Saturday, June 12, 2010

Our Journey in Urban Homesteading begins...

I have often said I am a walking contradiction. This is true in many aspects of life, including where I want to live. I'm a farm girl trapped in a city girl's life. I want to live in the country...but I also want to be close to everything. A bustling metropolis isn't for me, but a smaller one is. I dream of having a small hobby farm one day, though. Living sustainably off of my own land.

In that mindset, I've teamed up with my reluctant but accomodating husband to create an urban homestead. The first project? Chickens! I've loved chickens since I was a kid and my great uncle let me play with baby chicks on his farm. And who can resist a fluffy chickie?

Turns out that urban chickens are gaining popularity. I was surprised to find entire web communities dedicated to backyard chickens. Last year many of the moms in our local babywearing group began discussing keeping chickens. I was interested, but looked on with envy, still dreaming.

Fast forward a year. After lots of convincing, begging, and pleading (yep, I'm an only child! lol) we decided to get chickens. Kelton and I agreed on 2. No fancy ones; he wanted normal chickens. I took my very excited 4 year old, and headed to the farm store. We got 2 Rhode Island Reds at our local farm store. Fluffy little chicks that took up residence in a cardboard box in our living room. One is still there. Sadly, Nugget was a rooster, and he's now living with my family in Oklahoma.

Twinkle is about 7 weeks old and almost completely covered in beautiful auburn feathers. She loves to sit with us, and go out in the yard after the dogs are in to scratch and search for bugs, leaves, and any other goodies she can find.

Now, one chicken doesn't do well on its own. Kelton tried telling me the rabbit and chicken could he great companions. But I wanted chickens for pets...and eggs. First eggs, but all animals are pets for me. I have too big a soft spot for critters. So I was on the search for more chicks. I was going to order 3 from online, but couldn't get the breeds I wanted within the next 2 weeks. And I am impatient. I decided to look for older pullets who were already laying or close to it.

I found 3 white leghorn hens on Craigslist about an hour from us. Already laying an egg a day each. At $10 a hen, it was the same price as ordering chicks...but no waiting for eggs. I drove down to get them yesterday. Ugly birds, but we got our first egg when we got home...waiting for us in the cardboard box.

Kelton is still working on the amazing coop he's building, so the hens are living in a doghouse in the shed right now. They are pretty skittish. And dirty! They were kept in a pretty old coop, and given the ridiculously long length of their nails, they weren't let out to scratch. I gave two of the three baths tonight.

They seemed to like their baths. First you dunk the hen in a container with water and castile soap and borax. Then a second bath in water (not knowing if they had any mites or fleas, I followed recommendations and added a splash of time I'll use tto, but I'm out right now). Finally, a rinse bath in a water/vinegar mix. I was expecting a mess, but the skittish birds seemed calmed by the bath. They weren't "madder than an old, wet hen" at all! After the bath they got taken inside and blow dried. Their feathers were very matted, and this fluffed them up nicely. Those nails got trimmed, as did their wings. They are kind of pretty now! And the two bathed hens seem much calmer and accepting of people then the one that's still needing bathed. I hope they become friendly and fun birds. And call, so we can let them free range when we're outside. They seems quiet, which is great since we're outlaw chicken keepers!

I think our 4 chickens will be a great jumping off point to teach our girls about sustainable living and responsibility. Anna-Lee already has her pink egg basket to collect eggs in. Along with hang drying our clothes, and our six tomato plants we need to transplant into the ground, our little mini farm is coming along great! I can't wait to make a tomato omlet knowing exactly where it came from- our own backyard!