Backyard Chicken Adventure Turns to Experience, or…

how I changed my mind about many things in 15 short weeks.

Adventure is something you seek for pleasure, or even for profit, like a gold rush or invading a country; … but experience is what really happens to you in the long run; the truth that finally overtakes you.–Katherine Anne Porter

I have alternately worried and wondered at how my chickens were progressing on the homemade gluten-free feed. It is not like I went into this knowing anything about a chicken. All the information in the entire world written on the subject is not going to equal hands-on experience. My chickens seem quite healthy and actually happy little critters, but I still wondered. Last night I found a video on YouTube of fourteen week old pullets. Mine look just like them! Whew. We’re doing okay in the growth department.

We have 2 each: Barred Rock, Ameraucana, Buff Orpington, Rhode Island Red.

With fifteen weeks of experience under our belt, we’ve learned a lot of things we would not do again in regards to our chicken house and run. We would have built a bit bigger, and perhaps a lot more simple. We changed our roost setup inside three times, have now hit on what the darlings really like, which is up near the top, enjoying the air through the hardware cloth screening.

It is nice that the run is fully covered, and the chickens have access to under the coop, too. We plan more fencing beneath the trees.

One of the things we did that has turned out to our great satisfaction is to use sand in the bottom of the run. We used fine sand, like play sand. I was going to use coarser sand, sometimes called patio sand, but my dear son helped out by bringing home a great trailer load of river sand, which here is fine. It keeps everything dry, and the chickens love to dust themselves in it. We got the idea from this article.

Inside the coop I started with thick pine shavings, however, it tends to make a mess when the chickens toss it out the door and down onto the sand. I’ve discovered grassy hay much more to my liking. It smells sweet and can be scattered in a thick bedding, too, that tends to stay put. I am a firm believer in sprinkling diatomaceous earth (DE) all around the inside of coop, too, before I put in the hay. Supposedly it helps deter mites and bugs, but I’ve found wherever DE is nothing sticks and clean up is easy. (FYI: it doesn’t kill fire ants. I tried.)

Air. I’m so very glad we built a wire screen high up on the wall of the coop, facing into the run. Then I read about open-coop method and we decided to open the west access door, too. We may even yet put an opening of hardware cloth in the north-facing wall.

The door is divided in half, covered with hardware cloth. Each half can be closed or opened with a screw-off panel. We left the bottom covered until warm weather, but it is off now. A continual breeze blows through. We learned that chickens can much more easily warm themselves than cool themselves. Their body temperature is about 103 degrees–got that from an ‘expert’ in an article, not any experience.

Rocks of this sort are not naturally found in Lower Alabama. We brought these from Oklahoma. We put them all around the edge of the coop. They hold down the chicken wire we put beneath sand and dirt on the outside, to deter predators from digging. So far so good.

Hubby had these old metal pieces, actually were car ramps for a trailer. Work perfectly at each door. Nothing’s going to dig through them. Oh, that is not snow– that is white sand from the Mobile Bay.

Our little flock is allowed outside now every evening, while dear husband and I sit beneath the pecan trees, acting as designated roosters. Life is good.

The Chicken Chronicles Begin

Last night we heard a very knowledgeable talk on raising chickens by a speaker with over forty years experience, having begun as a very young boy. He just loves all feathered creatures. I was captivated and sat there soaking up information you can only get from a passionate source. Unfortunately, as the talk progressed in great detail over the common and thoroughly nasty maladies that attack chickens, and the equally nasty remedies, a large dark cloud of doubt grew above my head.

I leaned over to my husband and said, “Good Lord, I think we’ve made a big mistake. Maybe we should give it up.” At this point in my life, I’m making a great effort to keep things simple.

However, my husband’s response was, “Too late. We’re started now, and we’re finishing that chicken coop.”

Thankfully there was a gentleman sitting next to me who said, “I just built a chicken house and went and got grown chickens last year. I haven’t had any of that.”

There’s such power in an encouraging word at the right time.

I have learned that when embarking on any endeavor, there’s always a whole lot one does not know, which is good, because if you knew it, you would never start out in the first place, whether raising chickens or children, getting married, starting a blog, writing a book.

You start out with a creative idea that fires you up and gets you started. At some point, early or a little later, invariably some discouragement comes to snatch the dream away. It has been my experience that if you are paying attention, there will also be an equal word of encouragement. If you do not get it coming to you, then you just have to encourage yourself. And keep pressing on.