Now that we've had the girls for about 3 months, I figure we are basically experts.
So, here are my professional poultry expert answers. You're welcome.
How do you know anything about raising chickens? Can you pass along any resources?
My dad knows all about chickens. He use to raise many many many chickens when he was a wee lad. So when I mentioned being interested in having a couple of hens, we started talking chicken. David's family also had a flock when he was a child, so we came to the table with a little bit of background knowledge. However, there are lots of great resources for beginners with absolutely no poultry knowledge.
Here are a few of my favorite chicken books:
If you were going to get just one, I would recommend Raising Chickens. It is an encyclopedia of all things chick. If you are getting chickens, get this book. A friend gave us Chick Days and it's a fabulous introduction to raising chickens and all that's involved. It has lots of pictures and makes the whole endeavor seem very do-able. Keeping Chickens is a lovely book, but not quite as informative. I love it for my coffee table, though. Ashley English can do no wrong.
How are you so lucky? Why are your dad and brother so awesome? Will they build one for me?
I know I'm super lucky. And no, they will probably not build one for you. Sorry. They love me lots. There are great plans available for building your own chicken coops on backyardchickens.com
What do the eggs look like?
They are brown beauties. One hen lays a bit darker egg than the other...all hens have a distinctive shade of egg even though the breed lays a specific color. The size varies from day to day, but typically they lay eggs that are comparable to "large" size grocery store eggs. Every once in a while we'll get a "jumbo." I refer to these as "golden luckies" and save them for omelets.
Why those weird names?
We named our chickens after southern writers Flannery O'Connor and Eudora Welty...we thought they seemed like little ol' southern ladies with an attitude, so these names are fitting. But truth be told, I can't remember which one we named which. I can tell the difference between the chickens, but I can't remember which one has which name. I'm thinking about changing their names now. This is why we don't have kids. We could very well be having this conversation about a baby.
How many eggs do they lay?
The girls lay about one egg per day, so we get at least a dozen eggs every week. The number of eggs a chickens lays depends on their breed, so be sure to research that if you're planning on starting your own flock of layers.
Are the chickens loud and smelly?
No, not really. If you keep the coop clean by changing the pine shavings often, there is no foul (pun) smell. It does however smell faintly farm-ish. Does that make sense? (another pun) Think about your dog: If my dog is relatively clean, he does not stink...but he does smell like a dog.
The chickens don't stink, but they do frequently give us the "stink eye." The coop is right under our living room window, and sometimes I stick my head out and look down at them like this:
They cut their little beady bird eyes up at me. This move has been coined "the stink eye." They are also not really as noisy as I expected them to be. During the morning, when they're laying their eggs, they making a lot of happy clucking and bocking noises, but that's about it. Roosters crow, not hens.
Are you allowed to do this in the city?
Yes, in Macon, Georgia residents are allowed to have chickens inside the city limits. Every city's laws are different. Most cities allow a small number of hens, but no roosters because of the noise issue.
Where can you buy a coop and chickens?
Because my Daddy gave us our chickens, they came from a local Fitzgerald chicken farmer. You can check the livestock section of your local Craigslist for chicken listings. We get most of our chicken supplies from our neighborhood hardware store. My favorite chicken supply website, however, is My Pet Chicken. You can buy chicken coops, supplies, and even chickens! Mail order chicks...who'd of thunk it?
What do your neighbors think?
Our neighbors really seem to enjoy the chickens as much as we do. All of the neighborhood kids come to hang out in our yard for hours, crowing and clucking at the chickens. We also bribe our neighbors by giving them fresh eggs to make up for the times when they can hear the ladies cackling. We'll poll them again in a few months and see if the novelty has warn off. Let's hope not. We have great neighbors, so I would strongly urge you to test the idea of chickens on your neighbors before you just bust some birds up on them.
Have ya'll lost your minds? Do you think you're a farmer or something?
Maybe. What's it to ya?
Just kidding. Chickens are really fun pets. You can hold them and watch them peck around for snacks and let them give you the stink eye...it's great. We love having fresh eggs. Every time we go out to collect them, it's like finding a prize! They really are much better than store bought. I didn't believe that they would be, but they are.
We enjoy gardening and raising chickens because it's very gratifying work. It doesn't make a big difference, but we also like the teeny tiny contribution we're making toward our good health and on the food production industry. It's good to be connected to your food... to tend a garden and see it produce vegetables or to feed and care for a hen and be rewarded with a fresh egg. It's a much richer experience than just showing up at the grocery store and picking something off a shelf that came out of a truck from who knows where. It makes me appreciate my food more and all the processes and work that it takes to get supper on the table.
My pet makes me breakfast.