By: Heather Mitchell In 2016 I was living with my husband and 3 year old daughter in a 400 sq ft house in downtown Toronto. Our backyard was roughly 17x25 and mostly brick. It was at this moment in my life that my desire to have egg hens became overwhelming. Not only did I want egg hens, I wanted Americaunas that would lay lovely blue eggs. Lucky for me, I found someone selling week old chicks out of a condo downtown.
I grabbed two chicks and prayed they were female and rushed to my nearest pet store for a heat lamp. No luck with chicken feed and the little bit the seller gave me would only last a few days. I felt like my dreams were coming true as I looked up my closest Tractor Supply (TSC). I'd been researching hens for more than 5 years. I was ready. I thought.
I made a cozy brooder box and followed the rules about heating. Using a heat lamp and a meat thermometer I ensured that the temperature in half the box was 95 degrees, giving them room to move to cooler space if they needed. Every week I moved the heat lamp up, bring the inside temperature down by 5 degrees.
I felt very strongly about not getting medicated feed. I wanted my hens to have organic only and maybe I felt a little bit smug when I ordered organic chick starter feed.
I'll tell you, the smugness was smacked right out of me when after only a few days of free ranging, my little chicks were pooping blood. In my heart I knew it was coccidiosis and yet I felt the need to connect with the Backyard Chicken community and posted my question. Everyone was very kind and dozens of comments came in that they needed antibiotics right away.
I called around and found a place that had the antibiotic and was open and drove an hour and a half from the city and turned around and went back, rushing to get them their life saving antibiotics. Not a smidge of organic smugness left.
Is that it? Of course not! You've heard of chicken math, right? Well, mine got out of control. I left Toronto for Guelph (where backyard hens are legal), got 3 more hens for a total of 5 beautiful layers and then wound up with 4 ex-battery hens. Somewhere along the way I learned that my Americaunas weren't, but one lays a lovely pinkish brown egg and the other an olive green. My 2 cream legbars lay lovely eggs as well, a green and pale blue. I have a wheaten marans that lays the most beautiful dark chocolate coloured egg. I love the rainbow of colours and our white leghorn visitors lay white eggs, much to the delight of my 4 year old who had been begging for white eggs every time we went grocery shopping (be still my heart!).
A surprising truth: you will need a new washing machine if you accidentally wash a load of sheets with an egg hidden in it and then leave it over night.