Let’s talk about chicks.
One joy of raising a garden is seeing the local wildlife enjoy everything you’ve planted. We’ve spent many afternoons watching birds flutter around our backyard and our dogs hanging out next to lizards and dragonflies. Recently, in our quest to become more self-sufficient (and also because we happen to be suckers for any animal), we’ve inherited a chicken, a turkey and a duck.
Our girls aren’t the typical backyard flock. Let me go into how to create a small flock of chickens to supply the average family with eggs.
Backyard chickens are all the rage these days and it’s partly because the health benefits and peace of mind delivered by having organically-grown, cruelty-free eggs. It’s also partly because chickens are tons of fun and relatively easy to keep.
In most parts of San Diego County, it’s legal to own up to three hens in a household. Something we didn’t realize before we got our chicks is you don’t need a rooster for your hens to lay eggs; they do it quite readily without any boys crowing near them.
Chickens are cheap to buy and care for, they make relatively no noise and they have great personalities. From a gardening perspective, they are excellent pest control guardians…as long as you keep in mind they might take a bite out of your plants in their efforts to find tasty bugs.
What You Need to Know While They’re Chicks
When chicks are young and covered in fluffy down, you need to:
- keep them indoors in a small container with plenty of ventilation.
- keep them under a heat lamp (they like it about 90 degrees until they are about 4 weeks old).
- keep them over an easily removable bedding. (You can get this at any pet store. We used a recycled cardboard material).
- food and water should be provided in containers that aren’t easy to tip over or walk in (there’s several plastic models you can buy at most pet stores/feed stores).
- clean the cage every night.
- make sure they have food and water in the morning and night (especially if you can’t check on them for a few hours).
When the chicks are fully feathered (have normal feather-looking feathers), it’s time for them to go outside!
The fun part about chickadees is bonding with the little guys. We held our little ones from the day we got them, and they are like part of the family now. When I’m out gardening, they follow me around. Our chicken will even fly up onto my shoulder if she’s feeling needy!
We house our flock in an old chain link dog run with shade fabric covering the top to keep out predators. Chickens should have three to five square feet each to roam and a safe place to sleep at night. Our birds sleep in an old dog house. Chickens begin laying eggs around the 9-12 month range and a flock of three will lay way more than one family needs.
The best part is watching these feathery little goofs and we hope you give it a try!