Chickens: RIR

RIR stands for Rhode Island Reds.

In February, I had lunch with my old Stake President and joked with him that after lunch, I was going to go pick up some chicks.  Even after I explained that I was going to literally go pick up baby chickens, no laugh… Maybe a bit of a forced smile…

And indeed that is what I did.  I went to a feed store and picked up 4 Rhode Island Reds.  It was between them and the Black Austrolorp after doing some research on chicken breeds.  On MyPetChicken.com, I basically searched for docile chickens with highest egg laying rate.  4 female chickens is the legal limit in the City of Federal Way, so I maxed out.

When I first got the chickens, they must have been just a few days old.  They were so tiny and fragile.  In contrast, Andrew was not.  He was a lumbering giant in the world of baby chicks.  I was almost sure that the chicks were not robust enough that all 4 would survive Andrew’s handling.  Surprisingly, they’ve all made it!  (So far…)

Baby Chickens 2012-02-24 013Baby Chickens 2012-02-24 009

Until April, we’ve kept them in a plastic bin with some cedar shavings for bedding.  They had a 1-gallon water dispenser and a food trough which we kept full of chicken feed (corn).   We also had to keep a heat lamp on them.  Apparently, baby chicks are pretty sensitive to cold.   This arrangement worked pretty well.  I had to refresh everything about twice/week.  They lived in the laundry room until they were about 3 weeks old.  At that point, they were no longer the cute little chicks.  Caleb described them as “teenage” chickens.  Most of their feathers had come in, and none of their chick fuzz remained.  They were probably about 3-4 times their initial size.  Chickens grow FAST! 

At about 3 weeks, the wife started complaining about the “chicken smell” and they were evicted to the garage.  The weather was still cold, but the heat lamp was sufficient for them.   We had to upgrade their bin to something a bit bigger.  Around week 4, they were starting to flap their wings and it was clear they could just jump out of the bin.  We fashioned a chicken wire lid for the top of the bin, and that worked well. 

I spent several weekends in April building a chicken coop.  Last weekend, it was finally complete, and the chickens now live outdoors. 

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My biggest fear has been that we’d lose them to predators.  The morning after the first night outdoors, I went out back to check on the chickens.  To my horror, there was one chicken by the sliding glass door… OH NO!  How did she get here?  I quickly picked her up and went to the chicken coop.  The chicken wire looked like it was torn open!  I checked inside the coop, and there was one other chicken… I thought my fears had been realized.  I checked for signs of struggle (e.g. blood), but curiously there was nothing. 

I had to leave for a church meeting, so I told my mom and headed out.  On my way to the meeting, my mom called and let me know that Caleb found the other chickens in the neighbor’s yard.  Whew… Mental note:  Reinforce chicken wire.  Since then, no other incidents.

So far, they’ve been pretty fun.  We made a large chicken run (made of chicken wire and PVC pipes) that we let them run around in.  The kids love finding bugs and worms for them to eat.  They’ve also been good kitchen scrap eaters.  They’re favorite so far seems like pizza crusts… Lucky for them, since our kids seem to have an allergy to the outer 1 inch of any pizza…

Also, our family eats a lot of chicken.. and we seem to have a lot of chicken leftovers… but I just can’t bring myself to give it to them… Something just feels inherently wrong with that… Feeding chickens chicken…

Maybe they’d love it… “Hey Henrietta, you HAVE to try some of this food that came in the big red bucket… I don’t know what it is… but it’s delicious!” 

For now, no cannibalism at the Hyun home…

I’ve read that they’re supposed to start laying eggs in 6 months… so hopefully in July, we’ll have some good news on egg production.    Hopefully we can keep them alive until then..

I also received some advice that the secret to high egg-production is tithing… Hopefully, we can find egg-sized tithing envelopes…

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2 Comments

  1. Hope your chickens stay safe! We’ve had chickens in our backyard for about 4 years now–we love the fresh eggs! One thing-if you are having problems with predators (dogs and raccoons can both rip open chicken wire) then use 1/2″ hardware cloth. That is what we have around our run, though we are building a new coop in the next few weeks to make some changes and accomodate more chickens. We just incubated 9 RIRs and 2 Lavender orpingtons. Sweet fluffballs!

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