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Last Easter I made the mistake of bringing my daughter to Tractor Supply the week before Easter. We ended up coming home with 6 little balls of fluff. The store had Black Australorps and white Leghorns (the kind on the Corn Flake box) so we took 3 and 3 because you had to buy a dozen.

I wasn't prepared for these little guys at home so we quickly scrambled to create a chick home in my guest room. We had one of those large tupperware bins and added some pine shavings which we always have on hand because we have goats and we had a clip heating lamp from when we needed it for the goat babies and we bought the little chick feeding dish and waterer. They stayed in their makeshift home until we were able to predator proof the chicken coop which was left for us when we bought the house. Mine is on the ground but if you're starting from scratch it's best to get a raised chicken coop and you can fence it in to protect from predators which could be the neighborhood cat or dog. For me, I live on a mountaintop so my predators are bobcats, mountain lions and snakes. 

The guest room was starting to smell like the barn so I couldn't wait until they could be put outside. Nobody told me that they would soon use the rim of the tupperware as a roost and they would often fall out and not be able to get back in which meant baby chick poop and pee all over my floor. Yuck, but that was the worst of it. Once we had these little guys outside after about 4 weeks, they quickly took up the business of who's the boss. The pecking order.

Well, we lost 2 chicks the first couple of weeks and I learned that was normal. Rarely do all survive and we waited to see what we had. I think I heard the first rooster crow at about 5 weeks. I am a nightowl and on many occasions I'm up past 3am so I heard the first tiny crow, Yes they sound exactly like cock a doodle do. I felt so happy and proud and couldn't wait to find out who was making the racket. It takes a while before you can figure out if they're hens or roosters. You certainly want more hens than roosters. In fact, you only want one rooster if any at all. A hen lays eggs without a rooster. Did you know that? I didn't know that but I learn something new everyday. The reason for this is that the roosters will fight and you'll end up with hens that are bald from all the bothering. Well, we ended up with 1 hen and 3 roosters. My 2 black australorp roosters are now on craigslist. 

My point to all this is Easter is coming and chicks will be available in your location. Building a small raised coop if you're allowed to in your community is well worth it. Eggs are a perfect food and the chickens themselves (meat) if need be in times of trouble. It's fun and they give back tenfold. I think this first year we had 3 dozen eggs and our hen is not even a year old yet. Once we have her alone with the rooster we're keeping, things will be fine. She'll be able to nest on her eggs so we can have more chicks and when we have a few hens we can share them with our neighbors if we can get them to consider keeping a few chickens themselves. If you have kids, what better way to teach them about sustainability then to raise adorable chicks. There's plenty of sites online to look around at some you might like. They come in all shapes and sizes and produce white, blue or brown eggs. My white Leghorn hen produces big brown eggs. The yokes are a deep orange and the eggs are delicious and fresh. Here's a link to chicken breeds with pictures and a summary. Spring is just around the corner and it's time to stop talking about sustainability and get busy being sustainable.  

Till next time

Starr DiGiacomo