Our first egg!

Our first egg!

Did you know that Convivium has chickens? They are nestled in the back of Convivium House.

And for those of you who are saying: “Chickens in the city?”.  Yes, indeed. Dubuque, Iowa allows its residents to have laying hens within the city limits. No noisy roosters though!

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ISA Browns are a hybrid breed known for their hardiness and high egg production

There are literally hundreds of types of laying hens from which to choose. As first-time city chicken wranglers, we wanted to keep things as easy possible. So we kept our priorities simple: we wanted them to be old enough to already be laying, we wanted prolific layers and we also wanted them to be hardy and fairly easy to care for.

So we went with a hybrid breed called an ISA Brown, which we bought from a local farmer.  We picked them up in late June  and within an hour, we had our first egg!

The coop was donated by a friend who moved and installed a larger coop on his new property. We added a nesting box to it, which Mike “roofed” with homemade aluminum can shingles.

 

We added a nesting box with a hinged roof to the outside of the coop to make it easy for us to collect eggs.

We added a nesting box with a hinged roof to the outside of the coop to make it easy for us to collect eggs.

Having chickens has been a lot fun and you cannot beat fresh eggs. In the summer months, the hens were consistently laying three to four eggs a day. As the days have gotten shorter, we are getting two to three a day. This has been the perfect amount for Mike and I. Even before chickens, we typically had eggs for breakfast, so this number of eggs has been perfect for the two of us.

Mike "roofed" the nesting box lid with aluminum-can shingles.

Mike “roofed” the nesting box lid with aluminum-can shingles.

Care and feeding is super simple. Fresh water and feed everyday takes about three to five minutes, and really, that is all that is necessary.

Challenges
One not-so-great aspect of keeping chickens has been the flies. So. Many. Flies. And the proximity of the coop to our back deck where we grill and eat in the summer wasn’t such a great move on our part.

We just really didn’t think about the placement of the coop enough. When you (actually) stop and think about it, chickens poop – poop attracts flies. It’s all very logical, but something that this city slicker didn’t even consider when we launched into this adventure. We wrestled with fly control most of the summer and finally settled some effective solutions.

First, we put sand in the chicken yard – about three inches thick throughout. This essentially acts as a giant litter box and not only makes the manure easy to rake or scoop up, but also immediately soaks up the moisture in the manure, which helps control the flies as well.

The second thing is that we are just really diligent about cleaning out both the nesting boxes and the chicken yard. (And by “we” I mean Mike. Thank you honey!) Chicken manure makes great compost and that’s what we do with it.

Third, there are some really great fly traps out there. We use this brand and it works like a charm*.

The Gang
It took us a while to settle on some names, but we finally did. And honestly, it is really hard to tell them apart. But the thing you hear about “pecking order” is so totally true! It was very clear who was in charge and who was last in line – so those two got names first. Big Mama and Chicken Little, respectively. Lulu and Daisy are the other two.

The chickens were pretty wild when we first got them. We spent quite a bit of time winning them over with tasty treats.

The chickens were pretty wild when we first got them. We spent quite a bit of time winning them over with tasty treats.

Does anyone else have chickens in the city? What have been some of your lessons learned?

*Not a paid endorsement, it just works really well for us.