Once we'd equipped ourselves with the basic chicken equipment (feeder, water bucket, and chicken coop) and it was time to find our chickens!
You need to decide both what breed(s) you want and also what age: do you want baby chicks that you can buy for ~$1 each? Do you want 3 month old teenage pullets who have made it through infancy and are a few months away from laying eggs? Or do you want an adult egg laying chicken who's just hit her prime (6 months - 2 years old. Chickens stop producing eggs around 3 years of age on average: which of course can vary dramatically depending on breed, living conditions, chance...).
We liked the idea of baby chicks because the kids could really see their whole life cycle. Plus they're so stinking adorable! And cheap. We had a friend who owns a brooder so we could've borrowed that and not had the main "big expense" that comes with baby chicks. But... honestly we just didn't want to wait 6 months longer to start getting eggs!
The thing is, we wanted chickens young enough that we got to watch them grow up a little bit at least and really "bond" with our family. I got an email from my favorite feed store in Plano, Wells Brothers, that they were having chickens for sale one weekend coming up. The owner's daughter, Becca, runs a farm called RBG Ranch and they raise & sell chickens. So she came out to her father's store for a weekend expo. I loaded up the kids and headed on over. I spent a good hour chatting with Becca while the kids hung out with Becca's daughter and the chickens (she's a wealth of knowledge!) about what kind of chickens we wanted and what age. She recommended we get pullets (teenagers). They've made it past the tenuous baby-stage (where you're likely to lose a few, and have to explain that to the kids...) but they're still young enough that you have the experience of raising them from young to adult lives.
That sealed the deal! I took Becca's information and promised to call when we were ready to buy some pullets.
Next we started to research what breeds we wanted. Becca had been raising Australorps and Rhode Island Reds because she knew them to be good backyards chickens. I looked them up first and found them to be perfectly suited to us!
Rhode Island Reds are pretty smart as far as birds go, They're curious, but they're very gentle sweet birds. Pulling from my favorite website when looking for breed information, www.backyardshickens.com they get a 94% positive rating from their community of backyard chicken farmers,
Australorps (the black ones) are sweet tempered, great with other birds, very human friends, and great long term layers. The community gives them a 95% positive review.
Our family loves "Red." She's definitely got the most personality and is the little ring-leader of mischief. But she's also the move "pet-like." She follows up around the back yard and bumps into our legs for attention sometimes. She was the first to allow us to pick her up and to pet her. She's the family favorite.
The black Australorps are great chickens. No complaints. Maybe it's because we have three of them (previously five), but they just have a little less personality. But we really enjoy them all the same.
Cooking & home projects galore! My secret inner-designer revealed.