Sunday, April 27, 2008

Cora grows up

It didn't take too long before we realized Cora might not be Cora, but could actually be Carl or Corey... There was a suspicious red mass growing on her head and in late June, at about 6-7 weeks of age, I heard a stange sound coming from the backyard as I stumbled into the bathroom before the sun was up. It was actually very upsetting to think that one of my girls might not be... For one thing, roosters are definitely not allowed in Beverly and I certainly wanted to stay in my neighbors' good graces. But most of all, I'd grown attached to all my chickens and did not like the thought of parting with any one of them.

As the summer went on and the chickens grew, Cora became more assertive and clearly was the leader of the pack. My fears grew and by the time we went to northern Maine for a week's vacation in late July I was terrified that Cora would become the official alarm clock of Prospect Hill. I left our young chicken sitter, Darcy, with instructions on how to reach us if any problems arose and off we went. Two days later she left us a message on our cell phone....there was a definite crowing one morning when she went to open the coop sliding door as Cora announced herself to the world. I spent the rest of the vacation fretting about the animal control officer stopping by with a warrant for Cora's arrest and deportation. But alas, my fears were mostly unfounded, and we returned from vacation knowing we needed to deal with Cora's blossoming adolescence.

The wonderful thing about having our oldest daughter living on a farm is that she was only too happy to help us put Cora in the Chicken Witness Protection Program. After all, she got us into this predicament when she shared her chicks with us so it was up to her to now bail us out! (Or so I hoped...) In all fairness, I did try to find a home locally for Cora but it's just not that easy to place a rooster in a foster home and not worry about which Sunday she's going to show up on the menu. And let's face it, how many people do you know raise chickens and can accomodate a pet rooster? I figured that if I could find Cora a home then I couldn't be too fussy about her future and this might just be her, or his, mission in life...

I was very happy when Sharon offered to take Cora on their summer visit east in late August and I counted the days until she left, apologizing to our neighbors and hoping no one turned us in. When the actual day came for Cora to leave I felt both relief and sadness as she began her new life as head rooster of Gleanings Farm. I knew she'd have a good life and I'd get to see her, or now him, on my visits to the kids.

Cora's departure left one spot open in our coop...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Girls Arrive

First of all, let me say thanks to all of you who posted comments. I thought Sharon was waiting for me to set this site up a bit more before adding a link from her web site but I guess she couldn't wait! I will also apologize for not posting sooner..I'm 'very' new to this and have a hard enough time keeping up with e-mail but I promise to be more responsive!

Back to the Girls....when Sharon's chick order was shipped last spring I took a day off, packed a small box, and headed off the NY to pick out my chicks. It was pretty exciting, all those cute chicks to choose from. Sharon gave me 4 chicks, all different colors so I could identify them, and I headed home with Althea, Beatrice, Cora, and Delores. They spent the next month in the kitchen in a plastic bin under a lamp to keep the temperature at 95 degrees. As they grew, the temperature was reduced, but they needed the heat in those weeks. I was on the phone constantly with Sharon who coached through every step.

Even Naomi was enthralled by the chicks, their tiny chirps, constant movement, and soft fuzz..who wouldn't love them? Fortunately, our 2 cats were not interested though I put wire over the top of the bin to reduce temptation.

Since I wanted to wait for the chicks to arrive before building the coop (what was I thinking??) I was seriously behind as I really only had a month before the chicks would be big enough to move outdoors.

I need to stop here and remind folks that my purpose is to let you know how easy it is to raise urban chickens and that adding my chicken adventures should be to illustrate particular points. Having said that, if you are serious about chickens start building the coop well BEFORE the chicks arrive! May and June of 2007 were a blur for me as I spent all my time (and too much money!) building the exact coop I wanted. There are lots of ways to build a coop and a fine structure can be built from recycled materials, but since I didn't have access to any and I wanted a particular look for my urban setting I looked around for just the right design. The 'Playhouse Coop' met my needs perfectly. The plans are available on ebay at There are other sources on the web and I have found to be a great resource - not just for plans, but for the entire chicken raising process.

It got to be early June and the girls were into their second Tupperware container, having outgrown their first and my guilt at having them indoors was growing. So on a rainy evening I made myself go out and put a temporary plastic roof on the coop (I was having trouble finding a source for the metal roof) and the next night the girls moved out....and did just fine, despite all my worries about predators, the chilly nights, etc...a typical mother.

The girls thrived in their new home and our kitchen returned to normal - no 'chick' smell and no dust...but no pleasant chirps either...a tradeoff. It took me another month to get the coop finished with its metal roof and trimming but I have to say it looks good out in the back and it really fits into my neighborhood. Forget that I could have started an addition on the house with what it cost!

Whatever coop design you ultimately choose just be sure it's something you like and something that fits your chicken's needs. To paraphrase from "Chickens in your Backyard" by Rick and Gail Luttmann, the size of the coop and run depend upon whether the chickens will be confined most of the time (therefore needing more space) or whether they will be allowed to roam. My original vision was that my chickens would only be allowed out of the coop with supervision and then confined to the yard (as per my permit restrictions). And now that I understand how the chicken poop process works - they do it all the time since they have no sphincter - I wouldn't want them in my neighbors' yards anyway! My coop run is 4x8' with a 4x2' coop inside. Sort of a raised ranch. I have a friend who has 4 chickens and they are kept in a 12x12' run/coop and not allowed out. It's a personal choice how you deal with the roaming issue and really depends on your yard, neighbors, and how you want your chickens to be raised. There's no one situation that's best for all.

I have to say, though, having spent a year now with the girls, I thoroughly enjoy having them run around the yard and as other folks say, it really is Chicken TV!