We need some chickens. And we need them soon.

// \u003cspan class\u003dq\>> will give us tasty eggs, plus they\'ll eat our vegetable garden scraps\u003cbr /\>> and provide us fertilizer.\u003cbr /\>>\u003cbr /\>> So this week, Team Chicken was engrossed in research. Should we get\u003cbr /\>> adult hens or baby chickies? Should we go for fancy  chickens -- often\u003cbr /\>\u003c/span\>\u003c/div\>",1]);D(["mb","\u003cdiv style\u003d\"direction:ltr\"\>> called banties [link]-- with pompadours on their heads and hilariously\u003cbr /\>\u003c/div\>",1]);D(["mb","\u003cdiv style\u003d\"direction:ltr\"\>\u003cspan class\u003dq\>> feathery feet? Or should we stick with tried-and-true varieties like\u003cbr /\>\u003c/span\>\u003c/div\>",1]);D(["mb","\u003cdiv style\u003d\"direction:ltr\"\>> our American native Rhode Island Reds?[link] Hens that lay fantastically\u003cbr /\>> colored eggs? (They\'re called Ameraucanas [link], but for reasons we don\'t\u003cbr /\>> understand, it\'s pronounced "auracana.") Solid layers like b[cap B?]uff\u003cbr /\>> Orpingtons? [link]\u003cbr /\>\u003c/div\>",1]);

// ]]>In our plan for a one-block diet — a meal composed primarily of food that we're going to grow right here on the Sunset grounds, chickenswill give us tasty eggs, plus they'll eat our vegetable garden scraps and provide us fertilizer.So last week, Team Chicken was engrossed in research. Should we get adult hens or baby chickies? Should we go for fancy  chickens

with pompadours on their heads and hilariously feathery feet? Or should we stick with tried-and-true varieties like our American native Rhode Island Reds? Hens that lay fantastically colored bluish-green eggs? (The American breed is called Ameraucana; their South American cousins are Araucanas.) Solid layers like buff Orpingtons?// \u003cspan class\u003dq\>>\u003cbr /\>> We did make some decisions. Finding ready-to-lay adult hens -- ones\u003cbr /\>> that are at least four months old and fully feathered -- is\u003cbr /\>> surprisingly difficult. Our first call was to Half Moon Bay Feed &\u003cbr /\>\u003c/span\>\u003c/div\>",1]);D(["mb","\u003cdiv style\u003d\"direction:ltr\"\>> Fuel, a local feed store. [link] They sell only baby chicks -- and get a new\u003cbr /\>\u003c/div\>",1]);D(["mb","\u003cdiv style\u003d\"direction:ltr\"\>\u003cspan class\u003dq\>> shipment every Thursday. Then I tried feed stores in more rural areas.\u003cbr /\>> No, no. One clerk suggested that we check out the Modesto poultry\u003cbr /\>\u003c/span\>\u003c/div\>",1]);D(["mb","\u003cdiv style\u003d\"direction:ltr\"\>> auction,[link] which happens every Monday at 11 a.m. (Thanks but ... no\u003cbr /\>\u003c/div\>",1]);

// ]]>

// \u003cspan class\u003dq\>> thanks. Poultry auctions scare us.) Another person suggested hitting\u003cbr /\>> up local SPCAs to see if they had chickens. Not a bad idea, but not\u003cbr /\>> how most people start their chicken-raising experience.\u003cbr /\>>\u003cbr /\>> Most people, we realized, get chicks and raise them to adulthood.\u003cbr /\>> (Hens start laying at the earliest at four months, although some hold\u003cbr /\>> out until they\'re eight months old.)\u003cbr /\>>\u003cbr /\>> Raising chicks is both easier and harder than getting grown-up\u003cbr /\>> chickens. They have to be cared for gingerly for their first few weeks\u003cbr /\>> of life, warmed with a light and kept indoors. (Our chicken mentor,\u003cbr /\>> Jody Main, suggests keeping them in a cardboard box. When we visited\u003cbr /\>> her home, she showed us what she used: a box from Aidells sausage.\u003cbr /\>> Presumably not chicken sausage. She just used it because it was the\u003cbr /\>> right size, irony aside.) And they take at least four months to start\u003cbr /\>> laying.\u003cbr /\>>\u003cbr /\>> On the other hand, we\'ll get to hand-raise them, which Jody says makes\u003cbr /\>\u003c/span\>\u003c/div\>",1]);D(["mb","\u003cdiv style\u003d\"direction:ltr\"\>> them sweeter. [HOW ABOUT "NICER"? SO IT DOESN\'T SOUND LIKE A TASTE QUALITY?]\u003cbr /\>\u003c/div\>",1]);

// ]]>We did make some decisions. Finding ready-to-lay adult hens — ones that are at least four months old and fully feathered — is surprisingly difficult. Our first call was to Half Moon Bay Feed & Fuel, a local feed store. They sell only baby chicks — and get a new shipment every Thursday. Then I tried feed stores in more rural areas. No, no. One clerk suggested that we check out the Modesto Livestock and Poultry Auction, which happens every Monday at 11 a.m. (Thanks but ... no thanks. Poultry auctions scare us.) Another person suggested hitting up local SPCAs to see if they had chickens. Not a bad idea, but nothow most people start their chicken-raising experience.Most people, we realized, get chicks and raise them to adulthood. (Hens start laying at the earliest at four months, although some hold  out until they're eight months old.)

Raising chicks is both easier and harder than getting grown-up chickens. They have to be cared for gingerly for their first few weeks of life, warmed with a light and kept indoors. (Our chicken mentor, Jody Main, suggests keeping them in a cardboard box. When we visited her home, she showed us what she used: a box from Aidells sausage. Presumably not chicken sausage. She just used it because it was theright size, irony aside.)

On the other hand, we'll get to hand-raise them, which Jody says makes

them nicer.// \u003cspan class\u003dq\>And we won\'t have to worry about putting chickens who\u003cbr /\>> are strangers together and having them squabble. (It\'s not called a\u003cbr /\>> pecking order for nothing.)\u003cbr /\>>\u003cbr /\>> We\'re still exploring the possibility of getting a couple of\u003cbr /\>> full-grown hens -- more on that later -- but our current plan is to\u003cbr /\>> get most of our flock as chicks. They\'ll peep into our lives the first\u003cbr /\>\u003c/span\>\u003c/div\>",1]);D(["mb","\u003cdiv style\u003d\"direction:ltr\"\>> week of August [SECOND WEEK,NO? AUG. 10?] from Half Moon Bay Feed & Fuel.\u003cbr /\>\u003c/div\>",1]);

// ]]>And we won't have to worry about putting chickens who are strangers together and having them squabble. (It's not called a pecking order for nothing.)We're still exploring the possibility of getting a couple of full-grown hens — more on that later — but our current plan is to get most of our flock as chicks. They'll peep into our lives the second

week of August  from Half Moon Bay Feed & Fuel. We'll see what kind of chicks they have that day, but we're thinking about getting a couple of fancy ones, which are reportedly finicky layers; and the rest tried and true hearty layers: Rhode Island Reds, Ameraucanas, Buff Orpingtons, and maybe a Barred Rock. Getting different varieties will give us some insight into the difference between the breeds, and it will help us chicken newbies tell which is which.Sunset readers, do you have any suggestions for chicken names? Please leave them in comments!

----A note about my last blog: Our senior researcher, Michelle Lau, tells me that her husband raised chickens as a child, and he often gave his chickens eggshells to eat. They never bothered their own eggs. So maybe what I wrote last week was an urban — or, rather, rural — legend. Readers? Any experiences to report?

By Elizabeth Jardina, Sunset researcher

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