Babci’s Getting Chickens

by Sandy L on March 22, 2012

I had my first house hunting letdown this week. We found a funky fixer upper on 10 acres in a good location and after 3 visits decided to put what I thought was a very attractive offer in. We gave the sellers an offer at the home’s assessed value and given that properties have been selling at way below the assessed value of late, I thought the offer was fair, generous even. We got back an almost immediate response that the offer was insulting and they refused to counter.  The reason the offer was insulting is because the home had once been listed at almost double the assessed value, and now it’s at the bargain basement price of only 80% higher than the assessed value.  Nothing has been touched on the place since the 70′s and the home has a funky layout, so we’ll see how smart a move that was for the both of us.  I kept the door open with the seller’s agent that we can revisit the offer down the road if the property is still up for sale. (It’s been on the market since 2010, so like others, they aren’t very motivated to sell, despite the fact that the place is vacant and there aren’t many buyers out there that want to pay such a high price for a fixer).    Once I get my mind clamped on something, I do tend to obsess about it until I make some progress and the initial push is over. It’s a blessing and a curse.  I decided I needed something to take my mind off house hunting until additional properties came on the market.

All I have to say, is thank god for Babci’s neighbor because they provided the perfect diversion: chickens.  In all the excitement of this news, I also found out that another neighbor on the street also has chickens.  Babci and I have wanted chickens for years, and we’ve had to live vicariously through other chicken farming friends.  My husband did not want chickens. He thinks they are dirty and would disturb the neighbors.  Well, with 2 of Babci’s neighbors (3 actually if you count the people over the fence) with chickens, that argument just got thrown out the window.   With my best puppy dog eyes and rationale that babci doesn’t ask for much and he’s denying her the one thing she covets, my husband relented and told me to go to town.

My friend Laurie's Polish Chicken

My friend Laurie's Polish Chicken

I immediately emailed my buddies at Mike and Molly’s house for advice.  They have another site called Chickentopia, so they know a thing or two about chickens.  I’ve been living vicariously through them for at least 2 years when it comes to chickens and beekeeping.  After getting over the initial sticker shock of how much a pre-made coop costs ($500-$1500), I decided to buy their ChickenDIY plans and have a go at building a chicken tractor on the cheap.  The only hard part is going to be finding the time to do it.  Babci doesn’t want to bother unless it’s at least a dozen birds and she also wants Peking ducks too, so I think I’ll need to make 2 tractors.   The other issue is that my scrap wood pile is anemic at the moment. I’ve maybe got a few boards that are useful, but will have to find the bulk of the raw materials somewhere on the cheap.  I’m in love with my local Restore, so that may help, but I hate shelling out cash on something like this. I  also have too many other unfinished projects right now to spent the time to make a proper permanent structure..which I don’t want to do anyway because we might be moving in the near future. I’m hoping I can find an old doghouse or something on craigslist that I can use as a ready made structure and modify.  This should be cheaper than trying to build something from new wood.  We’ll see what the second hand world will bring me for supplies.

My 6 year old son is excited about helping build the coop, so we’ll have to have a go at it soon.  We’ve got weekend plans through the end of Easter so I don’t know how long it’ll be before we’re done but I’m super excited about finally getting some chooks.  For you chicken lovers out there, do you have any advice on cold weather breeds?  I love the cute little eggs that bantams lay.  I tell my kids they are special kid sized eggs layed just for them.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicoleandmaggie March 22, 2012 at 6:54 AM

I bet she couldn’t have the coop, much less chickens at that other house!

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Sandy L March 23, 2012 at 6:04 AM

Nicole – actually one of the outbuildings was a very large coop, big enough for 50 chickens, which got us fantasizing about chickens again. So I figure, why wait.

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The Lost Goat March 22, 2012 at 6:00 PM

I don’t know anything about cold weather chickens, but I do know that a dozen chickens can be counted on to produce at least 10 eggs a day in the summer. Hope you have a plan for the extras!

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Sandy L March 23, 2012 at 6:05 AM

Goat – that’s no problem at all. We have lots of friends and there is a supply demand problem at work too. One other lady brings her eggs to work and sells them and people fight over who gets them. She doesn’t profit off of them, only charges $3/dozen, but it’s a way to do something with her extras.

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Jacq March 22, 2012 at 8:41 PM

Omelettes for everyone! Plus you can freeze eggs for baking. Sell some or give them away to friends and just keep the cracked ones for yourself… I have no illusions that Babci will find a way to use those suckers up.

You may see an increase in varmint activity, including cats. Babci will have to lay some traps out. :-)

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Sandy L March 23, 2012 at 6:06 AM

Jacq – yes, we have lots of varmints already. One upside is both of her neighbors have big dogs, which have already helped with garden pets.

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Linda March 22, 2012 at 11:12 PM

I love reading this! Today was a banner day for me: all five of my hens laid an egg today. :-)

Last weekend a neighbor that lives across the alley from me stopped by with her kids to visit my hens and we ended up talking chickens for at least 40 minutes. She said she had been thinking of getting some for a while and asked me lots of questions about where to get chicks, etc. The next day she stopped by again and said she had picked up 2 baby chicks at the store that very day. Heh, heh, heh. It’s contagious!

Anyway, Henderson’s Chicken Breed Chart is the best for comparing the cold hardiness and productiveness of the various chicken breeds. I’ve had Ameraucanas, Red Stars (Red Sex Link), and Delawares in the past. All did well through Chicago winters, but the Red Stars were the most productive layers. Now I have Speckled Sussex and New Hampshire Reds. They all did very well through this (admittedly mild) winter. The Speckled Sussex are OK layers, but the New Hampshire Reds are rock stars. Even though they reached full maturity in the darkest days of winter, they were the first to start laying. ( The SS hens were seven weeks older, and theoretically should have started laying first, but they were beat by the NHRs).

Most chickens will do fine in cold winters, but if you want eggs in winter you need to get breeds that are known for being good winter layers. See the Henderson’s Chicken Chart for that info: http://www.ithaca.edu/staff/jhenderson/chooks/chooks.html

As for the cost of buying a coop, I’ve seen two coops in my neighborhood that were super simple. They were made from those chain link dog runs you can buy, covered with a tarp to keep them protected from precip. Walking by these yards I don’t get to see inside the runs, but I assume there’s some sort of shelter in there, too, like a re-purposed dog house. My coop is super secure because I know there are raccoons and coyotes in my area. I’m not sure how these folks keep their hens safe from raccoons. I spent a lot of my pre-built coop, but it is so wonderful to have a safe, attractive environment in which to keep my hens. I think the money was well spent.

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Sandy L March 23, 2012 at 6:11 AM

Thanks Linda. I was hoping you’d chime in, because we have similar winters. After some thought, I’ve now decided that I want to build a permanent coop within part of the garage and they can go in and out a window or maybe I can put in a doggie door that connects to a pen. That solves a ton of animal problems and I can also use crappier building materials and not worry about the coop falling apart after a season of weather. Plus, it’ll be warmer and more secure. Oh, and babci wants a few ducks too.

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Cynthia March 23, 2012 at 2:41 PM

Sorry to hear about the house disappointment and glad you have found a diversion. We loved having chickens when we had them, before the bobcat got them…twice. Way down on the list is figuring out a roof for our coop, which came with the house. Anyhow, you’ll enjoy the eggs. And I just love the clucking sound in the morning when I used to go collect the eggs. It made me think of my grandmother.

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Sandy L March 27, 2012 at 5:01 PM

Cynthia – so sad. I worry about the animals here too. One of my fondest memories as a child was holding a baby chick on my aunt’s farm in Poland. I definitely want to recreate that for my own kids…and yes, I love clucking sounds too.

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Denise @ The Single Saver March 24, 2012 at 11:22 PM

I used to have backyard chickens. Ironically, that was when I lived in the city. Now i live more in the country but my neighborhood has a no chicken rule. Sigh. I miss them.

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Sandy L March 27, 2012 at 5:03 PM

Denise – I suppose I should be glad that my city allows chickens even though it’s over $300 to get the permit. I think they make it cost prohibitive on purpose to limit the people getting them to the hard core earthy crunchies.

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Joe @ Retire By 40 March 26, 2012 at 7:35 PM

How many chickens can you have? Our city only allow 3 chickens per household… I thought about it when I lived in a house, but it’s too rainy here. I don’t think they’ll be happy with the constant drizzle.

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Sandy L March 27, 2012 at 5:03 PM

Joe – we can have up to a dozen and no roosters.

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Molly (Mike and Molly's House) March 27, 2012 at 7:00 PM

Mike and I have been enjoying your brainstorming email to us. I may have to make a caveat to when people ask us for chicken advice: “Be entertaining!”

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Linda March 27, 2012 at 7:28 PM

It’s interesting how so many *large cities* allow people to keep chickens, but the surrounding suburbs and smaller cities and towns either do not allow it or place lots of restrictions on it. $300 for a permit is outlandish! Because of its past as central market for agricultural products (including animals for meat), Chicago has no overt rules about keeping chickens or livestock. The only restrictions are the same ones covering general nuisance (odor, noise, etc.) and a prohibition on slaughtering animals on your property. I could keep a cow, a goat, a herd of sheep, etc. in Chicago if I only had the space and facilities to feed and care for them. And I don’t have to buy a permit either. :-)

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Andrew @ 101 Centavos March 27, 2012 at 10:54 PM

Chickens, chickens….if only. I dream feathered dreams, but our city has an anti-chicken bias, and thou-shalt-not ordinances to match. We do have a source out in the country, $1.50 per dozen organic eggs. They’re mid-size, but the yolks are wondefrully orange.
Glad to see Mr. FGA gave int. Hope to see coop pictures up soon.

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