Well, I’ve finally worked up the courage to tell you…
I’ve got chicks.
When I say it like that, it sounds like I’ve contracted some horrible, contagious disease that requires expensive prescription medication and living in a plastic bubble, a la Jake Gyllenhal in Bubble Boy. Don’t worry, the “chicks” disease I’m talking about only requires a liberal dosage of wine as I swat the cat off the counter for the eleventy-hundredth time.
Or maybe it’s Helena. I’ve lost track, because we have 8 of the little buggers! They were one of those impulse-buys that’s only really considered an “impulse” because we hadn’t been planning on getting them this early. The Hubs and I have been holding steady at 22 chickens and 1 rooster for several months now. Egg production has been down lately and is only just starting to pick back up, but I’m chalking that up to the cold weather and short daylight hours, and the chickens’ molt. When the molt first started all of their feathers fell out and they stopped laying eggs completely. I actually thought they were dying! Then I googled it. Oh, my bad. Only our Auracanas (remember them?) were still laying at that point, because they were so young they hadn’t reached their first molt yet. We consistently got 4-5 Auracana eggs a day in December and January, and are now averaging 9-12 blue and brown eggs a day.
Anyway, The Hubs and I have come to realize that in order to keep our egg production on an even keel, we need to add a few more chickens every year. The flipside of it is that we need to, erm, dispatch the hens when they stop being productive layers (jury’s still out on whether or not that’s actually going to happen! And it’s going to stay out for a long, long time). The FUN part though is that we get to start a set of chicks every year! And so, while we were at Rural King this past weekend picking up enough chicken feed to last us the entire time The Hubs is gone, we went ahead and bought them.
We ended up buying 8 chicks (there was a 6 chick minimum). We originally chose 4 bantams (not sexed), 2 Silver-Laced Wyandotte pullets, and 2 ISA brown pullets. Unfortunately, one of the little bantams died that evening. We had her warm, cozy, fed & watered, but she was just too small and stressed. She kept panting hard and ended up dying in Mark’s hand:( He went back to Rural King the next day and they let him replace her with another ISA chic, who all looked super hearty.
We’ve got them in a 10-gallon tank at the moment, with pine shavings for bedding, a standard 60-watt bulb in a spotlight for warmth, and a feeder and waterer from Rural King. They’ll need to be moved to a bigger tank in the next couple of weeks so I’m either going to hunt down a cheap 20-gallon on Craigslist or borrow a chick cage from my parents. Once they reach about 3 months – they’re only a couple of weeks old right now – we can integrate them in with the rest of our flock. So by late-May to early-June we’ll have them all settled outside! Yes, that means I’ll have chickens IN MY HOUSE for a few months. It’s whatevs, they’re tiny & fluffy. The more the merrier, right? These new babies will start laying in the fall, which is perfect timing to provide eggs and get us through yet another molt of the older hens.
Once these little fluffballs kick into production we’re hoping for 18-24 eggs per day. 18 eggs a day x 30 days = 540 eggs, or 45 dozen a month. At $3.5o/dozen, we’re optimistically making $140 a month (I subtracted the 5 dozen/month that we either eat or give away to family). Considering the hens currently go through a bag of feed a week (and that will go up once the chicks start eating real food, so say 5 bags a month), at $12.50/bag, plus a bag of scratch, a cube of pine shavings, and other random
necessities things The Hubs throws in the cart at Rural King, we’re spending about $80-90 each month on upkeep. That’s a tidy $50-$60 profit for about 12 hours of labor every month (20 minutes a day, 30 minutes to clean the coop every weekend), which shakes out to $4-$5 an hour. It becomes abundantly clear that we are in the business for love of the animals, not the love of money.
Just look at how cute they are!