Home fresh eggs: How to raise chickens in your backyard

Can you imagine having fresh, organic eggs delivered to your kitchen daily? It really is possible. Read one family's story about the commitment, cost, struggles and joys of raising backyard chickens in an urban environment.

Backyard chickens: A big commitment?
It all started with a March Break trip to Honduras. Hanging out on a local friend's porch, my six-year-old got to hold day-old chicks, which soon led to, "Mommy, Mommy, can we get chicks, too? Please? Can I have chicks?"
Neither my husband nor I could think of a valid reason to say no. For some reason the cost, responsibility and possible municipal bylaw infractions escaped our minds, and we promised that yes, she could have chicks. I had visions of my pink-cheeked daughter collecting three pretty brown organic eggs from the backyard each morning. Plus, c'mon, have you seen a day-old chick? They're hard to resist.

But they're also a big responsibility. We paid over $300 on supplies for three chicks that themselves cost all of $3 each. My husband also spent many hours converting part of our backyard garden shed into a chicken coop and building an outdoor run, while I spent my spare time cleaning: the cage, baby-chick bums, the playroom floor (after they'd pooped all over it during their regular free-range time).

The baby chicks grew fast, ate what seemed like their body weight in food daily, and pooped out the corresponding volume of waste each day. Often right into their food bowl or water dispenser, which then needed cleaning out. Again.

Today, at eight weeks of age, "the girls" require a lot less care, and now that their coop and run have been built, raising them is neither expensive nor difficult.

In theory, our Columbian Rock - Rhode Island Red cross-breed hens could be meaty dinner birds down the road when their laying days come to an end – but we'd never do that to Twyla, Rose and Buttercup. Now they're family.

Want to raise chickens in your own backyard? Here's what you need to know.

Level of commitment
High. Chicks need a lot of care, and chickens can live a decade – or more. Chickens eat and drink like crazy; foul (pardon the pun) everywhere; need room to roam and roost, indoors and out; and require heated facilities when the weather drops. They're highly social, too, so you'll have to raise a minimum of three chicks/chickens (if one dies, you'll still have a duo). A solo chick or chicken is likely to die from stress.

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