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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Egg-citing idea...

When proposing the idea of keeping chickens in ones backyard.. the response is generally one of stifled laughter and then a look of "huh.. that might work".

Ahh the romance and security of a urban chicken flock..
There are so many benefits of having a backyard flock of chickens..
The idea of fresh multi-colored eggs, the soft sound of clucking, children scattering chicken feed, and fresh organic eggs from home flock chickens are so so much better tasting that the starch white eggs in the grocery store (in my opinion).
Not to mention the free organic weed and pest control and lawn aeration that chickens are happy to provide.

But wait... I need to be realistic and focused.

I needed to decide what would best meet the needs of my family.
Two adults and four rapidly growing children.
What would my backyard accommodate?
What are the zoning laws? Am I allowed to even have chickens?
Where would I keep them?
What would my neighbors say?
Is someone going to answer that phone?! ... whoops sorry... that was well nevermind..

Somewhere in it all.. I know there will be chicken poop. Lots of chicken poo...


Glorious chicken poo! It's like crack for your lawn.

Back to business. I sat down and decided that I wouldn't be tempted by the cute little peeps from soft adorable chicks.. I would instead sit down and write down all the goals for my flock.
1. Good & steady egg production
2. A non-agressive flock
3. Pretty... yes I said it.. Pretty.

With my new goals in hand I went about finding out what the zoning laws are in Boise for chickens.

Here's what I found. A homeowner may keep (6) six hens (no roosters) in the Boise city limits.

So now I had to find out what chickens would be productive enough to meet egg consumption of a family of six. I figure we eat about 12 medium/small eggs a week.

Then I narrowed it down to the breeds that work best at being good/steady producers and do well in the Boise climate.
Here's the list I came up with.

AUSTRALORP- Not the Marylin Monroe of chickens, more like the nerd at the back of the class who is friendly, sweet and can produce more eggs than a Duggar.
PROS: 4-5 Large eggs a week at a steady pace. Not prone to try to fly away. Good in Boise climate. Can produce eggs even into the winter. Friendly. Docile.
CONS: Not so pretty and I worry that the chicken might know I'm only using her for her eggs.




AMERAUCAUNA/EASTER EGGER- Many hatcheries will sell Easter Egger chickens and call them with different names (Ameraucana, Americana). I think maybe some believe they will sell better with a schmancier name.

PROS:
4-5 Large eggs a week. Gorgeous pastel colored eggs. Good natured, friendly. Not prone to try to fly. Hens come in a variety of colors and usually with a cute soft ear and chin muff of feathers.
CONS: None chicken wise.. but while they are prettier than the Australorp they sit in the seats to watch the Silver Laced Wyandotte runway show.



SILVER LACED WYANDOTTE-Most popular and in most demand for a reason. They are just plain gorgeous birds. I picked the silver laced variety but they also come in Red and blue laced and white.

PROS: 3-4 eggs medium sized eggs a week. Good natured, friendly.. but most of all.. pretty, pretty, pretty.
CONS: The other hens may resent her for being so pretty and not producing as many eggs.



Below are a few sites I found really helpful in making my choices. I also was able to get valuable knowledge from Jim & Martha Schwartz who run a small hatchery in Parma Idaho and are my go-to-people for my chickens and guarantee the sex of their chicks which is important if your chick grows up to be a rooster instead of a hen. Roosters are big no-no according to zoning.

www.backyardchickens.com and www.mypetchicken.com and www.urbanchickens.org

Right now the demand for most breeds dwarf the supply and most hatcheries are already sold out of some breeds months and in some cases years in advance.

Many hatcheries and websites that sell chickens/chicks require that you purchase at least 15-25 chicks at a time and the shipping fees are almost always $35-$50. So getting them locally is a big plus.

I will be picking up my little flock soon...
1- Australorp (20 wk pullet ready to lay eggs) - $15
1- Ameraucana/Easter Egger (1 day old pullet chick)- $5
1- Silver Laced Wyandotte (1 day old pullet chick) $-5

All said-- my little $20 flock should hopefully produce my family with 12-15 gorgeous, super tasty and totally organic eggs.

In the plans are a coop and a brooder (a place for the chicks to live and grow until they get nice n'big).

There is a lot of speculation over whether this whole urban organic flock movement is just a fad.

I'm only sure that I'm bound to have a load of new experiences. Good and bad... but mostly good.

Actually I think mostly great.
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