If you had told me a year ago that I would be a proud and obsessive mother to eight baby chicks, I would not have believed you. I actually still find it pretty weird that inside our cute little urban house, we are hiding barnyard animals in the basement.
Not only that, we are cuddling them (warning: there will be poop), getting to know their unique little personalities and treating them more like pets than anything else. Garrett call us Urban Homesteaders, and while I won’t lie and say they aren’t a lot of work, I have to admit I’m really enjoying this oddly domestic responsibility.
Here’s why we decided to get chickens.
The house Garrett purchased last summer came with a gorgeous chicken coop. You see, Denver allows residents up to 8 backyard hens (no roosters) as long as a few easy rules are followed. The folks who lived here before us were pretty handy, and they built a compliant coop fit for chicken queens. When they moved, they took the chickens with them but the custom coop remained.
You should see this thing. It’s spacious with nifty upcycled elements, like an old wooden ladder for the ladies to roost. This coop is tall enough that I can stand upright inside, which makes it comfortable for both humans and birds. It has a fully secured, predator-proof run that drains well, functional plastic “shutters” that open and close for airflow or insulation, and it even has large indoor quarters built inside of the garage that the chickies can access through a little cutout in the wall if it’s terribly cold. I call it the Chicken Mansion.
So of course we had to get chickens.
And down the rabbit hole we went.
The chicken bug bit Garrett first, and it bit him hard. One day he was just a normal 30-something Denver dude, the next he was ordering chicken books every morning through Amazon prime (1-click order makes it too easy!), sending me links to his favorite chicken breeds, and researching the most reputable breeders in the state.
I thought he was overthinking it.
At one point, he had me call Eric the Chicken Guy to get an opinion on silkies, Garrett’s breed of choice. (For the record, Eric doesn’t recommend them except as pets!) When Eric mentioned he was teaching a class for newbie chicken parents, we signed up. Yup – we attended a chicken class. We asked a lot of questions to prepare ourselves for the realities of baby chicks and left with a confidence that we could probably manage this whole chicken thing.
And after that class, I was hooked, too.
So then it was time to buy chicks.
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get chickens right away like we had hoped. Turns out, like everything else in Denver, pullets (baby female chicks) are popular and will sell out. So we had to reserve some for pickup from some feed stores down South in three weeks. It was like Christmas morning when the day finally came that we could get them.
We had ordered two Salmon Faverolles, one Aracauna (who might instead be an Ameracauna or an Easter Egger instead, jury’s still out), one blue LF Cochin, one silver-laced LF Cochin, and one Russian Orloff.
Welp, when we showed up to collect them, only four of our six chicks had arrived.
So we did some quick chicken math and did something rash. We doubled our flock. Since the new chickies weren’t guaranteed to be female (this is called straight run), we assumed two would end up being roosters and got four more: two silkies and two barred bantam Cochins (which I’m convinced are actually Brahmas.)
So now we have eight chickens. Things got out of hand quickly.
But we brought them all home anyway.
During our drive back from the feed stores (yes, we went to 3 stores to collect all our new babies), we made certain the chickens were warm. They are basically just feathered reptiles and can’t regulate their own temperatures until their real feathers grow in, so I sat with eight warm beating hearts on my lap for over an hour trying to keep the heat above 95 degrees on a hot, sunny afternoon. The things we do for our children, right?
Luckily, we had already set the indoor chick coop up – adjusted the heat lamp, spread out wood shavings as bedding and set up the food and water feeders – so we were all able to get comfortable the moment we got back. Like the main coop, our house actually came with a custom built brooder, so the whole thing was super convenient.
I was definitely paranoid they were going to die in the middle of the night from being too cold, despite being under a 250W heat lamp, so I got up to check on them in the middle of the night. I think that solidified my “Crazy Chicken Lady” status.
And then I bathed a chicken.
Due to stress, or the temp, each and every one of our chicks got something called “pasty butt” in the first few days.
I had heard of this and knew this was a potentially fatal problem, but it meant that I had to give my chicks a bath to clean them up.
If there’s an experience that officially distinguishes you from the average city dweller, it’s that. Hi, my name is Pamela and I wipe poo off baby chick bottoms.
And actually, cleaning a teeny, fragile chicken isn’t too hard when you know that they can die if you don’t, but gosh it’s a weird thing to consider.
Unfortunately, our bantam cochin (who probably is a roo) has suffered from pasty butt over and over again, so I’ve become quite deft at bathing him. On the plus side, he’s really quite cuddly when he’s wet. 🙂
And that’s our chicken story.
Honestly, it’s been so much fun to learn about this totally foreign and yet so normal experience. People have said it seems like a lot of work for eggs. And I sort of agree. But I joke that I’m getting closer to my food and plan to eat them when they’re done laying eggs in 3 years (we shall seeee…), and truthfully it’s exciting to get to know “chickens” and not just “chicken.” They really are fun and have been a great addition to our little household so far. I would definitely recommend exploring the idea if you’re interested. There’s a great community in Colorado for chickens, and it has made owning and raising much them much easier to have such great resources available.
Don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions! I could talk about chickens for hours (obviously) and would be happy to share something specific if you’re interested!