ELBURN – Batavia resident Ellen Posledni said she started raising chickens after research she conducted for a commercial chicken publication educated her on how hens are raised in commercial poultry farm operations.
“I had a hard time buying eggs after that,” she said.
Posledni recently shared the knowledge she has gained through raising her own chickens for the past three years with local residents interested in finding out more about raising backyard hens.
Her class, held on on Oct. 14 at the Town and Country Public Library in Elburn, combined the advice she had received from an experienced friend with what she had learned through her own trial and error. She said she wanted to help people avoid some of the pitfalls and acquire some of the joys she had experienced.
A growing interest in raising one’s own chickens led the library to hold the class. Elburn has officially joined the backyard chicken renaissance with a new ordinance allowing residents to raise the birds within village boundaries.
Finding out the sex of the chicks is an important first step, Posledni said. One of the ordinance’s restrictions is that roosters are not allowed. This was one of her trial and error moments, after realizing that three of her first four chickens were roosters!
She said ordering chicks from www.mypetchicken.com guarantees their sex, as is the case for several local retail establishments, such as Trellis Farm & Garden in St. Charles and Farm & Fleet in Sycamore and Montgomery.
There are many different breeds and varieties of chickens, each with their own characteristics, personalities and egg-laying habits. Mypetchicken.com has a breed selector tool that will help someone choose a breed, based on their preferences. Posledni has both buff orpington and barred rock breeds, both of which she said are well-mannered and good layers.
“It’s like dog breeds,” she said. “They’re all a little bit different.”
She recommends purchasing chicks in the early spring, to make sure they can be kept warm enough while they’re small. She started her own chicks in a Rubbermaid tub in the garage, with a clip-on heat lamp to regulate the temperature.
Beginning with a temperature of about 95 degrees Fahrenheit, she gradually decreased the heat by five degrees by moving the lamp a little higher each week. She recommends starting out with paper towels for bedding, changing to wood chips when they are closer to eight weeks.
As they grow, she said adding a wire mesh on top of the tub will keep the chicks safely inside. After awhile, it’s OK to let them out to explore the lawn, but only under close supervision.
At about eight weeks, it’s OK to move them to the coop. She discussed the various elements of coop designs, with a strong warning against heat lamps and extension cords. She recommended a special heat pad, available from Amazon.com for $15.
She explained that keeping the coop dry and with good ventilation is critical, as poor ventilation and moisture can cause illness, frostbite and even death.
The hens will begin laying at about 20 weeks, and depending on the breed, will lay every day or a few times a week.
Margaret Rhodes and her daughters Hannah, 7, and Julia, 5, who live near Elburn, attended the class. Margaret Rhodes and her husband, Mark Rhodes, moved to the area from Chicago, and she said it has always been a dream of hers to raise chickens. They are looking forward to getting a few chicks in the spring and watching them grow.
“I think it will be a cool opportunity for learning,” Margaret Rhodes said, who homeschools her children.
There is still time to plan for raising chickens this coming spring, and Posledni said she will be offering the class again at the library in March. In the meantime, she said there is plenty of information on several websites, including backyardhens.com and mypetchicken.com, as well as the Batavians for Backyard Hens Facebook page. She said the staff people at Trellis Farm & Garden are also very helpful.
Additional resources for raising chickens
Batavians for Backyard Hens Facebook page
Trellis Farm & Garden in St. Charles
Farm & Fleet in Sycamore and Montgomery