Prelude to Chickens

I’ve been busying myself this winter with preparing to finally get chickens in the spring. I’ve wanted chickens for a while, but have been focused on establishing my garden  and navigating a detente with my wife over the issue of poultry. The garden will be entering its third year this spring, and my wife seems to have accepted the fruitlessness of her opposition, so full speed ahead!

I know nothing about raising chickens, so to that end I’ve been reading ‘Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens.’ This book has been helpful in describing all manner of chicken keeping, from different breeds, coop construction, common chicken ailments, chicken biology, right down to how to slaughter and butcher your chickens.

I’ve also found some helpful info online, particularly at the Backyard Chicken Forum and also the creatively-named Chicken Forum. Like any forum populated by people who are overly enthusiastic about a particular subject, you can find great over analysis of pretty much anything related to chickens, which is helpful to someone like me who is just getting into chickens and probably over thinking every aspect of the process.

One area I’ve had trouble with is finding info in either English or Japanese about chickens in Japan. The problem is that the readily-available, most popular breeds here (the ones I can order from my local home center) don’t seem to be present in America or other English-speaking countries, so it’s hard to learn much about them. Even searching in Japanese, the fact that chickens aren’t as popular here for regular people means that there isn’t a ravenous online community providing information a la the Backyard Chicken folks.

But I have been able to glean some info here and there, and my neighbor actually started keeping chickens last year, so talking to her helped shed some light on a few of the breeds I was considering.

I’ll be placing my order next month, and the chicks will be ready in April. I’ve more or less decided on what to order, which will be 3 of a breed called Okazaki Ouhan. These are a hybrid in two ways — they are bred for both meat and eggs, and they are also a cross between Rhode Island Red and Plymouth Rock chickens — two popular breeds in the States. From what I’ve gathered, these chickens will produce a good amount of eggs for 2 or 3 years before they start slowing down, at which point I can eat them or put up with their declining production. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

I also want to get 2 Silkie chickens, called Ukokkei in Japanese. These don’t lay as well as other breeds, and their eggs are smaller, but I’ve grown enchanted after researching since they are supposed to have great personalities. I’m viewing these animals as family pets in addition to their utilitarian function, so something about having a chickens I can connect with is appealing.

The other thing I’ve been obsessing over is the design of my chicken coop. I’ll get into that in another post, but the first order of business was to decide where to put it. I had long considered putting it here:

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It’s a sheltered part of the yard, and putting a chicken coop there would also serve to obscure a portion of my neighbors hideous concrete retaining wall. But I realized the design I was thinking of would be a tight fit, and seeing that that area tends to get pretty wet when it rains, I decided on the other side of the house.

This strip of land is about 6 feet wide, and I’ve been hesitant to plant anything there since there are a bunch of water and drainage pipes running about a foot under the surface that tree and shrub roots interfere with (not sure if it’s a legitimate concern or not). So I had settled on raised beds…until the chicken coop came along. One major advantage of this spot is that one whole side is 6 feet off the ground, so I know the neighborhood fox won’t be getting in that way, at least.

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The way the fence ends so abruptly at this point is something that bugs me. Originally there was a length of fence running directly to the house, which I had built to pen in my young children and keep them from plunging face first onto the sidewalk below. I removed that section a while ago once the kids got better motor control/common sense, and it’s been eating me up inside ever since!

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I decided to spell my enthusiasm about building the chicken coop by adding a low section of fence to add at least a little more aesthetic continuity. It has no chicken-related function whatsoever, but once the chicken coup is in place the fence will look even better!

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Relocating the small raised bed was simple; the large one will remain.

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Ahem…couldn’t get my CAD software working, so Paint it was for a simple rendition of the future coop. I’ll also build an attached run so the chickens have somewhere to mingle when they aren’t working in the garden.

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Street view!

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I’ll be on vacation in a few days, and all I want to do is build a chicken coop. Stay tuned.

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