Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pondering: Backyard Chickens

Yesterday, as I walked to the store to buy a dozen eggs for the second time in three days, I started pondering the idea of backyard chickens.  We'll be moving to a new place when our lease is up in May, and we are both hoping that our new home will include a legit backyard for the child and dog to enjoy.  But what if it was also legit enough to include a chicken coop? 
Hilarious "mid-life crisis coop" via Backyard Chickens
We're big egg consumers in this family.  Not only are eggs an inexpensive and easy-to-prepare protein, they are also tops on the list of five to ten things that our son is willing to eat on any given week.  The husband likes to start his day with a couple scramblers, and I love to bake, and often go through two to four eggs a week on my baking projects alone.  A rough calculation reveals that we probably spend about $375 a year on eggs, which is kind of mind-boggling, and I'm not sure what chicken upkeep costs are, but I'm fairly certain we'd come out on top in the deal.  Clearly, I have a lot more research to do on this topic, but I'm intrigued.
Photo via Yummy Mummy, absolutely one of my inspirations for even considering something like this.
Potential pros of chicken ownership:
1) Eggs!  And not your average eggs, but those gorgeous, farm-fresh eggs with the sun-colored yolk and the superior nutritional value.
2) Localvore street cred!  Does it get more local than one's own backyard?
3) Teaching the little man valuable lessons about the cycle of life, responsibility and agriculture.  The other day someone asked him where milk comes from and he said, "the store."  Oh dear.
4) It's very Little House, and I love me some Laura Ingalls, pioneer-worthy projects. 

Potential cons of chicken ownership:
1) Looking at their disturbingly weird little feet. 
2) Chicken poop.
3) More noise.
4) More beings to take care of (some days, the boys and the dog feel like plenty, and do you have to get chicken-sitters when you go away for the weekend?).
Beautiful, backyard-fresh egg recipe from Yummy Mummy.  Seriously, look at that yolk.
Apparently, backyard chickens are all the rage these days, so much so that many cities have enacted laws regulating the practice.  As with anything involving other living creatures, this is not a project to be entered into lightly, and I have a lot more to learn before I can even make a proper pitch about why we should become chicken owners.  And such an endeavor would certainly be a year or so out for us at the soonest.  Still, it is on my radar. 
One more from YM, as sister seriously takes the cutest chicken pics, and I may or may not have a small girl crush on her.
Do you have backyard chickens?  Is it a dream?  A nightmare?
And do roosters have to be involved?  Because I'm seriously outnumbered around here already.
Yours in poultry,
Only Emerson could make animal husbandry look stylish.


  1. OMG, I want backyard chickens so bad. But I do not have a fenced yard & have seen too many foxes & other critters that I do not feel comfortable having them without a fenced yard. You should really chat with Jenn Riggs. Not sure if you knew her in VT. Her & Jake have backyard chickens (well now down to 1...critter got one). You do have to have people check on them when you're gone for a weekend (although this might not be an issue if you have the right coop/set up). I think it's a wonderful idea. Chickens are not that loud unless something is upsetting them. Let me know if you need contact info for Jenn to learn more. :-)

  2. As you may imagine, many of my friends around here in good ol' VT have a backyard coop. Imma gonna forward this post to them & ask them to comment their wisdom. :) FWIW, no one has said it's a nightmare. My bro & his wife visited for xmas this year, and brought with a turkey for xmas dinner that they had raised this past year in their backyard. Pretty cool, cost-effective stuff. :)

  3. Courtney's Friend Here! We got some all-over-the-yard chickens this last summer. They are a dream! They make me laugh everyday at their hilarious awkwardness. They are quite easy to care for and their minimal keep is SO worth the superior eggs. Chicken poop is the only real problem. You'll have to make sure that they can spread the poop around (either free ranging or with a chicken tractor, see video) because a build up of chicken poo in one spot will create not-good imbalance in the soil. Letting your chickens out and about, however is AMAZING because they clean up your grass, they actually eat the mosquitoes, mosquito eggs, and tics right out of your lawn, as well as cleaning up under bushes and other foliage. They will eat your garden (especially the tender starters) so again, I do recommend the chicken tractor style because you can let them out or keep them contained without decreasing the chicken's quality of life aka the ability to scratch around, which is a chicken's primary function. The woman in this video is my partner and she built this one:

    Enjoy! Message me if you'd like a phone number for an old fashioned voice to voice chat about the whole deal!

    Good Luck!
    ~Hannah Banana

    1. Thank you Hannah, I knew you would have some good insight. :) xoxo

  4. Chickens are all the range in Portland (OR type) as well. We've been contemplating them, but don't have a fence either. I have some friends with them too - not sure that they are actually cost effective unless you have them for years. But that is coming second-hand from a friend who spent a lot on her chickens and her chicken set-up! Her eggs are delish, though! They are very fun. The gals do end up as your close pets!

  5. Thanks for all of this fun and useful input, ladies. We'll see what our next home has to offer us and what this coming year brings... you'll certainly hear more about it if we decide to do this!

  6. just as a PS...i buy farm fresh eggs from my local yarn store $3.00/doz for pure joy and lovely dark yellow yolks...mmm mmm good!

  7. chickens are the best! we have 4, and if they're all good layers, that's 4 eggs/day! enough to keep us in eggs (including one quiche or frittata dinner) plus a 6 pack to give away or trade per week. now, during these shorter days we only get 1 or 2/day. they are extremely low maintenance pets, and they really will feel like pets, if you only have a few. you can leave for the weekend- just fill up they're feeder and make certain the automatic waterer is working, and when you come home you have a nesting box full of eggs. we have a coop for them, where they spend most of their time, but let them out to graze on our yard for a few hours every afternoon. then, at sun down, they put themselves to bed and we just close the coop door. we started with four chicks, and lost two (one just died and one was picked off), and later replaced them with mature hens. chick raising is fantastic for kids, but a little more work for mamas. they begin to lay at 5 or so months. overall it's been a great lesson for till and easy entertainment too, that girl spends hours herding and holding chickens! i have lots more info when you need it! love, hpw

  8. Cool! Try googling "eglu." I think that's what we would get if chickens were allowed in our county :-(.

  9. Hey SMJ - One option you should consider is a shared coop with neighbors. On my street, about 5 households went in together and built a coop, bought chickens, and take turns taking care of them weekly. It seems to work out really well. One neighbor has the perfect back yard, so hosts the chicken coop, and the other neighbors have unlimited access to the coop during their week to care for and gather eggs. They all have kids, so it's fun & a great learning experience, but because they have the responsibility only every 5 weeks, it doesn't get old or tiresome. Each week the egg collection is way higher than each family can eat, so the other families can stop by the house of the family on duty that week and take some eggs home. It's really a great system!
    Check out the urban coop tour that my town puts on every year. The coop I talk about is called the "Mead Rd. Coop Co[op".

  10. Where did you purchase your chicken coop?