Back in 2011 we built a coop and started a flock with six chicks. Four years later we added seven more. Since then, we've lost a few to old age (RIP John Travolta), one to a hawk (you are missed Lil' Bandit), another to a raccoon (I avenged your death with a lethal shotgun blast, Betty White), and another because the flock turned on her (you kind of had it coming Roseanne Barr) and we gave her to someone willing to take in a universally hated bird.
Now, with our numbers down to a flock of six, and egg production plummeting, we decided to add baby chicks to our time management woes.
We picked up six chicks from Bay Hay and Feed, choosing two varieties—3 Buff Orpingtons and 3 Rhode Island Reds. When choosing a chicken we value three things: 1. Egg production. 2. General friendliness. 3. Inability to fly over a six-foot fence. If you have a 10-foot fence then just get a ton of Americanas because they're awesome.
I built a large box with a heat lamp attached to it, filled it with wood chips, and put it in our kitchen. Then we added the chicks and let the kids name them. Since Star Wars is everything to our kids right now these chickens ended up with Star Wars names. Luke Skywalker is oversized (please don't be a rooster). The last surprise rooster we had ended up as chicken enchiladas when it started crowing and the kids do not want this one to reach that fate. My favorite is Ewok because she's the runt and is nearly impossible to catch and is definitely not a rooster that I will have to dispatch with an axe.
After a week that saw a steady stream of visitors dropping by to play with the chicks we eventually moved them outside. We have a 300-square-foot chicken run with two coops inside it. The two remaining members of the original flock live in one coop and the four members of the other flock live in the second coop, at least until I locked up the original coop and forced everyone to move into the second coop. This was very upsetting to the old hens, and it only got worse when I divided the run in half with a divider that's half fence and half tool rack. With the chicken universe divided into two rival sides I brought the new chicks out and put them in the original coop.
The two flocks will be able to see each other through the fence, but the barrier will keep the older hens from attacking the younger ones. Once the new flock is fully grown we'll pull the divider and let this chicken universe develop a new pecking order. And by then everyone will be laying and we'll even have eggs to share with our friends. If you want to come by and see them feel free (provided we know you).