Debbie Roland, Master Gardener
This year has been full of unexpected changes and challenges, including the run on eggs at the grocery store.
I live in the country and since 2004 I have kept anywhere from four to forty chickens at a time. I knew nothing about chicken keeping the day I walked in a local feed store with my husband and wandered to the back to see where all the “peeping” was coming from. Life has never been the same.
The breeds of chickens would take a book to discuss and there are many you can buy. The internet is a valuable tool as well. Top of the list is the Texas A&M Poultry Department. They are a wealth of information and are great about answering questions if you will post on their site.
Local chicken owners are getting phone calls about where chickens can be purchased and the all important question: Do you have any eggs for sale?
If you are thinking about getting chickens, here are the basics:
Within the city limits, Midland allows up to four hens, no roosters. Odessa does not allow chickens within the city limits.
There are chickens who are bred for meat and others are egg layers. If you get on the websites for the hatcheries, information you need will be there.
You do not need a rooster to have eggs. Most hens lay an egg approximately every 18 hours, which varies by breed.
They need to be in a safe place, away from other pets and small children. They are cute, but fragile.
If you buy chicks you need to have the “nursery” ready before you bring them home. I keep the chicks in a cardboard box (anything will work) about the size a washer would come in. I use a heat lamp in a drop light with a clamp and keep the light clamped on the side of the box. Chicks need to be kept between 95 and 105 degrees in the beginning. If the chicks get hot they will move to the other side of the box. The bottom of the box needs to be covered and should be changed out daily.
Chicks will eat chick starter from a tray. All chickens, regardless of age, require fresh water at all times. Both the feed tray and the waterer are available at feed stores.
I have purchased chicks at the feed store as well as ordering them online. If you order them online, they come via the U.S. Mail. They arrive by overnight mail and the post office expects you to pick them up immediately. They will contact you.
As in all things, you will have successes and failures. If you decide to give it a shot, hang in there and learn as you go along. By the way, those original six chickens turned out to be five chickens and a turkey.
If you have questions, please call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information. Additional information is available at https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu and westtexasgardening.org.