get me out of the house, really they peck at the window when they see me inside.
Although, many people might refer to chicken as "stupid", I am just not a fan of that harsh word. To my surprise they are actually a lot smarter than I expected.
They have definitely brought a lot of joy around my house and both my daughter and husband enjoy having them. I have even caught my husband several times picking one up and "chatting" with her! And my daughter loves discovering eggs everyday.
Number 2: Bigger is definitely better when it comes to the coop. I really enjoy the fact that I can walk in the coop, specially in the winter. I am loving it so much that I am in the process of adding an addition (more to come on that).
Number 3: I am not a big fan of the hanging waterer made for poultry. I started with rabbits waterers which are very handy but not big enough. I recently made a home made hanging waterer with a 2 gallon bucket and two nipples. It seems to be working the best for what I was looking for: keeping the water clean and last more than a couple a days. I could have gone with a 5 gallon but it felt almost too big.
Number 4: Keep the food outside under cover. Yes, I read it in books but I figured that I would just do it differently just because I could. I find out the hard way that a "resident" mice (or small rat) had moved in with the girls! Ahhhhhhhh. Not loving it. To its defense, it was my fault as I left the coop partially open and it was able to get through the chicken wire very easily. Which brings me to the number 5.
Number 5: Chicken wire or hardware cloth: Definitely hardware cloth. Do not cheap out! Plan on using 1/2x1/2 hardware cloth. I was so focused on making my coop raccoon proof that I forgot about the smaller rodents that can get through tiny holes! Yes, it is amazing how rats and mice can squeeze through holes as little as a dime for mice and a quarter for rat. Currently I have 1 inch chicken wire covering the entire run with the bottom two feet reinforced with 1/2 x 1/2 hardware cloth. I am planning on updating it this spring.
Number 6: Research the breeds in order to suit your ultimate goal, whether it is egg production, meat or/and looks. I personally do it for egg production and entertainment (and manure too). I think all hens look beautiful. When I went to pick the girls last year, I was debating on how many to start with. I decided it would be between 3 and 5 and when we arrived at the store they had 4 different breeds so that made it easy, one of each! I guess once I got the girls, I researched their breeds, their specs etc. During the winter, only one of them laid eggs regularly (almost every day, I think she took one day off a week) but the other three were on "strike" as my grandmother would say. The good news is the other three started to lay a couple of weeks ago so the production has improved tremendously.
For round two, I am a bit more prepared, I already took notes on the breeds I would like to add and I am hoping to add an Ameraucana as well to get those funny green/blue eggs.
Number 8: Place the nesting boxes below the lowest roost to ensure the girls sleep on the roost and not in the nesting box. Currently I have two to three using the nesting boxes as a "bed".
Here you have it. The little things I learned through this wonderful experience. Now I am getting ready to add a few more girls to the flock and I really can't wait to get these little chicks home.