Backyard Livestock

When I think of the Amish and their animals, I’m liable to envision horses, cows, and chickens. But many of us don’t live on acreage, so keeping working animals–livstock–might seem problematic. However, that’s not really the case.

All across America, it’s becoming increasingly common to hear the sound of chickens clucking from a neighbor’s backyard. Many cities allow residents to keep at least a few backyard birds—but usually no roosters are allowed due to their habit of crowing early in the morning.

I’ve raised many chickens over the years, for meat and for eggs. Now that I no longer live on the farm, having moved to a small town (population about 4,000 hardy souls), I thought my chicken raising days were over. My oldest son and daughter-in-law have kept me in homegrown eggs, but every spring I get the urge to have some chickens of my own.

This year, I decided to do something about it. I bought a late hatching of day-old chicks; three sweet little pullets that will supply me with fresh, free-range, organic eggs and that I’ve named. (I never name meat birds, for obvious reasons.)

I decided on heritage breeds, which I’ve pretty much always had, because I like their large brown eggs, good mothering habits, and friendly personalities. So now, I’m mother hen to:

  • Megg, a Speckled Sussex
  • Leia, a Buff Orpington
  • Henrietta, a Silver Laced Wyandotte

I’m brooding the girls in my garage in the largest Rubbermaid container I could find. I covered the top with wire so they can’t get out, and I keep them warm with a red-bulb infrared heat lamp. So far, so good. They are growing well and I haven’t had any problems.

In a few weeks, they’ll be ready to go outside to my backyard, where they’ll live easy lives in a movable chicken “tractor” that one of my sons made for me. With this tractor, I’ll be able to move them around to fresh “pasture” whenever they need it.

I’m looking forward to the healthful eggs, but at least as much as the eggs is the pleasure I’ll have watching the girls scratch and peck and cluck softly among themselves as they roam the backyard looking for buggy treats and just generally doing what chickens do.

I’m also curious who of you have kept chickens and what your experience has been. Do you have a great tip that has worked for you? Or possibly you have a great recipe that uses up eggs? (Three hens can lay on average 600-660 eggs per year. That’s a lot of eggs!)

I’d love to hear from you!




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