The First Farm Animal: Six Chickens
In the Beginning…
Officially, the chickens were our first homestead animal before we even had a homestead property!
Duke was our first rooster. Just to make sure we’re on the same page, a rooster is a male chicken, and a hen is a female chicken. (Don’t feel bad, if you didn’t know that until now, you’re not alone.)
But Duke was not our first chicken. Before we moved to the property, before we even knew we were going to move, our friends in the city started talking about raising some chickens in their backyard so they could have fresh eggs. We can call these “backyard chickens” 🙂
Somehow we caught the vision. They offered to keep and raise our chickens there for us, if we were interested. And we were interested! So our friends began building a coop in their backyard, and we ended up together at a local farm supply store (called Tractor Supply) buying our very first chicks.
For the record, we bought two Buff Orpington, two Barred Rock, and two Rhode Island Red. (Yes, these are different breeds of chickens, and there are many, many unique breeds in the world. A chicken is a chicken, but not all chickens behave the same, look the same, or produce eggs the same.)
It was early February in Colorado, and it was cold (below freezing). We bought six chicks for us, and they bought six chicks for them. They prepared a brooder in their garage with wood chips and heat lamps, and we brought the chicks “home” to begin our journey. (A brooder is a substitute for a mother hen. It keeps the chicks warm, and provides a place for them to feed.)
In three to four weeks, the chicks grow feathers and can withstand much lower temperatures. Someone told us that full-grown chickens can survive in temperatures down to -40 degrees (without wind). Wow! Thankfully, in northern Colorado, most days of the year are above zero degrees.
So the chicks began to grow, and we would visit to check on them, excited to see their progress. We would help feed them, change out the wood chips, and make sure they were still healthy and alive. One or two died, which was sad and confusing at first, but we replaced them and learned what to look for in the future. (We can write about that elsewhere.)
And then the property came, and we wanted the chickens to move with us. They had spent some time in the backyard coop, and now they were going to live on the farm.
By the way, the coop our friends built is still one of our favorites that we’ve ever seen. It’s simple, but very well built, very functional, and aesthetically pleasing. And it uses deep bedding, a term we had never heard of before, but we can write about that elsewhere. A real “game-changer,” as they say.