Backyard Chickens

More and more homeowners are looking to expand their exterior home space to include vegetable gardens and livestock. But do you really need acres and acres to do this successfully? A young family of four in Henrico, VA is doing it successfully on 5 little acres. Mike and Amelia Dyson and their two children have joined the many others in the growing trend of backyard chickens and are loving it. DCI asked them to share their experiences as first time chicken owners with our readers.

How did you get started with chickens?

“We started with four hens, all Golden Comets, which are bred to be layers. Each lays an egg every day. The first month we lost one of our girls to a hawk attack, so now we are down to three. No rooster yet…And there is such a thing as “chicken math” (Look it up, ha!), so I am sure there will be more to come this summer. The more we dive into the world of chickens, the more I want! There are so many beautiful and interesting breeds!”

What have you learned from your first experience with having chickens?

“Chickens make great pets! Depending on the breed you have and how young they are when you get them, chickens can be very friendly and outgoing. They require less work than I anticipated, yet I find them sucking up more and more of my time during the day simply because I love being around them.”

What kind of care and cost do chickens require?

“Clean food, clean water, and a clean and secure place to roost are essential. Expect to tend to them each morning and evening. Our chickens free range during the day but still need to be let out of their coop in the morning and are given fresh water, scratch and a little bit of grain for a balanced diet. The cost on these items varies depending on regular vs. organic so prices range from $6-$30/bag. So far a medium sized bag has lasted us several months. They return to the coop on their own as soon as the sun goes down each night. We check on them, close the door and make sure it is secure. That’s it!”

What do you love about having chickens? What are the challenges of having chickens?

“Chickens are hilarious creatures, each with his/her own personality.  I love that when I call them they come running across the yard like crazy little raptors! The eggs of course are an obvious benefit, but the discipline my children have learned in caring for them has been priceless. The biggest challenge our family has faced is making sure we are always home at sunset to shut the coop door, and with free-ranging your chickens you always risk attacks from day-time predators such as hawks.”

What suggestions or thoughts do you have for others who are considering getting chickens?

“Consider the breed before you buy. Do you want meat birds, layers, both? Also be sure to check on your local regulations for having poultry. Different counties have different limits to the number of birds you can have, whether or not you can have a rooster, and how far away your coop must be from the neighbor’s property line. They are flock birds so be sure to start with at least three, preferably four. No one wants to be the only person in town.” 🙂

If you are contemplating raising chickens, gaining additional knowledge is a great way to start. If you are a reader, you might like The Chicken Chick’s Guide to Backyard Chickens. For the more visual learners, Urbanfarm.org offers a FREE webinar called Chickens, Goats and More: An Introduction to Backyard Animals. It is a recorded webinar with a short audio introduction before the visuals begin, but it’s FREE and contains great information. Here’s to backyard farming!
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