That time I bought too many chickens
Once upon a time, my town only allowed homeowners to have three chickens. THREE, as in, not nearly enough chickens. In all of my research, I learned that when you order chickens online, at least one of them typically doesn't make it through the trip. With that in mind, and knowing we could only have THREE chickens (again, not nearly enough), I ordered 4 chickens from Estes Hatchery in Springfield, MO. Imagine my surprise when my husband picked up the chickens, and informed me that I had FIVE chickens. Not FOUR like I ordered, not THREE like we thought we would have...I HAD FIVE CHICKENS! I was well over the limit. I kept them well hidden until my city passed an ordinance allowing six chickens. At that time, I got two (okay, three) more, which led me to my next mistake.
That time I settled for a coop
I had been warned. Everyone had told me, but I refused to listen. Get a bigger coop! You WILL want more chickens, and you WILL want / need more space for them. Instead, when they were ready to go outside, I bought a 4-6 chicken coop, complete with a ramp, nesting boxes and an enclosed pen. I thought it was glorious. I thought it was cute. I looked forward to painting it the same color as my house. But then, my chickens grew. And I got new chickens. And they grew. And before long, there was squawking. There was arguing. The little chickens ended up sleeping under the coop, not in it. Something had to be done. So, I built a bigger coop. To me, it's the palace of all coops. Nice windows, curtains, decorations, lights, heat, a sliding door, lots of comfy roosts...I love it! You can see how I did it here: Palletpallooza and Chick-Inn. I am so proud of it! Except for some of the frame and the roof, I did it all myself.
That time I got too creative with feeding them
I'll admit it. For a while, I just wanted the coolest, newest, most innovative inventions for my chickens. I wanted to neighbors to gasp in delight when they saw my setup I wanted them to realize just how spoiled my girls were. We had some leftover PVC pipe in the garage, so hubby and I made a fancy tube feeder. We connected it to the side of the fence, and the girls would gather around eating out of the tubes. I had a lid on the top that was supposed to keep water out of the tube. It was beautiful, and I thought it was a great idea! I mean, MY chickens would NEVER eat off the ground. But then I noticed something interesting. They were pulling the food from the tube and eating it off the ground. WHAT!? Then it started raining. It rained a lot in Kansas City this spring. And before long, the lid to the PVC feeder couldn't do its job. There was a blockage from the wet food in the tube. A couple of hours of wet food caused a horrible stench. I finally gave up and started tossing the food on the ground. My hens were happy scratching around, and I was happy to get rid of the tube.
That time I spent too much money on fencing, and it still didn't do the trick
In the spring, my girls would start hopping around, so I purchased a 36" detachable dog fence. It was $80 and I thought it was perfect. Once summer hit, my older chickens realized they could fly and the dog fence no longer worked. I purchased a 41/2' chain link fence for $175, and I attached it to the coop with a wire chicken tunnel (we called it the CHUNNEL). Before long, my girls were scaling that fence almost daily. As chicken friendly as my neighborhood is, I didn't think it was that big of a deal, until my chicks started wandering into other people's yards. At that point, I was already working on the new coop, and I had a really tall fence planned. This one had a 5' fence and a huge yard! with the fencing and the posting, it cost about $65. I did have two smart chickens who learned that if they jumped on the roof of the coop, they could escape. I was exhausted and out of ideas at this point, so I took the easy way out and learned to clip their wings. I only clip the wings on my escapees, but apparently word got out to the other chickens, because nobody's flown the coop in a few months.
The time I lined the pen with pine shavings
If the pine shavings were good enough for the coop, surely they would also help keep the outdoor pen warm in the winter, right? Wrong again! This lesson was long lasting and hard to live with. Shavings are great for keeping the smaller coops warm, while still smelling fine. I figured the same would go if I spread them outside in the yard during the winter. What I found out is that the chickens don't spend a lot of time outside in the winter, and once the spring snow melt and rain start, you get a sticky, goopy, smelly clump of stink. It was so awful that we could sometimes even smell it inside the house. I ended up spending hours raking up goo and putting it in the garden, where I composted and turned it into decent soil. Now I just have my yard for the chickens, sand in the bottom of the coop, and straw in the nesting boxes. I have spearmint plants, and a couple of times a week I snip some, stick it in the coop window to dry, then crush it in the straw. I also rake poo out of the sand twice a week. This keeps it clean, pretty fresh smelling, and definitely easier to tolerate than the shaving disaster.
When I decided only the best food would do for my girls
This was another expensive mistake. I knew I wanted medicine free, all organic food for my girls. I figured that the higher end food would be healthier for them. So I would lug home huge bags of feed twice a month, cringing about how the expense may outweigh the benefit of the cost of eggs. As I was getting my third bag, a gal came up to me and said, "You must be on your first flock." I asked her how she knew and she said, "You're purchasing XXXXXXX brand of food. You don't need to do that. You need to get Country Feed. It's the same stuff only cheaper." After over a year of using Nutrena Country Feeds, I have to agree. My girls have all been healthy, even through molt, and the feed is quite gentle on my purse strings. I AM NOT AFFILIATED with Country Feed, but when I find a good product, I want to share it with you.
There have been other mistakes along the way. I'm sure there will be more. My girls are doing fine, and none seem the worse for wear! Chickens are hardier than we think.