always wanted to keep chickens so it was perfect when our three-year
old got a pair of Easter chicks this year from his grandmother.
was amazed to watch these two tiny chicks grow into Nerf football-sized
hens in a matter of two months. Their rate of growth was nothing
short of remarkable; every day they looked bigger and had developed
new feathers. Their feet are now the size that they were when they
species are black sex link and New Hampshire red. The black sex
link is ideal for an "Easter chick" because you can tell
the sex immediately upon hatching as the male will have a very clear
white dot directly atop his head. This is interesting as you'll
note in the video below our little black sex link has white around
his head and as you can see above that he is clearly a her! (7/19/10
Editor's note: turns out our chickens are not the species they were
said to be, and they are also roosters! See the updated picture
at the bottom of the article)
kept the chicks first in a cardboard box and then graduated them
into a 5' x 2.5' Rubbermaid bin. We used a simple lamp with a 60
watt incandescent bulb for heating and pine shavings as a substrate.
The lamp supplied enough heat because the bulb was only a foot and
a half away from the brooder floor. Every day I cleaned off the
top layer of shavings and replaced food and water, and every five
days I fully cleaned out the bin.
the chicks remained indoors longer than necessary as I was unsure
of what sort of coop I'd make for them.
coops, or smaller chicken "tractors" which can be wheeled
around the yard, are ridiculously expensive, even for a miniature
unit housing only two hens. I wasn't about to spend up to $400 and
then have our two chicks swooped off by the neighboring hawk that
lives behind us.
discovered via youtube an affordable and innovative design for a
chicken tractor made out of PVC piping and chicken wire, embedded
we experience strong winds on occasion and I didn't feel this setup
would stand up to the force. However, I was still attracted to the
idea of a chicken tractor as we only have two hens and tractors
are much easier to maintain and clean than coops. I searched the
house until I found a collapsible, steel dog crate under our bed.
solid bottom is a removable pan which I relocated to the top of
the crate so it can hold down the tarp which shades and cools the
coop. The two bins are currently wind refuges but will ultimately
be nesting boxes once I bolt a couple 1x4s to the base in order
to hold the pine shaving substrate. A 1/2" wooden rod serves
as a perch and easily slides through the crate.
use a rabbit waterer and a simple plastic pan for supplemental feed.
Note both the waterer and the feeder are outside the coop, not taking
up valuable interior real estate.
I provide commercial food, the bulk of the chicken's sustenance
and nutrition comes from insects and anything else they can peck
throughout our fenced front yard. They are let out in the morning
and return to their coop at nightfall.
dog crate is perfect for our situation. It's easy to break down
and clean and it's a simple matter of dragging it to a new location
in the yard, which I do every two weeks.
the black sex link and New Hampshire red are good layers and have
a docile temperament, making them good for children and pets. It's
fun to walk out into the front yard and watch two chickens dashing
at you and then following you over the lawn.
crates and kennels can be readily found at yard sales and other
secondhand venues, often for under $20. As it will be outside it
doesn't have to be in perfect shape, although you'll want to be
sure the bottom is not a solid surface as this would inhibit scratching
and make cleaning more difficult.
you've ever wanted to keep a couple yard hens, there's no reason
to spend hundreds of dollars or devote hours of your time to a clunky
DIY coop project. Dog crates provide ventilation, shade, and a safe,
fully enclosed environment for your little cluckers.
it turns out our darker chicken Tuck is not a black sex-link but
a barred rock chicken, and Tuck is actually a he. The New Hampshire
Red, which also is not a pure New Hampshire Red, also happens to
be a rooster.
the names? Ming-Ming and Tuck are characters from the children's
show Wonder Pets and were picked by our son James.
apparently impossible to tell the sex with certain breeds until
the signs start to show. In the picture above you can see the deep
red, pronounced comb (atop the head) and waddle (under the chin)
on Ming-Ming. Tuck also has a developed comb and waddle in addition
to his curved and tall tail feathers.
there's crowing, which Tuck is also doing. All three are telltale
signs of a rooster, although some hens do rarely crow.
they still very much get along with each other and there have been
no aggression issues, among the birds or to humans.
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