In October of 2004 my husband and I picked up three baby chicks from a local hatchery and raised them in our house. Thanks to the timing of bringing them home, it was months before it was warm enough for them to move outside.
Just as well too, because it took us forever to arrive at a homemade chicken coop that we were happy with.
Today we still have three chickens, but only one is from the original three chicks, the other two we got at 8 weeks old from a local chicken guru in the summer of 2006.
In September of 2009 we embarked on yet another chicken coop project - this time using a gazebo that came with our house (and used to house a hot tub). The gazebo provided the perfect framework, along with a sturdy roof, which made our building job much easier. Still, the coop took us almost two month, working evenings and weekends.
Now, we finally have a set up that we, and the chickens are all very happy with.
Portland hosts a chicken coop tour every July, and every year that they've done it, we've attended. This year I'm considering applying to be on the tour. We finally have a coop that I think would be worth showing off, and I think it would be fun to experience the other side of the event.
One of the fun parts of going on the tours is not just meeting the chickens, but seeing everyone's gardens. Portlanders have some amazing gardens, and this year I am hoping that by July, my garden will be at least a little bit impressive too!
The chickens have been a lot of fun - they have huge personalities and really make wonderful pets. They are a joy to have in the garden.
On the more practical side, the shells from their eggs make a wonderful addition to the garden, either by adding them to the compost, or by crushing them and adding them directly to the soil. Their manure also makes a wonderful addition to the compost. The chickens also eat a lot of bugs which would become garden pests.
The chickens stay in the backyard, and I am planning most of my raised beds for the front yard. That way, I won't have to build fences to keep them from scratching up the beds or eating the young plants.
6 days ago