Jon Stolpe Stretched

What's S-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g me now?

The Trials and Tribulations of a Suburban Chicken Farmer

This is a picture of one of my hens from a year or two ago. Look how happy we both look!

“It’s a hot day to be a chicken and a hard day to be a chicken farmer.”

This was my post on Twitter on Friday night.

Thanks to the oppressive heat, I lost six of my eight chickens on Friday.  The other two are holding on for dear life.  As of this morning, it looks like they just might make it.

I’ve been raising chickens for the past two and a half years.  It’s been quite an undertaking.  For those of you who know my brothers and me, I would be the least likely to ever have chickens.  For some reason, the thought of having my own chickens and the fresh eggs that they produced every morning seemed so utopian three years ago.  After two and a half years, I’ve learned a lot:

–  Did you know that chickens poop once every eight minutes?  Can you imagine how much bathroom reading you could accomplish at this rate?  Obviously, this means quite a bit of clean up.

–  I read somewhere that you can power a 100 Watt light bulb for 5 hours with the energy produced by converting one chicken’s poop.  Yes, I’ve thought about how to put this to use at home.

–  Chicken manure is great for your garden – especially, tomatoes I’ve been told.  I don’t even like tomatoes!

–  Egg production is best in the summer when the days are longer.  In the winter, I’ve tried putting heat lambs and light timers in their coop to spur on further productivity.

–  Eggs from home raised chickens are clearly better than store-bought eggs.

–  It cost money to raise chickens.  While the eggs are “free”, the chicken feed and pine shavings (for bedding) add up quickly.

–  Chickens are messy animals.  Besides the poop mentioned above, they like to dig in your flower beds and garden.  I had to fence in an area for them to get them to stop destroying my yard.

–  Chickens are savage animals.  They will eat their own eggs.  Talk about driving down my production!  If we don’t get out there soon enough, they get the eggs before we do.

–  Chickens are loyal and love to be home.  When we let them roam around the yard, they always came back to their coop before night-time.

I’m sure that I’ve learned a lot more, but these are some of the key points.  Will I keep raising chickens?  Probably – but I won’t add to my flock for a little bit.  I need to do some coop modifications.  Yes, I also double as a chicken coop architect and engineer.  Perhaps, I should figure out how to get air conditioning into these hens before the next heat wave.

Do you raise chickens?  Do you have any other crazy home “projects”?  What advice or funny stories do you have to share?

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July 24, 2011 - Posted by | chickens

12 Comments »

  1. Jon,
    Great stuff! It’s amazing what you learn about people when you read their blog! Who knew chickens were so messy.

    Comment by Jason Fountain | July 24, 2011 | Reply

    • Jason,
      Now you know. I’m still glad I tried this venture.

      Comment by jonstolpe | July 24, 2011 | Reply

  2. The suckers will eat one another as well!

    Comment by navcad56Bob Lewis | July 24, 2011 | Reply

    • I never knew this. I know they’ll peck each other. Sounds like you’ve got some experience, Bob. Good to hear from you. Hope all is well!

      Comment by jonstolpe | July 24, 2011 | Reply

  3. Well , now, that just sealed the deal. My wife had thought about raising chickens. Learning that chickens poop every eight minutes just changed that thought – no chickens for us 😉

    Comment by Steven | July 24, 2011 | Reply

    • I still like the whole idea, but it’s just not as glamorous as I had thought. I apologize to your wife if I destroyed her dream.

      Comment by jonstolpe | July 25, 2011 | Reply

  4. After our move we built a coop and have two laying chickens. We are looking to add three more this coming up weekend.

    Comment by Adam | July 25, 2011 | Reply

    • Cool! Are you getting eggs yet?

      Comment by jonstolpe | July 25, 2011 | Reply

  5. Our sympathies to the Chickens and the Chicken Farmer and his family. I will say that when we were there last September, your omelets were the best I have ever tasted.

    I think we have our hands full with Tess and Isis…and they’re not even ours. Our backyard has suffered, not just from heat and shade, but also from the daily wrestling in the center ring they claim in our backyard. Life without Amber has been a little less hairy, a bit quieter and less obstacles… We still miss her, tho. However, she was getting old and cranky. So I don’t think we will take on any chickens in our backyard.

    Next time we come your way and visit, we will be happy to indulge in eggs of your chickens if you continue to be a chicken farmer with 2 chickens or perhaps more if you decide to increase your flock. Thanks for the tweet!

    Love to you, Mom and Dad

    Comment by Mom | July 25, 2011 | Reply

  6. Jon –

    Allyson shares your blogs with me every now and then. I am so sorry for your loss, how sad, the heat has been horrible. Dann & I have been raising chickens for just over 1 year now, we have settled in with 6 hens. I love it more than I ever thought I would – they are truly spoiled rotten and follow us around the yard everywhere when we let them out of their Chicken Tractor. One thing you didn’t mention above that we learned is – Chickens purr – who knew?!!!

    I found a chicken tractor idea I love and I’m trying to talk my husband into building something using the concept if I could just settle on a design that fits our space and my garden (aka farm) dreams (chicken/planting rotations being seasonl). Check out http://lemoncraft.wordpress.com/2010/02/17/chicken-tractor/. I haven’t read anything else at the blog, so have no clue about the author other than I love his Tractor concept, it might give you some ideas in your next design too.

    Karin (Morley) De La Rosa
    aka patchesacre.blogspot.com

    Comment by Patches' Acre | July 26, 2011 | Reply

    • Karin,
      Thanks for the thoughts and feedback. It’s amazing the things you learn from “chicken farming.” I’ve thought about converting my coop into a chicken tractor. Hope all is well. (I like your blog. I added you to my reading list.)
      Jon

      Comment by jonstolpe | July 26, 2011 | Reply

  7. Sounds like a lot of work! My mom just got chickens, they should start laying in November. Her chicken coop cracks me up (pun intended)! https://fbcdn-photos-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-snc6/205982_10150246279391771_578541770_7925329_1718277_s.jpg

    Comment by Beck | July 26, 2011 | Reply


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