We raised our first chicks about 6-years-ago after buying our first home. It had an adorable old shed that would quickly and easily translate into a chicken coop for the babes we picked out just before Easter, cause what’s better than fuzzy chicks at Easter!?
We researched the breeds and needs of our chicks-to-be to make sure we were getting exactly what we needed to have the cold-hearty flock we were dreaming of. I can say that even after all the prep and research, pulling the trigger brought on a whole slew of new information that we learned as we began troubleshooting along the way. I can tell you this, it’s doable, it’s fun, it’s not difficult, but it is a lot of work. AND it’s messy. So, if you’re still interested let’s go through a few key factors to help you get started!
A quick google search of your county + chicken laws should just about cover it. Some counties limit how many you can have, most prohibit roosters, some require a license (similar to registering your dog). We’ve lived in Denver and Arapahoe counties and it’s always been very straight forward and easy to navigate. Don’t let this scare you away!
If you have a fenced in yard, you can most certainly have some hens foraging around! You can order a coop online, find plans to build your own, go to your local Murdochs, or even check craigslist for a gently used one. Pay attention to how many hens it is designed for, so that you’re raising the happiest kind of gals!
What are your backyard flock intentions? Are you looking for unusually beautiful breeds with docile personalities? Are you hoping for some prolific layers to keep your Costco egg budget down? Some combination of the two? We have chosen breeds that, first do well in Colorado’s climate and bear the colder months well but also are lovely, sweet, and lay A LOT of colorful eggs! Breeds we’ve had in the past or currently are: Australorp, Buff Orpington, Barred Rock, Red Star, Easter eggers/Americaunas, Rhode Island Red, and Blue Cochins. Australorps are beautiful and known to be prolific layers (daily!) of brown eggs. On the other end our Blue Cochin is sweet as pie and OH so fluffy! But will likely lay significantly less (2 eggs/week).
Getting ready for your chickens
Have your chick brooder set up and ready to go, make sure they have enough space to get away from the heat lamp if they get too hot, and make sure they’re pooping (I know, eww). This year we were encouraged to wet the chick food and clean it 1-2 times daily, which helped with the poop thing. But basically if they aren’t getting enough water, this can cause issues… ones you don’t want to deal with. We’re all moms here, but I’ll spare you… Google pasted up chick if you run into this. You’ll need to keep them somewhere climate controlled, which means they are probably living IN your house for awhile (day old chicks need to be kept at around 85-90 degrees F for the first week, with the temp gradually decreasing week by week) and I must tell you that with the loss of their downy fuzzy, the scratching in the wood shavings, and the pecking of chick food you will have an ultra fine layer of dust develop over whatever space they are in. The floor, the desk, the window sills. It’s annoying. It cleans up quickly, but I had to tell you!
We have raised chickens from day old chicks, as well as started pullets (fully feathered young hens) and although chicks are a lot of work now that we have kiddos, it feels worth the effort. Not only is our little guy more invested, but our flock is more friendly and laid back. They come for treats, don’t mind being picked up, and don’t peck just for kicks! We share leftovers with our ladies and as long as we can supervise to watch out for big predators, they love to forage about the yard, looking for bugs and whatever else they can find. Because of the breeds we chose, we get light brown, dark brown/copper, blue, and green eggs. The egg basket is a beautiful sight and our eggs last longer and are more delicious and nutritious then the store bought ones that claim to be “free range” and “cage free.” The yolks are such a rich orange and more flavorful than any you’ve ever had. If you haven’t had eggs laid by happy chickens, I promise you are missing out!