We have chickens! We went to Wisner Farm in Dandridge, Tennessee and picked up six hens yesterday. We got two of each breed: Goldenlaced Wyandotte, Bluelaced Wyandotte and Dominiques. Wisner Farm is great. They started with 500 plus pullets this summer and sold them to locals to raise their own hens for eggs. When we were there they had less then 150 left. They also have geese, ducks, turkeys, peacocks, and roosters. In fact, we put a deposit down for our Thanksgiving dinner when we were there. If you are going to eat turkey for Thanksgiving, I'd rather be eating a Wisner Farm turkey then a store bought one. These turkeys have a huge 1-2 acre run, feed on pasture and all natural gluten free feed. As do the chickens and other animals. It is hard to go there and not get excited about chickens. They raise mostly heritage chicken breeds; breeds that have been around for ages and even some that are endangered.
One of our Dominiques
One of our Bluelaced
From reading about chickens and doing research what I've learned is that when the corporate farming movement happened in the 1930's cities started to outlaw backyard chickens and the egg and chicken industries started growing but only used a few breeds - that way meat and eggs were always consistent. So all these unique backyard breeds like the Dominique started to become rare. It was really neat to be with so many different kinds of chickens at Wisner Farm. It was hard not to leave with more then six! The six we did bring home though seem to be pretty nice. They don't mind too much to be picked up, they all forage very well, and so far are pretty quiet. I have already named two of them; Lady & Goldie. Those are the two Goldenlaced. Lady seems to be the biggest out of all six and has gorgeous feathers. Goldie is of course the most golden of the two. The others don't have names yet, but I'm sure they will.
The coop is mostly done. The fence is up - it is about a 25x25 foot yard around the coop - enough for the chickens to walk around and keep busy. The outside of the coop has snake wire (also known has hardware cloth) around the bottom of it and it is partial buried to stop anything from digging its way into the coop. Lewie put a nice lock on the human door so it can't be opened by an animal. We still need to put some roofing on the nesting boxes just to protect it more from the rain and eventually I'd like to paint the whole thing, but for now, it serves its purpose. We got pretty lucky with this chicken coop and also tried to reuse a lot of what we already had. The basic structure came with the property so that was very helpful. We also found a bunch of t-posts on the property and old fencing so we recycled that, the plywood, the gate, a few 4x4s and 2x4s. Really all we had to buy for this coop was the feeder, waterier, a few more 4x4s and 2x4s, screws, nails and snake wire. It is always nice to use what you have and it saved us a lot of money.
My guide through building a chicken coop and raising chickens has been Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens: 4th Edition (Storey's Guide to Raising Series) which is by far the best chicken book. She answers every question you could have about chickens and it has helped us with everything from dimensions for the pop-hole door to what kind of feed to get. I also had help from my cousin Carla who, along with her husband, owns nine chickens.
Our chickens should start laying eggs with the next month and I'll be sure to keep Off The Map updated with any chicken news.