Knowing that I wanted chickens was the easy part. Making the decision to actually go and buy them was a different story.
It all started with a strange obsession. Never had I been exposed to farm life or what it would be like to raise fowl. Yet a burning desire to have chickens in my yard and fresh eggs in my fridge were always in my heart. This may seem odd to you - and I can understand why it would. I have a busy career in public education, two young children, an interior design blog and home decorating business - and for some reason it seemed like the perfect time to buy some hens.
I started by researching the breeds that would work best based on my geographical location, (cold-hearty) as well as my goals for raising them (meat -vs- eggs). I live in Upstate NY in a small city outside of Albany called Cohoes. My homestead is on about an acre and I live next door to a city park and baseball field. My parents live across the street on three acres and I do not have any direct neighbors. So spatially, I have plenty of room for raising hens. This can be a challenge in some urban settings as plots of land can be small and close to neighbors.
We opted to purchase four different breeds of hens. All are brown egg layers and are considered cold hearty and docile. The breeds we went with are: Buff Orpingtons, Red Stars & Black Stars (both hybrid breeds known for laying an egg a day) and Barred Rocks. We named them right away and noticed their unique markings and personality differences. My nine year old daughter Evey is my biggest helper with "The Girls". Our black stars are Gracie and Feisty, our red stars are Buttercup and Golden Girl, the buff orpingtons are Amelia and Buffy, and the barred rocks are Oreo and Stripes. Of the eight hens we started with, only six are pictured below below the buff's weren't in yet at the country store that we went through to purchase them. We bought them on Mother's Day --- what an amazing gift!
To start this adventure we used a large cardboard box (there are tons of Pinterest ideas on creating a better brooder - I just went with cheap and simple), a heat lamp, a stick (to roost), pine shavings, a thermometer, a feeder and a waterer.
At first like was like a psycho mother - just sitting and staring at them for a LONG time. I was nervous, had no idea what to expect, and quite frankly - was clueless! But what I quickly realized was that mother nature had long prepared these girls for their livelihood. They stuck together, kept each other company, cuddled and knew when they were thirsty and hungry. Nothing I was going to do was going to improve this. The control freak in me had to let go and just watch them grow (and boy do they grow fast).
Seriously --- the sweetness factor is out of this world! These are actually my red star hens (who grow to become a burnt red/orange color).
Here is my adorable Evey holding on to Stripes. I know it looks like she's choking her, but I assure you that we have honed our keeping skills since this pic was taken :)