Well, whatever happened to the site, it appears to be back up and running. Thanks Judy if you had a hand in it. Anyway, I've been spending this last week's spare moments reading Raising Chickens for Idiots, by Jerome Belanger. I've been trying to come up with reasons not to get them, if that makes sense. I realize they are a ton of work, but I want to make sure I can live with them if I commit. So far, I've come up with the following negatives excluding cost:
1) The new chicks need 4 weeks of mother henning... 5 times a day check ups to check the heat lamp temperature, sanitation, water and feed supply etc. Sounds like a full time job, and I really hope to be employed by then.
2) After the first 4-5 weeks, they still need to be inside, but are running around and need more space. I believe I could set something up in our newly created play room in the unheated garage, but still, it would be a bit of a sacrifice for the family. Of course, it's ony a month or so before they can go outside.
3) As good for the droppings are for the garden when composted, they are a hot fertilizer and burn grass and plants. The idea of free ranging them in the back yard could destroy our grass area (read children's play area). Also, my wife would kill me if I tracked presents into the house.
4) Finally, I likely wouldn't be able to free range them in the strictest sense. Apparently they love to eat plants, any plants, so my food and ornamental gardens would be at risk. The solution to that is to tractor them. I had planned on building a tractor for my beds, but using one all the time was not my intention. I thought maybe tractoring during the strawberry season, or a temporary chicken wire fence for the blueberry beds. Permanent fences would be ugly.
As you can see, the more I learn about them, the more questions I have. I'm still not to the point where I'm abandoning the idea, but I need more research for sure.
I am almost done with Chickens for Idiots. Then I'll move on to Chickens for Dummies. My brother said to read them both in that order. Great information there if you're at all interested in raising chickens, now or in the future. Pretty much everything I was planning on is what he recommended. At least I know I'm on the right track and not biting off more than I can chew. For backyard chickens, 3-4 is the gold standard. I am planning on getting four chicks and hoping at least 3 survive.
I'm also researching Laura's garden planning schedule to make sure I don't miss seed starting. You'd think I would know better by now, but I really think she has the timing down for the area. More about that and the breeds of chickens I'm considering later.
Enjoy your garden!