When my son, The Mathematician, was 2 years old, we took him to a petting zoo. It was meant to be the highlight of the kids’ Christmas Party…until he was pecked on the chest by a chicken. Now in all fairness to the hen, she had already been touched by a hundred or so children. I would’ve pecked the next person who went near me too! The Mathematician cried; We laughed (quality parenting, I’m sure you’ll agree). And from then on my son was afraid of chickens. So imagine how excited I was when he said he wanted chickens of his own!
I grew up with lots of feathery ladies around, and I still get a case of the warm ‘n’ fuzzies when I remember my old chook, Ebony. She was an adorable, FOOTLESS, black hen. She would happily sit in your lap, eat from your hand and loved to be carried around. We moved away and learned to live without hens, but they have always been on my grown-up wish list. So when we bought a house of our own, getting chickens was pretty much the first thing we did.
Step One: a fence. An absolute MUST in order to keep the chickens off the garden, and the dog off the chooks! The boys knocked up a basic fence by hammering in some stakes and tying on some dog wire.
Step Two: the coop. For this one the boys used some timber from the local tip shop for the frame and the back wall. The side walls and roof were once kitchen shelves, and the doors were kitchen cupboards. We are ripping out the old 80s kitchen so these were otherwise destined for the tip. Another kitchen shelf found a second life as a hatch at the back to get to the eggs.Chicken wire completed the house. It’s more important for a coop to be functional than fancy, but I am pretty impressed with the boys’ ingenuity for their first ever DIY building project. I’ll put up another post this week to explain exactly what features a coop really NEEDS.
Step Three: the chickens. Our local farmers’ market has a wonderful poultry shed. The lovely lady there gave my son the run down on chooks, and carefully chose her prettiest two hens for him.True to form, we spent the rest of the morning eating before taking our girls home.
The girls enjoyed a quiet and comfy ride home in the cat box 😉 They have been named Sunshine and Raven. No prizes for guessing who is who! Sunshine is laying already, and we are planning to add another couple of girls to our teeny flock this weekend.
Do you keep chickens in the suburbs? It is probably the easiest and most reliable way to produce some of your own food, and it is a fantastic way to teach city kids where food comes from. If you are thinking about keeping hens, make sure you check your local council regulations to see how many you are allowed. On my 705sqm block I am allowed to keep 2 dogs, 2 cats, 6 poultry birds, 40 pigeons, 20 small birds (like budgies), 10 rodents and a beehive! I wonder how many of those my husband will agree to???? :p