Saturday, February 19, 2011

Design Bucket List #4 - Backyard Chickens!

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted chickens. I just thought it would be in the future when we retire to the country that my dream would come true. However, I'm thinking it could now be a reality!

It never occurred to me to have a few chickens in my backyard! But, it is now quite popular to have chickens in suburban backyards as pets, and for organic eggs. Some site the economy, some say it's the increasing awareness of what we eat and where it comes from.
U.S. News and World Report wrote an article about the rise of suburbanites raising chickens here.

You might wonder how does having chickens qualify for my "design bucket list?"
Well, for one, I want a coop that is attractive. I've been doing a little research, and there are some darling chicken coops out there. Of course I would customize it with paint and fabric too!

A few of my favorite bloggers that I follow have chickens.
Recently, Brooke Giannetti from Velvet and Linen acquired a few baby chicks. I have been following her project with much interest. Here is the coop they ordered from My Pet Chicken, after it was gussied up with paint.

Here is Heather Bullard's coop. How adorable is this!? She recently wrote a post about chickens in her garden here.

I'm in love with this coop from The Fancy Farm Girl. She lives on a farm and has a lot of chickens, so this coop is not only adorable, it is large enough to accommodate her ever growing population.

The ultimate coop though is Bunny Williams' pavilion!
This is just pure fantasy! Sorry, I just had to show it one more time!

This is what we will probably end up with. Kathysue from Good Life of Design told me about Holland Hen Houses, based in Marin County. Here is one of their coops that I love, which is perfect because it allows the hens to have a run.

The chickens themselves are part of the "design process" too!
Here are Brooke Giannetti's little Silkie Bantam chickens. Aren't they adorable?

Since they usually lay about three eggs per week, it is more than enough for us. They are also quite docile and make great pets. Not to mention their feathers feel like silk!
I'm leaning towards this breed and think three would be quite manageable.

There is a lot to learn about raising backyard chickens. I've ordered this book from Amazon, and am planning on taking a class at Love Apple Farms in Santa Cruz.

However, my friend and neighbor in Asti, Ron has offered to get me started. He has over 30 chickens in the country, as well as some in his backyard in the City. Ron will definitely be a wonderful source of knowledge.
In the meantime, I'm enjoying the process of researching coops and breeds.

If you do decide to raise a few chickens, be sure to check the zoning laws in your city or county. Do not get a rooster. Most cities don't allow them anyway, and they can be irritating to your neighbors.
My county requires a special permit for chickens. We are allowed up to ten hens, and no roosters. The chickens must remain cooped up at all time.

Build a generously sized coop. Figure 10 square feet per chicken.
Keep your coop clean, and put the manure in the compost pile. Manure is too "hot" to put directly in your garden.
Keep them secure to keep predators like raccoons and dogs out.

And be sure to get more than one chicken! Chickens are social animals, so start with at least three and they will be happy!



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