Colonial Heights City Code says we can have up to three chickens. I also see we have to get a (revocable) permit. Not sure how to go about doing that yet. I would just skip the permit and have illegal chickens, but we have a corner lot, not to mention some really nosey folks around. One in particular does her morning walking picking up trash, which is super cool… until you met her. I’ll just call her “Fancy Pants.” It is a guarantee that the second we had hens in our backyard Fancy Pants would call City Council, the Police, and run us out of Colonial Heights on a rail. I don’t think chickens are in her plans for city beautification. Little Rhode Island Reds running around is exactly my idea of city beautification.
I spent some time looking at chicken coops on line and craigslist and discovered those suckers are expensive. I’m talking $650-1,500 expensive. I hate to tell the buyers of those coops that the chickens just don’t care. Mostly, a chicken coop just needs to keep the chickens safe. Growing up we used an old honey house as a chicken coop. Over time a Racoon tunneled in. It wasn’t pretty (it was really, really sad actually). The only one left standing was our ridiculously mean rooster.
There are some cute chicken coops, that I’m sure anyone with a high school wood shop carpentry skill level could make. I mean, it’s a box. Even if it has shingles and looks like a cottage, it’s still a box. Unfortunately, I can barely put prefab Ikea furniture together. Backyardchickens.com has a really inspiring photo gallery. A girl can dream right? My husband told me I was “chicken crazy.” He’s probably right. This as been going on for about six months.
My Uncle Robin and Aunt Susan had city chickens when they lived in Monrovia, Ca just twenty miles outside of LA. They converted a greenhouse/shed the previous owner had and my grandfather built the run. I wish my grandfather was closer. I wouldn’t be typing this up, I would be posting pictures of a chicken coop. Aunt Susan suggested a booklet that Lehman’s carries. Side Note: Lehman’s is the coolest hardware store on the planet. If you ever find yourself in Dalton, Ohio go there. You’ll thank me.
Anyway, I didn’t see the booklet that she was talking about, but I did find The Chicken Tractor by Sue and Richard Merriam. Sue also has a great website on Organic Gardening and Homesteading if you are interested. You can order the book directly through her website for only $12.95. Her book gives you the plans and building materials list to make the cute little coop on the cover. And if you are a chicken raising novice (I could use a refresher course), she has lots of other information in there as well. DIY projects are not only much cheaper, but way more gratifying. A friends dad built his entire house, attached greenhouse and barn from salvaged and reclaimed wood. I’m hoping he can help me get my hands on the materials this winter.
A chicken tractor is a bottomless, mobile coop. You can move it around your garden bed or yard and the chickens free range, eating your weed seeds and dropping there magical fertilizer. It will allow our chickens to be free range, which is what gives them those yummy dark yellow yolks (loaded with vitamin A, beta carotene, omega 3 fatty acids, lower in cholesterol and taste like nothing you’ve ever bought at the grocery store), while still protecting them from neighborhood strays.
Why chickens? I think the country girl and city girl in me are in conflict with one another. I like our manageable city plot, walkability, parks, friendly community and neighborhood kids running around our front yard after school. I also want to give Owen a taste of my childhood. While I can’t give him sheep and feeder calves, I can give him homegrown vegetables and chickens (and a rabbit. That’s a another story). That and I really want the manure. I’m obsessed with my compost pile and chicken manure is a much desired ingredient (this is actually where Mr. Rabbit comes into play as well). I actually paid a lady $.10 a pound for manure. Country people think that doing such a thing is ludicrous. Oh the things we take for granted. Eggs are a kind of bonus. A really tasty bonus.
I also recommend The City Chicken sight if you are a city slicker who is interested in have feathered friends of your own. Imagine, fresh eggs right in your own back yard. Not to mention the fact that chickens are more entertaining than television.
To Be Continued…