Our Backyard Chicken Adventures

I started the GAPS diet last spring and needed to find a source of soy-free, pastured, organic eggs.  It is not a requirement of the diet, but clean food is best for optimal healing.  A small retail store near my home offered a local, stable supply, but they were very, very expensive.

So my dear husband and I began considering getting our own chickens to save on the cost, but we were concerned about keeping them safe because our area has raccoons, possums, coyotes and hawks.  After a trip to see some friends who have a few acres, we were introduced to a chicken tractor.  It is basically a movable chicken coop with nests and roosts incorporated into the design.

The triangles in the center are two nests, and the crisscrossed branches are the roosts.

This was a great option and would not require us to build a separate coop and pen.  We could move it around our backyard and it would keep the chickens safe from predators.  But by the time we made the decision to make this move, it was too late in the season to find a good flock.  So we decided to wait until this spring, when the choices would be plentiful.

My husband did some homework on Craigslist, and found a couple of tractors within our budget.  One came with two chickens and the other came with one.  I decided to choose the tractor with one chicken because it was larger, and we needed between 4 and 5 hens.

It took all afternoon to get it safely on the trailer, but we finally brought it home.

That’s me driving!  We’re home!

The chicken’s name was Gloria, a Leghorn, and she’s inside the SUV in a carrier.  Since we both have family members with that name, we changed her name to Morning Glory.  Unfortunately, she doesn’t live up to her new name because she can be a bully!  I’ve heard Leghorns can be like that, though.  I call her Glory for short.

A couple of days after getting used to her, we were ready to add to the flock.  The folks we got the tractor from told us it can be difficult to incorporate young chickens with older ones.  Since Glory is 3, we searched Craigslist for some one-year olds, and I was able to find some just a few miles away that were in our price range.  After some phone calls and a trip to the bank, we were on our way.  The family had quite a large flock of pastured birds, which was exactly what I was looking for.

We needed 4 more chickens because I knew they would not lay every day, and I had already calculated how many eggs our family eats per week.  We choose a Pearl Leghorn, two Golden Sexlinks and a Black Sexlink.

They all pretty much got along that day, but the next day Glory was beginning to pick on the Sexlinks.  The previous owner of the 4 chickens we just purchased assured me they would figure it out and not to worry.

A few days later, Glory calmed down and now she only picks on them when they are eating.  They just wait their turn and eat when she is done.  She really likes the other Leghorn, and I think she likes to look after her because she is the smallest chicken of the flock.

Eventually, we choose names for the rest of them.  The other Leghorn is a creamy color, so I call her “Creampuff.”  For our hobbit friends, we choose “Second Breakfast” for the Black Sexlink.  It turns out to be a perfect name for her because she is very laid back.  Since we can’t tell them apart, we call both Golden Sexlinks “Nuggets,” which is short for Chicken Nuggets.  Yes, my family has a strange sense of humor.

They are fed 1/2 to 1 cup of organic, soy-free, locally-grown feed mix.  Sometimes I mix in some whey or buttermilk to make a mash..  We also feed them kitchen scraps and baked eggshells that are chopped real fine.  The eggshells give them calcium and helps keep their eggshells hard.  On rainy days, I take my shovel around the yard hunting for slugs.  They love them!  I try to put some apple cider vinegar in their water to help their intestinal health, and they love it when I have extra kombucha scobys!  I was given some advice today to add diatomaceous earth to their feed and spread it on their favorite bathing areas to help with mites.

After a few weeks, my husband decided he wanted to put skids on the tractor to make it easier for one person to move.  He purchased some chicken wire and made a temporary pen for the chickens while he made the changes on the tractor.

While they were in the pen, we couldn’t help notice how happy they were.  They gave themselves dirt baths, ran around, happily scratched and took naps.

I asked my husband if he would consider making the pen permanent, and he graciously agreed.  We have been moving them from the tractor to the pen after they are done laying for the day and back into the tractor at dusk.  It seems to have made a difference, because their production has increased and the egg yolks look even more golden in color.

So far, we have been getting an average of 3 eggs per day, which is exactly what we needed!  After doing the math, I have determined we will have recouped our investment within 5 months, which makes us very happy.  I am learning so much about how to care for chickens, and we all are enjoying the yummy eggs,   I am especially pleased and feel very blessed by how easy this step towards self-sufficiency has been so far.

Do you have chickens?  If so, how many?  Do you sell your eggs?  If you don’t have chickens, do you want some?  Can I help you get started?  Please leave me a comment below.  I’d love to hear from you!

This post is shared on Little House in the Suburbs, Morristribe’s Homesteader Blog Carnival and Homestead Barn Hop #67.

  • Sheri

    Awww, look at your girls, they’re beautiful!  =)  I am taking you up on your advice and we (hopefully) will be growing pumpkins and sunflowers.  That sounds way less intimidating than a whole garden, lol.   I figure it can add to our botany studies this year.  *smile*

    • TheUrbanHearth

      Thanks, Sweetie!  DT, who is not a bird-lover, is even enjoying them.  Baby steps with the garden, Hon.  I like your idea of two items at a time.  Next year I hope to add some strawberries, again, but they must be in containers on the deck to avoid the slugs.  Ugh!  Love to hear of your adventures with the fam and am looking forward to seeing you soon!  Hugs, Leola

  • We have 17 hens and (now) 2 roosters, one being young.  They have a permanent coop which opens into a dog type pen.  Due to the coyotes, raccoon and opossum, we buried chicken wire beneath plus wired part way up the side and over the top (hawks perch above them). We don’t sell the eggs but share them with family and friends.  We divided the coop in half, even their roosts with chicken wire to introduce the new dozen chicks, about a month or so before letting them mingle.  This was the first time they didn’t try to kill the chicks- being used to them for so long.  We enjoy them.

    • TheUrbanHearth

      We are very concerned about hawks around here, too!  Thanks for your helpful comments!

  • I don’t have chickens yet. When we bought this house and acre of land one of the first things on my mind was getting a flock of chickens. That was in November of 2010 and I still don’t have that flock of chickens. But I know I will when the time is right. 

    • TheUrbanHearth

       Yes, you will Rose!  All in His time.  *smile*

  • Rene’

    I am still trying to decide where to put a coop and what material I should make it out of. It will come in due time.

    • TheUrbanHearth

      Yes, it will Rene’!  I was surprised at how quickly mine happened.  Once my husband makes up his mind, I have to scramble to catch up with him!

      • Rene’

        Maybe someone should come visit me and help me decide. Huh? Huh??? Well?? 😉

        • TheUrbanHearth

           Dave wants to know if you only want him to come visit.  😉

          • TheUrbanHearth

             Lord willing, we will down that way this fall, though!

  • We’ve had backyard Buff Orpingtons (flock ranging from 3-15 hens/chicks) over 3 years now. We really love them– our pets with benefits– and they have been good teaching responsibility for my children (7 yrs. and younger). We don’t sell our eggs, but sometimes (if there really are extra in a week) we give them to friends and neighbors. Enjoyed your guest post on GNOWFGLINS and in the baby steps GAPS process for our family of six. We have been eating a traditional diet for the most part, so most of it is not new to me, but still there will be challenges and sacrifices. Looking forward to more posts about your GAPS process! blessings!

    • TheUrbanHearth

      Hi Lauren! Thank you for sharing. Ours are kind of pets, too. We transfer them in and out of their chicken tractor every day, so we need them to be as tame as possible. They can still be a bit difficult to catch, but we try to keep our movements slow and deliberate which makes them easier to catch. Sometimes they just cower when we move our hands over the top of their heads. Too funny! Unfortunately, we lost Morning Glory. I think she got sour crop, but I’m not sure. That was a difficult day, but it made me appreciate the other four a little more. Your flock sounds wonderful!

      I plan to start the Intro diet in a few days, so stay tuned! Blessings back atcha!

  • Pingback: My First Day on the GAPS Intro Diet | The Urban Hearth()

  • Carol

    I loved reading this story of getting your chickens, Leola. I would love to be back on our farm/ranch so that I could have some laying hens. Many years ago, I did raise about 50 chickens for meat every summer, but then one year a mink got into the chicken coupe at night and killed half of them. This was the night before half of them were to be butchered, so we had locked them up in order to catch them in the morning.. (Half were to be for fryers and the other half grown larger for roasting.) That was the last year I had chickens. I was so upset!

    One of my sisters has used a fairly large portable caged area for her chickens, which could be moved around to different areas of the yard from time to time, so the chickens would have a area. The chickens had a shelter in that compound as well, and it all could be moved as one unit.

    My mother used to make such delicous chiken soup from the old hens. You can’t even buy an old hen now, and they make such good soup. I’m sure you can’t even imagine eating any of your lovely laying hens.

    • TheUrbanHearth

      That must have been devastating, Carol! I’d probably want to quit, too. I’m hoping to raise some chickens for meat, someday. May I email you if I have any questions?

      When I was growing up we always had at least a dozen or more laying hens, but they were never pets like the ones I have now. I don’t think I could eat them, either!