The coop is essentially finished. You saw the finishing touches in the Covering and Completing the Chicken Coop post. However, there are still some things to do. For one thing, I need to level out the ground on the side of the coop to make it easier to get inside on winter days. The inside still needs to be wired and I have to paint the outside. Still, the coop is ready for occupancy.
I also need to provide some sort of shelter for the chicken food, so that it doesn’t get wet. The food is currently in a 32 gallon trash can (which performs remarkably well). We’ve found that we need to use the brute strength trash cans to keep animals at bay. The domed lid works best in this case because it sheds the water really well. It’s a mistake to get a trash can with wheels because dumping the 100 pound bags of feed into them is nearly impossible without dumping at least some of it on the ground. (Even though our chickens will feast on grass, bugs, and other sources of food outside, we still need to provide a certain amount of feed consisting of oyster shell, grains, and grass hay.)
As I previously mentioned, we’ll get chicks for the coop on June 25th. Until then, it would still be nice to get something for our efforts, so we bought two laying hens from a friend of ours. Both produce nice brown eggs. The first is a Rhode Island Red (Rose) and the second is a Black Australorp (Violet). A rooster had picked at the two birds a bit before we got them, but except for missing a few feathers, they’re really nice birds.
Our chickens started laying eggs almost immediately. In fact, we received our first egg from Violet the first evening we had her.
Both of our ladies have been raised in the free-range manner, so we’re already receiving the benefits of free-range eggs. There is some discussion on precisely what these benefits are, but most of the places I’ve researched agree that you get these benefits over eggs raised using production methods (chickens in a cage):
- 1/3 less cholesterol
- 1/4 less saturated fat
- 2/3 more vitamin A
- Two times more omega-3 fatty acids
- Three times more vitamin E
- Seven times more beta carotene
Some sites also say there is a potential calcium and vitamin D benefit. Whether all of these benefits are real or not remains to be seen. However, the egg yolks are significantly more orange than the eggs we’ve purchased from the store and the eggs taste better, so there is some difference.
In addition to these two chickens, we’ll get a mix of chickens that we’ll raise from chicks. Our brood will include:
- Four Buff Orpington (great meat birds, cold hearty, and produce copious large eggs)
- Four Delaware (even better meat birds, cold hearty, lay well during the winter, and produce jumbo eggs)
- Two Americana (smaller food requirement, extremely cold hearty, produce copious colorful medium size eggs)
We used a number of sources to make our decision on which chicken breeds to get, including Henderson’s Chicken Breed Chart. We also asked people who are actually raising these breeds of chickens whenever possible about how they fared.
You might wonder why we didn’t get any Leghorns. After all, the production places use this sort of chicken. The problem with the Leghorn is that its comb will freeze during the winter months and the small weight size makes it necessary to heat the coop. We were warned away from this particular breed by more than a few people who raise chickens in the same way that we intend to raise chickens. Sometimes too much help from technology isn’t a good thing.
You may also wonder why we didn’t get just one breed. There are several reasons. First, having multiple breeds makes the chickens more fun. We want a colorful coop. Second, each of the chicken breeds has different qualities to recommend it. For example, we don’t want all jumbo eggs, but we do want a few for eating purposes. In addition, we don’t like a mono-culture of anything, including animals. Mono-culture environments invite disease and other problems. So, we have a colorful coop that should serve us well. I’ll post updates as time permits to tell you how our new coop is doing. Please let me know if you have any questions at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.