As I get deeper into this hippie/homesteading/simple living thing,1 the more convinced I become that we need to get chickens. Chickens don’t seem like a commitment you should enter into lightly, so I’ve been doing research. I want to know all about chickens and I have tons of questions: Where do we get chickens? How many? What kind? What kind of coop do we need?2 What do we feed them? How do we care for them? How much does it cost? What kind of permit is required? Do our neighbors have to approve and can they object because one of our dogs is annoying? Can we give the chickens old-lady names like Gertrude, Ethel, Rosemary, and Josephine? What happens when it’s cold out? How many eggs do they produce? Will our Rottweiler try to eat them? Will they be okay if left alone overnight when we go on one of our hippie camping trips to the mountains? Is it worth it? Chickens? Why?!
For me, “Why?” is the easiest question to answer. I want to get chickens because I like eating eggs and I like when animals are treated well. We always buy free-range eggs, but I’ve read too many things about how even free-range eggs aren’t necessarily produced by happy chickens who are treated well. We’d be nice to our chickens and provide them a happy home with enough space, and they’d give us eggs. That seems like a win/win situation.
I’ve also found answers to a few more questions about chickens.
In Denver, you can get chickens at the chicken swap. Of course! It’s run by Denver Urban Homesteading and held at Earthdog on the first Saturday of each month. You can also get chicken feed and take chicken classes there. They also “recycle” chickens, but this is not something I want to think about. One thing I’ve learned about chickens is that when they get older, they produce fewer eggs and eventually may not produce any eggs at all. Duh, but I’d never thought of that before. Sometimes, people don’t want to keep their chickens who no longer produce eggs, so they get rid of them or, well, eat them.3 As vegetarians, this is not how we roll, so any chickens we get would be with us for life. I’m not sure how to go about having old chickens who don’t lay eggs any more and younger chickens who do. Can you just mix everyone together? How does pecking order work? I need to learn about this.
Denver Urban Homesteading’s website provides tons more information about keeping chickens in Denver and in general (scroll down for “Chicken, Goat and Duck FAQ). I’ve also been reading the chapter about chickens in Backyard Homesteading: A Back-to-Basics Guide to Self-Sufficiency.4 I’ve been leaving this book on our coffee table and last night, Soren demanded to see the chickens a billion times. He was so excited about the chickens Ben read him the chickens chapter as a bedtime story. This chapter must be pretty awesome because after reading it, Ben, who has been staunchly anti-chicken, said something like, “Hey, maybe we should get chickens.”
So yeah, maybe in the spring we’ll get chickens. Chickens!
1. To me, “homesteading/simple living” refers to producing our own food, living in a more sustainable manner, decreasing our impact on the environment, doing stuff ourselves, and making stuff instead of buying it.
2. I’ve been looking at chicken coops on Pinterest and seriously, some of the chicken coops on Pinterest are nicer than our house.
3. In most homesteading books/on most homesteading websites, there’s what I refer to as “the meat chapter.” At some point, someone who is into homesteading will slaughter/hunt/skin/butcher/whatever an animal. I don’t judge anyone for doing this, but as a vegetarian with an excessive emotional attachment to animals, I really don’t want to hear about it. I’ll skip over the meat stuff in a book (otherwise I wouldn’t be able to read many homesteading-oriented books, it seems), but I won’t read a blog that involves hunting/killing animals. It bothers me and there’s always the risk of photos.
4. I really like this book so far — it provides a nice, general overview of homesteading subjects like producing food, caring for animals, and harvesting/storing what you’ve produced.