Raising Chickens In Town

This was written originally in 2001 - when we lived in town, not on a farm.  :-)

My Chicken Diary - our first experience raising chickens

The chickens are here!  We now have 3 barred rocks, and 3 red sex link chickens. We got them the day after they hatched and will raise them as laying hens.

We live in a small town, on slightly less then an acre.  To make the chickens look nice in the back yard we are building a coop with a picket fence, lined on the inside with chicken wire. I'll post more pics of it when it is completed, I still have a few weeks until the chickens will be out there. For now they are living in a rabbit cage on in our laundry room, it works well, keeping them protected form the cats and enabling us to keep them warm (with the help of heat lamps) and draft free.    Soon they will outgrow the pen, then they will move to the shed to live until they are old enough to live outdoors full time.

I've wanted chickens for a long time, but never really looked into what it would take to have them here.  We've been busy with remodeling the house, the children were all really young - there just wasn't time.  In February of this year (2001) My brother in law called and told me that a store nearby was having a seminar on raising poultry - was I interested in going?  Of course I was!
It was a wonderful seminar, very informative, lots of door prizes.  One of the door prizes was 12 free chickens, and I won it.  What a great incentive to get started!  Because I live in a very small rural town, with neighbors nearby, I do NOT want roosters.  I wanted them to be pretty too, and be unlikely to be able to fly very high at all.  My original choice was 6 red sex links, but I really loved the look of the barred rocks, and the store promised me they would be hens, so I chose 3 of each.  (the rest of my gc went towards my brother in laws birds, I didn't want that many chickens here). 
Clarks Ag Center, where we attended the seminar, also gave us all a pack of Vi-tal vitamins, which they highly recommend.  We put a tiny bit in their water each day to help them grow healthy and strong.  
Day One -  4/25/2001

The chickens are here!  They are day old, just hatched yesterday!  We picked them up to bring home in a cardboard box, and the barred rocks were picking on the red sex links.  I was tempted to take them back and get all one kind, but decided to give them some time to get used to each other.  My brother in law picked up his pheasants, they are smaller then the chicks but MUCH more aggressive. We kept them under a heat lamp in a red Rubbermaid container in my brother in laws basement until we were ready to head home.  Home fro us, from there, was a just over 20 minute drive and I was a little worried about keeping the temperature up.  I sat them on the front seat of the van and turned the heat on, they did fine, i don't think I needed to worry as much as I did. 
We are keeping them in a rabbit cage in my laundry room until they are a little older.
I placed brooder guard inside the rabbit pen, to keep them extra protected form the cats and from drafts, this is right near the back door.

So far this is the cheapest "hobby" I have ever pursued...  
Brooder Guard - .15 cents a foot
Red heat light bulb - $7.99
White heat light bulb - $ 3.49
Chicken starter feed - $2.50 for 10lbs
We already had the waterer, and the actual heat lamp.  Later I will buy a feeder too - that will cost another $2-$3.
Day Two 
All did well through the night and seem to be eating/drinking well.  Some take to being held better then others, not split by breed.  They are pecking at everything!!
Day Three
Wings are beginning to feather out a little already!  The 6 of them are eating about 2 cups of food a day.  Cage still looks clean, no wet spots.  Water needs cleaned out twice a day, they get pine chips in it.
Day Seven

They are getting big fast!  One of the red sex links is developing feathers much faster then the others, I am told this is normal  They are all still healthy, eating and drinking well.
Day 10
They are really feathering out now!  One of the red sex links is getting some dark red on her wings and they are really fluttering around their cage!
Day 14
Two weeks old today!  We finished off the first 10 lb bag of food today, and opened a second one.  And today I saw one of the barred rocks on top of the waterer for the first time -  their wings are allowing them to get some height now!  I am anxious to get their pen & coop finished so they can be outside part of the day - the temperatures are in the 80's, they could definitely be out as long as we bring them in at night.
They are all about the same size - the pic makes the barred rock look smaller because he is sitting. They were calmer for their pictures this time - but they still scatter when we reach in the cage to get them.

Day 21

Their tail feathers are filling in nicely!  They are loosing their old downy feathers a little more each day, and the new heavier feathers are coming in well.  
We've moved the out of the house and into the shed - still under a heat lamp though!

Day 25
The chickens are now outside!
The basic chicken coop is finally done and the chickens are outside!  We ran picket fence, then covered the inside with chicken wire. Then we divided the section roughly in half and ran more chicken wire, with a gate, and covered the top with a netting so that hawks and cats cannot get in.  Their house is in the back, that will be raised up later.  

I have broccoli, brussel sprouts, and dill planted in the outer fence area, as the chickens get older and bigger they will be allowed to roam out there during the day.    We let Molly the bunny run in there for a little while today, she loved it!  The heat lamp is still in the hen house - evenings get chilly here yet.
I went out to check on them before I went to bed, they were all in the hen house.  When I had left them earlier they were all outside yet, when it got dark and cold they all went in without us showing them or forci8ng them.  I am very happy!.
Week 5

5 week old Barred Rock

5 week old sex link
The chickens are doing great!  They really look like chickens now.  I shut the heat lamp off a few nights ago, and they are doing fine without it, the nights here are 50 and above.  They love being outside, and especially love it when I open up the fence so that they can be in the outer part of the garden. They have not harmed the garden plants at all, but love the weeds  - there are no weeds on their inside cage, and very few out in the garden area.  They like to perch on anything, can fly a few inches off the ground if chased, and are starting to make a slightly different noise, they even sound more like chickens now.
 The barred rocks are slightly more skittish then the red sex links, it is easier to catch the reds.  This may be partially because Matt has held the reds A LOT but is a little afraid of the black ones, so they haven't been handled as much.

Week 5 1/2
We finally got the chicken coop raised!  Now they have a shaded area to sit during the day, and a board to perch on - they love to perch!

Week 6

Week 6 1/2
I let them out in the extra part of the garden and they flew up and perched on the fence today!!  Not sure what we are going to do about that...  I hate to clip their wings, but I also hate to keep them penned in the small area everyday until they get heavier.  They come running to the gate each morning expecting me to let them out to run.  Since we live in town, I can't risk them jumping over the other side off the fence, one of the neighbor dogs would kill them. 

  That's where the diary ended.  I have pics somewhere of Matt discovering their first egg, it was a big day at our house.  :-)  Almost all of these hens lived to move to the farm with us in 2004.