Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Hosting Chickens in Princeton

Even though it seems like spring just started, the window of opportunity for buying chicks to grow as backyard egg layers and pets is quickly closing. They need enough time to grow up before cold weather comes. We bought our chicks two years ago at Rosedale Mills in Pennington, and get our feed either there or at the Belle Mead Coop up 206. Rosedale Mills told me they have a wide variety of chicks right now, and are expecting one last additional batch of chicks to arrive in a couple weeks.

The legality of having chickens in Princeton has been disputed, but I researched it and learned that it is considered legal as long as the neighbors don't mind. Our chickens (no rooster needed) have been very quiet, and though the two ducks we have speak up now and then, the neighbors say they enjoy the sound. Pre-made coops can be pricey, but a coop makes a nice project to fashion out of spare wood.

You can find lots of posts on this blog about the chickens and ducks we have, by typing "chickens" into the search box, which gets you this group of posts. Our Aracana chickens each produce an egg every day or two, are very approachable and holdable, need no supplementary heat in the winter, and get the run of the fenced-in backyard during the day. Read various posts here and abundantly elsewhere online to familiarize yourself with issues like hawks.

The ducklings came via the mail from California. They are messier birds than the chickens, but are real characters, and lay even more eggs than the chickens. Duck eggs, with their larger yolks and somewhat drier characteristics, are handy for baking.

Most people keep their chickens in a fully enclosed run, but we find letting them all run free is worth the risk, particularly when we have a "guard duck" of the Pekin variety that seems to intimidate the hawks. Care is a matter of keeping them in food and water, closing them in at night, cleaning the coop regularly, and retrieving the eggs.

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