The Chicken Chronicles
It's all your fault.
Today, the boys and I took the #4 all the way from SE Portland to N Mississippi, where we selected and purchased three chicks: Bella (aka Ariel, Everett's fave and a real looker), a Rhode Island Red; Mathilda, an Australorp; and Twitter, a Barred Plymouth Rock. They're now cheeping and pooping happily away under a heat lamp in a tub in Everett's room.
It didn't take long for the boys to fall in love, I'd say, 7.8 seconds. While we purchased our heat lamp, while we waited for the bus on that sunny stretch of Mississippi, while we rode the long way home, Everett couldn't stop talking about how cute they were! And deeming them his. And asking if he could sleep with them, and insisting that he would start taking them on walks, immediately. As for Truman, he nearly fell out of the backpack several time trying to pet them.
I didn't expect to be quite so enamored with them; I'm a bit of a skeptic, and I'm not big on pets. My general theory is that I never want to have to decide whether to take my cat to the vet or buy groceries for the kids. You know? But the chickens, they have me right where they want me. They lay delicious, nutritious and (if you do it all right) organic eggs in a rainbow of pretty colors. They're little composting machines, happily munching up kitchen scraps and turning out nice nutrient-rich poop. They're fairly cheap to keep and very cheap to buy. You never have to walk them. If you build their coop right, you'll never have to put up "lost chicken" signs on the telephone poles. Even when they grow up, they're still pretty cute. And, as I've mentioned, I come from a long line of chicken owners (I almost typed "chicken stock", teehee!).
Bella pretty much sealed the deal for me a few minutes ago. I was "checking" on them, again, and there was a big black fly who'd gotten inside hours earlier. He was attracted by the chicken poop, I think, so he'd made his way to the tub. Bella's eyes were bright and suddenly glurp! The huge fly was in her beak. She peeped proudly and hopped around the tub. Oh, how I love her.
If you, too, decide you want chickens, Pistils Nursery on Mississippi has chicks right now (hurry! or call ahead) for $4.50 each; they're cheaper at Linnton Feed & Seed, I think. Expect to pay around $20 for a heat lamp (Sunlan Lighting, almost next door to Pistils, has 'em but they're only open until 5:00 -- they stayed open extra late for us b/c we had chicks, thank you!), and you can spend $8-20 on feeding supplies. The chick food is really cheap, 50 cents a scoop and one scoop will last you several days. Three hens can be kept in your backyard without a permit, and up to five hens with one (it's only $31, and lasts as long as you live in your home). You'll need enough space to build (or buy) them a coop -- 40-50 square feet should do it, ours will be a lot roomier since we have tons of space to fill! Once they move to the coop (at around 2-3 months old, I think), you'll spend $20-ish a month for food and straw, and need to clean the coop once a week; hens start laying eggs when they're five or six months old and lay one every day or two. Hens are low-maintenance but do need company.
I just had this image of holding cracked corn and hen feed in my apron, running out to the backyard as the sun is setting, calling "chick chick!" and I got shivers. Yay for chickens!
Update: Please add photos of your chickens to the flickr pool! Tag them with 'urbanChicken' and I'll create a mosaic.