I Have Fell In Love With Backyard Chickens
My brother and I purchased Mia, LuLu, and Qwen as day old chicks from Anoka Feed in April of 2015. What a joy it has been raising these three hens. I’m going to cover some basic chicken care but I really want to show the benefits of keeping a few hens in your suburban backyard. A few cities and suburbs are allowing homeowners to keep backyard chickens here in Minnesota but the general public are not aware that chickens make fantastic pets and are extremely valuable to the environment.
I live in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota and our city council voted against keeping a few backyard hens. The vote was close but I don’t think it was really fair because it was based on opinions alone. We need to set up small pilot programs in neighborhoods so families can experience what it’s like living with backyard chickens.
Start With Day Old Chicks
The bond that you create with your day old chick is vital to your success, so pay close attention and follow these steps.
Imprinting : a rapid learning process that takes place early in the life of a social animal (as a goose) and establishes a behavior pattern (as recognition of and attraction to its own kind or a substitute)
When a chick is born and you are the first object they encounter you become their leader or mother. So it is very important to buy day old chicks or hatch them yourself. If your buying them I would recommend picking them up on a Friday so you have a whole weekend to really imprint your chicks. Just be yourself around the chicks and talk to them and let them follow you around. You can certainly hold them and pet them and I encourage it, just be careful not to let you chicks get cold. I would also do as much hand feeding as you can so your chickens associate you with food. The best treat to use is live mealworms. Chickens can not resist them and they are very healthy for your birds as well.
The photo above is my girlfriend Melissa who absolutely loves our birds and has played a big role in our research about raising backyard chickens. Melissa is also the mother hen and a perfect example of imprinting. Like I mentioned above we bought our chicks on a Friday after work and myself, Melissa, and my brother Dan were all there to make physical contact with the chicks and introduce our voices to them. We let them out in a small area and would walk away and they would follow and then we would reward them with mealworms and affection. We all did this for the first 3 days of the chicks life.
Melissa does not live here but comes over about once a week. So she was not involved with the daily feeding but as you can see in the video below the hens come running when they hear her voice. Once they were adults they would hang around us while we are grilling waiting for any scraps of food we may give them. We can pick them up and hold them or sometimes they will jump up on the chair with you. With strangers they are a lot more weary but still very tame.
Girls Getting Pecan Pie On Thankgiving
Our Neighbors Love Our Backyard Chickens
Before buying chickens it is always a good idea to talk to your neighbors first. Let them know what your plan is and ask them if they have any questions and concerns. If you plan on letting your chickens range free your going to need to see if your neighbors mind having the hens in their yard . When we brought it up to our neighbors they were all for it.
If you have kids in the neighborhood they will really enjoy the birds. The great thing about kids is they are not scared to ask questions and once they start asking the parents feel more comfortable and great conversations are had.
Beware Of Cats
Domestic cats kill between 1.4 and 3.7 billion birds and between 6.9 and 20.7 billion mammals (mostly mice, shrews, rabbits, squirrels, and voles) each year. source Nature Communication
Our home is on a fairly busy walking path and people are constantly stopping by and asking questions and taking pictures of the hens. We have also been asked about a hundred times if we sell the eggs. Everyone wants those fresh organic eggs. This leads to our next benefit which is the eggs.
Fresh Eggs Daily
One of the greatest benefits of raising backyard chickens are the eggs. We waited seven months before we saw the first egg which is typical. What’s interesting is all three hens laid their first egg a day apart. When they are getting ready to lay their first egg they make lots of noise and become real agitated and restless. They will try to make a nest in the leaves or what ever is available. Two weeks after our girls starting laying we noticed we were short on eggs. That morning I noticed LuLu in our window well and when I looked closer as you can see in the picture were 11 eggs. What a pleasant surprise.
Some Interesting Facts About Eggs
- It takes 25 hours for a hen to develop an egg
- Never wash your eggs before you store them. They have a protective coating that prevents bacteria from entering
- Shelf life of an egg is 2 months
- Roosters are only needed if you want chicks.
- Hens will sing the “egg song” right before but sometimes just after laying an egg
- If you aren’t sure how old an egg is, you can submerge it in water. The freshest eggs will remain at the bottom of the container, while old eggs will float.
Our neighbor cooked up several eggs in his front yard with a homemade rocket stove while it was 17 degrees out. He sware’s they are the best eggs he has ever eaten. He calls them F & F eggs, fresh and free. I can guarantee you if you tried one of these eggs you would never buy or eat another store bought egg.
Mia Singing The “Egg Song”
I hope you enjoyed this post. I really encourage you to consider keeping backyard chickens. As you can see they make great pets, bring people together, and provide fresh eggs daily.
I almost forgot they are amazing at pest control. They will eat hundreds of bugs in your yard eat day. We had a compost pile and we would toss food scraps and they would pick through that. In the video below you will see Mia catch and kill a live mouse.
Chickens Are Great For Pest Control