Here’s Joshua’s post from when we got our first chickens in May 2010, originally posted at Jack-Booted Liberal.
Issa and I got up this morning and drove about an hour and a half south to an Amish community where we had been told we could buy chickens. Sure enough, they had damn near everything for sale: chickens, ducks, turkeys, sheep, pigs, even calves. I hadn’t settled on a particular breed, mostly because the breed I buy would be determined in large part by what breeds they had on sale at the time. I didn’t think it paid to be too picky the first time out the gate. They had several breeds available, but the one they had the most of, and most importantly, the only one that they had already laying, was the Red Sex-Link. The others weren’t expected to start laying until July or August, which is a lot of feed to put into a bird only to save $5 on the price.
Sex-Link might sound like a funny name for a breed, but it refers to the bird’s color being linked to its sex. This makes it easy to tell the males from the females early in life. Lots of people who raise hens don’t want anything to do with roosters. They’re noisy, they can injure the hens when they try to mate with them, and they can even be aggressive toward the owner. The one thing they provide is fertilization, which, if you’re not breeding, is irrelevant. But even an expert sex-er has only about an 80% hit ratio, which means that if you’re buying chicks, you’re likely to get some roosters, and some people just don’t want that. Hence, the sex-link breeds. You can read more about them here.
Before we left, we had to find something appropriate to transport the chickens in. This is a constant issue with us. We bought electric fencing and decked out the stall for the pigs. Fine. Now how do you get them home without them flying out the back of the damn truck? I built a chicken coop for the hens. Fine. Now how do I get them to it? It turns out the answer is pretty simple in the case of the hens: cardboard boxes work fine. Thank you Internet! The whole time, though I was thinking, “I’m going to walk up here with my cardboard boxes, and the chicken-seller is going to say, ‘ You’ve clearly got no business owning chickens! Away with you!’”
Well, that’s not how it went. I walked up, picked out my hens, the guy stuffed them into the boxes, I paid my $40, and away I went. Couldn’t be easier!
Here’s the first box of chickens being set out into the coop.
The chickens immediately set to pecking and scratching. They especially seemed to like the clover.
They found the water before too long.
And the food.
Juli-cat was, of course, enraptured.
On a side note, we also stopped by a butcher shop to ask about slaughtering our pigs. The butcher didn’t do the slaughter on-site, but he recommended a processing house just across the street. It was a small building that appeared as if the owner might live in the house next-door. The family that runs it was sitting out front at a picnic table and said it’d be fine for us to stop by and see how things were done. That’s really encouraging!