Posted Mar 28, 2015
My mother-in-law and I started raising chickens in the spring of 2011 in our backyard. We ordered three baby Australorp chickens. We were determined to have these chicks be free range (once they were older) and be as antibiotic- and hormone free as possible. These were never named because one day I came home from school to find that a snake (or the cat) had slithered into the cage taking two chicks with him and the third and last chicken I found looked like he was both sick and having a heart attack. He died in my hands. We ordered some more chickens, and this time, we decided that it was best to give them some antibiotic drops in their water. We also bought some feed that was specifically designed for chicks although the name of the feed eludes me. To protect against predators, we reinforced what used to be a small ferret cage with chicken wire. This worked very well. The chickens grew up nice and healthy, and no cats or snakes got through. When the chicks needed more living space, we converted the tool shed into a free range chicken coup with hay, a watering trough, and a plate for their food. It looked more like a shanty rather than the coups you might see on Pinterest, but we took great care to recycle the materials we already had at the house using crates and a dog igloo for them to nest and lay eggs in. This was highly successful. At different times of the day, we would let them roam around the flowers and vegetable gardens. Once we were sure the dogs wouldn't eat the chickens, we started letting the chickens roam around the yard for the day, and then put them back in the coop at night. This is where Chloe comes in. She became the head chicken of the pack and all the other chickens followed her lead and didn't dare stealing any of her bugs. The dogs didn't want to get pecked either. She also laid the most eggs. It seems the more moody they are, the more eggs they lay. It also seems that the more moody they are, the most likely they are to survive, because all the other hens stopped laying eggs and went crazy and died. Nowadays, Chloe, the last chicken standing isn't producing many eggs, but she is most likely past her prime. I couldn't comment on what her meat tastes like since we kept the chickens as pets and one doesn't typically eat their pets that they named. We did, however, eat the eggs which the chickens delivered faster than we could eat them. They were some of the best eggs I have ever had, and even the free-range fertile non-hormone non-antibiotic eggs you buy at the supermarket don't compare to these eggs. As a plus, our backyard never had a problem with bugs or pests while we had all five chickens. Having backyard chickens and keeping them out of site and out of mind with the homeowner's asscoiation (if you have one) is one of the best ways to have the healthiest most nutritional eggs and not have to spray your backyard for bugs. In my humble opinion, the start up fees for the chickens, hay, and feed are well worth the investment. Plus, the chicken droppings are great (free) fertilizer! All in all, these chickens are bit feisty, and learned early on not to kick humans. As with all females, they go through periods where they are nice and then times when they are broody. They are not terribly loud chickens, but if your neighbor complains, give him some eggs and he won't mind!