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So as alluded to in a previous post, we are in fact entering the exciting yet somewhat daunting world of backyard chicken raising. Ryan has *always* wanted chickens. I have an unnatural fear of their little feet as well as a complete inability to handle death. For those two reasons, I have stemmed the tide that is Ryan's begging...until this year. No more excuses. We have the land, we have the right (we're zoned agricultural/rural so no codes or laws to worry about), we have the time (sort of), and now we have what I see as a good enough reason to overcome my two fears...Milo. Ryan feels strongly (and has convinced me) that it is a great thing to raise a kiddo around animals. We have the dogs but it's not really the same thing. Ryan's dad's family has been in the dairy business for many years. In fact, his uncle Pat currently runs the family's organic dairy farm in Enosburg Falls on--wait for it--Hayes Farm Rd. Ryan spent many a day at the family farm growing up and even lived there for a short period of time when he was in elementary school. (See picture below; compliments of www.251club.org)
He has fond memories of visiting the dairy barn and talking to the cows. He has helped in the "processing" of turkeys. He has seen both the beginning and end of life of many an animal and, as a result, has a much deeper understanding of where our food comes from than many people do. (Perhaps that explains why he is a vegetarian and has been for many years.)
Anyway, after our 1000th conversation about this and his desire to give Milo a sense of where our food comes from (or at least our eggs) and the responsibility of farm-like chores, I acquiesced. And I have to say that I'm glad I did. We eat a lot of eggs. Lately, that is one of the only foods Milo eats consistently. And I love the idea of our little homestead being somewhat self-sustaining...producing veggies (post on our raised beds to come!), fruit (our cherry tree and apple trees are blossoming and our raspberry bushes are kicking butt!), and now eggs. And you know how I adore a good research project. The house is finished, the kid was birthed, so now onto something new...chickens.
I have spent a lot of time (okay, way too much time) scouring the forums at backyardchickens.com. It's a fantastic resource for anyone interested in chicken raising. I also spent a lot of time (okay, way too much time) researching coop designs. After extensive reading and deliberating, we decided on the Garden Coop, an awesome design created by a super cool guy out in Portland, Oregon. In addition to the affordable plans (only $20), you receive online support...from him! I have emailed him twice now with questions and he has responded within 24 hours. Talk about customer service. Plus, the blog he has created is chock full of helpful hints and tips. I could not be more happy with our purchase and have been prosthelytizing about it ever since I hit the "buy" button on his website. Check out this awesomeness. (Photos from the Garden Coop website)
We purchased all of our materials over the past two weekends and Ryan has been busy in the basement putting the thing together. We are sanding and staining (using an eco-friendly product, Vermont Natural Coatings, so as to avoid putting anything toxic near the chickens) this weekend and will hopefully site the thing next week so we can start wrapping it in hardware cloth. We have our little brooder all ready upstairs because our baby chicks arrive next Friday, May 27th!!!
As for our chicks, we ordered them from Farm N' Country store in Williamstown, VT. They, in turn, order from Ideal Hatcheries. We picked three Buff Orpingtons and four Light Brahmas. According to everything we have read, both breeds are supposed to be incredibly docile and good with kids. One book called the Brahmas the Buddhist monks and the Buff Orps the golden retrievers of chickens. Monks and golden retrievers sound about right to us. And they're both large breeds so they do well in cold weather and produce eggs at a good clip. Here is a pic. of the two breeds, Buff Orp first and then Brahma.
Our coop can hold up to eight and we were hoping for more like six...so the store said to order seven. (Working hard to suppress my fear-of-death anxiety.) Ryan promised he would deal with any chicken losses and agreed that we would give them a proper burial if it was to come to pass...rather than cut their head off and throw the body in the compost pile as at least one website suggested. Ryan also assured me, quite matter of factly, that if/when chickens are attacked by predators, there is rarely any evidence left behind. Goodness I hope I'm ready for this.