Bringing Home the Hens

19 March 2017

You guys! We have chickens in our backyard! Man, it was not an easy week leading up to bringing them home - let me tell you. But first with the fun stuff!!  I want to share how we picked our chickens, where we got them, their hopes and dreams, etc...  Then... the not-so-fun: some of the issues that have come up for us so far. But first, wanna meet the ladies? We wanted to go with some sort of theme in naming them so we decided to give them all famous-bad-ass-feminists names, ha! So we have Frida, Nellie, Rosa, and Michelle.

Some of you may be wondering why got full sized hens and not chicks. While we would have loved to start our chickens from chicks (they become tame way easier, kids could see them grow, and come on, you know what a baby chick looks like, SO CUTE) we decided that having our own baby at home was probably enough work for us right now. Also keeping some chicks inside with Gus (the dog) around just sounded kinda stressful. So hens it was!

We actually have 2 small black hens as well, but they are super shy and hid out in the coop whenever I came around with my camera.

When we first started looking around locally for hens most people pointed us in the direction of commercial chicken sellers. While the hens from places like that were relatively cheap (around $12 a laying hen), we had heard a lot about how chickens from those places weren't necessarily raised with the TLC we were hoping for. After some research we were really drawn to the fancy pants heritage breed hens. These hens, while more expensive (we paid $30 a hen), are bred to be more winter hardy (they're not bred to live in a commercial chicken house with no windows or fresh air) and people who choose to raise heritage breed animals typically have more invested in the animals so you know they're more cared for.

Anyway it was really hard to find a place that sold heritage breed hens around here! But we ended up finding the coolest place, Happy Hens Heritage Farm. It was a bit of a drive but totally worth it. Marina who runs the show is so sweet and she raises a bunch of different heritage breeds. Plus if you peruse her website you can tell she is totally obsessed and in love with what she does. When we contacted her a few months back she gave us so much great information and answered all of our newbie questions. Since we didn't have a coop at the time (yes, we bought chickens before getting a coop...) she offered to "babysit" them for us and to put our four hens together a week or so before we would come get them so that could get used to each other. When we went to pick them up on Friday she and her husband made us tea while Iris immediately joined their four kids outside to play and we chatted about homesteading and the like. I think we hung out there for like two hours, it was great. We highly HIGHLY recommend them if you're looking for chickens! Here are a few photos from our visit...

Now the issues. Or rather, the main issue. Angry neighbours! Ah! Long story short (kinda), our neighbours (who we've always had a good relationship with) are very opposed to us having chickens. We've always had great relationships with the people in our community and this is the first time someone has had an issue with something we're doing and it totally surprised and stressed us out. They have many concerns (the noise, smell, that their property value will go down, that the birds will die in this weather, predators coming into the yard, etc.).  We've tried to reassure them but they pretty much didn't want to have any conversation with us at all and have told us they'd be calling By-Law Enforcement and the Humane Society if we brought the birds home. As someone who absolutely hates confrontation this has been really stressful and frustrating. Don't they know we are nice people?! Don't be mad at us please! It's gotten to the point where we have been in contact with bylaw to double and triple check we are doing everything by the book. Anyway, we've tried all that we can to be friendly and open but it's been disappointing that it's gotten us nowhere.  So, we're just going to move on and try not to let it bother us too much. I mean, who doesn't have a grumpy neighbour story right?  Our hope is that in a month or two this episode will end, and that these neighbours will have come to the realization that: the chickens have no impact on them at all (noise, odor, attracting pests, etc.), and that we are doing a FABULOUS job keeping our ladies happy and healthy.

We put a "decoy" egg in the nesting box so the ladies will know that's where they should lay their eggs. It worked! That egg is from Rosa or Nellie, the small bantam chickens.

We kept the hens in the coop all day yesterday so they figure out that it is their new home and will hopefully climb up into it at night. The first night we had noticed that none of the ladies were exploring the actual coop part and we had to physically put them in there at night. That sounds so easy when I write it.  Actually, it required me to nudge them to one end of the run with a broom while Dave tried to grab them and put them up top. Michelle escaped and then we had to corral and pounce on her.  You probably get the picture. We're newbies! But the ladies made it in there eventually! Dave went out to check on them before bed and heard them purring sleepily. Be still, my heart!

I'm hoping to do a coop tour next and give you an idea of all the stuff we had to get ($$). But I should probably just stop now. I can already tell we're going to be those annoying chicken obsessed people, ha!


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