About three weeks ago, our family grew in size by five. No, we didn’t have any more children. We officially became chicken farmers! This is something that we’ve wanted to do for quite some time. We’ve purchased eggs from another family in our church that raises backyard chickens and the eggs are fantastic! The color and the taste is unlike anything you’ll ever get from an egg in the grocery store. And when we sold our former home and moved to a couple of acres just outside of Wendell, we were excited that we’d have an opportunity to get and raise a flock of our own.

The process started just after labor day. My oldest daughter, Anna, and I began the process of building a chicken coop. Since we’ve never done anything like this before, we had a lot to learn about building chicken coops. We had previously seen a cool A-frame style coop in a yard not too far from our house and really liked how it was constructed. So, we took to the Internet and searched for plans for A-frame chicken coops. Ultimately, we settled on this set of plans from Ana White. It called for materials we already had on-hand and wasn’t an overly complicated design.

During each of the next few Saturdays (and the occasional Sunday afternoon), Anna and I cut, dry-fitted and assembled the chicken coop to get it ready for its new residents. When everything was finished, we had a coop with a nice area for the chickens to roam in, a cool little ladder that led upstairs and a comfortable place for the girls to nest in at night. We finished it off with a door to the nesting box that can easily be opened to get the fresh eggs and another door in the lower portion that the chickens could use to go out into the yard.

After the last screw was turned and the final piece of wire screen was stapled to the frame, we were finally ready to welcome the chickens. They arrived on a Monday evening, courtesy of our friend, Wendy Green. The chickens had been a part of their family for a year or two, but needed to find a new home– the home we just built for them! As the chickens walked around in their coop, there was so much excitement among our kids that you’d have thought it was Christmas day!

Our-chickensThat night, the chickens headed right upstairs to the nesting area and that’s when I learned my first lesson: the chickens don’t really care about the nice ladder we built. Instead of walking up the ladder, they flapped their wings and flew right up into the opening to settle down. Oh well! At least the ladder looks nice!

As with any new family member, we were eager to give our chickens names (hey, they are providing for our family so they definitely get names!). Our flock of five includes three Rhode Island Reds and two naked necks. The two naked necks already had names, so we only needed names for the three Rhode Island Reds. After some deliberation, we gave them the following names:

1. Tiny

2. Fluffy

3. Rhodie

4. Small

5. Johnnie (if you’re a child of the 80’s, you’ll get it right away. Otherwise, here’s a little context to help).

The chickens have been with us now for about three weeks. In that time, they’ve gotten used to our very active family, hearing our voices and occasionally being chased around the yard by one of the boys! And our family has learned about taking care of these neat creatures that God created and is using to provide for our family (and a few others!). The girls are allowed to roam around the yard for a couple of hours in the late afternoon and instinctively return to the coop to nest down for the night just as the sun goes down. The only exception is “Tiny.” Tiny seems to have a will all her own and decided she didn’t need to return on two different nights this week, opting to spend the night roosting somewhere in the yard. Needless to say, we were a little nervous that she might not come back, but we were all very happy when we saw her walking around in the driveway the next morning!

Of the entire experience, there are two things that stand out to me as being really special. The first is the memories Anna and I made as we built this coop together. It was a little more work than we expected, but it was something we did together. And every time we look at that coop, we can view it with pride knowing that it was the product of our hard work! The second is seeing our kids learn how to take care of these animals. They are excited to go out in the morning to look for eggs! This morning, the temperature was 17 degrees and my oldest two children gladly threw on coats and hats to go out and put fresh water in the coop! My children, at the ages of 9, 6, 5 and 9 months (ok, Katy doesn’t really do a lot right now, but she will!) know far more than I did at their age about caring for these animals. And that’s pretty cool!

And as if having five chickens wasn’t enough, we agreed on Wednesday to take a few more from our friend Wendy. The newest additions arrived last night: four bantams and a small rooster (I’m still not sure about the rooster!). So, we may soon be building another chicken coop to accommodate them if things seem a little tight! That is, unless we are able to get started on the honeybee hive boxes that are up next on our list! Stay tuned on that one!