Backyard Eggs Made Easy

Fresh eggs right outside your door… for many of us, it sounds too good to be true! I have several neighbors and friends who have started keeping backyard chickens recently, and while I always loved the idea of it, the details were too overwhelming for me to actually take the plunge.

In fact, if it were not for The Easy Chicken, I would still be dreaming about backyard eggs instead of watching the kids bring them in each day.

The Easy Chicken is a Saint Louis company that provides everything you need for backyard chickens, from the coop and feed to the hens themselves, as well as help with any regulation compliance necessary in your area. Here’s a peek at how they calmed my backyard chicken fears…

Where does one buy laying hens, anyway?

Or a coop or feed or a nesting box or whatever else chickens need to be happy, for that matter? These are not things I see on my weekly shopping trips. The Easy Chicken not only solved that problem by providing everything we needed, but they delivered the whole package to our yard. I didn’t have to figure out how to transport chickens home in my car, and I didn’t even have to haul that huge bag of feed up my driveway.

Is my yard even suitable for chickens?

Our yard is small, full of kids’ toys, has a lot of rocks and mulch and not a lot of grass, and we live in a city neighborhood. This was one of my biggest mental blocks: figuring out if chickens were even feasible or could be happy in our yard. Seth and Maria at The Easy Chicken helped us determine the best way to keep the chickens where we wanted them, and it turns out our yard is working just fine for them. Even if we didn’t have a fenced space where the chickens can free range during the day, the coop they provide is built to be mobile, so 2 to 4 hens will be comfortable living full time in the coop if necessary. All we would have to do is wheel it to a new spot now and then to give them a fresh space for hunting bugs and other goodies out of the grass and dirt.

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What if I get chickens and they go and decide not to lay any eggs?

Apparently figuring out why a hen isn’t laying can be a bit like sleuthing out a mystery, but that is one mystery I won’t have to solve (unlike where in my house is hiding the left shoe of all three pairs of my toddler’s shoes).  My hens from The Easy Chicken are guaranteed to lay, so if I have any trouble, all I have to do is give them a call. But so far, no trouble!

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Am I going to be housing chickens in my basement over the winter?

One of my favorite things about our chickens is that the kids consider them delightful pets, but they never have to come into my house (it resembles a barn often enough without actual animals inside). If we keep the chickens over the winter, they should be nice and cozy in their coop. But the hens’ egg production goes way down in the colder months (did you know eggs are truly a seasonal food?), so with the rental package if we decide we would rather only have charge of the chickens when they are laying, we can simply return the whole package to The Easy Chicken at the end of the peak egg season.

Do I need a license? Do chickens carry any diseases? What kitchen scraps can I feed them? Are my chickens going to take flight over my fence resulting in me chasing a flock of flapping birds up and down the street while the neighborhood kids chuckle from their porches? Do chickens pose any threat to my kids if they’re sharing space, or vice versa? How long does a hen lay? If we purchase a package, what do I do with a hen when it gets too old to lay? Will the chickens destroy my lawn/landscaping? Is it going to be like an Easter egg hunt every day, searching out eggs the hens lay all over the yard? Are they noisy? Can I use the poop in my compost or garden? Are there chicken predators in this area?

The folks at The Easy Chicken took care of all my questions before we decided to get the chickens and even more questions during our initial set-up and consultation, and they had some other useful tips as well (thank you, chickens, for preparing my garden beds for planting!). That’s the final calming piece of their offering: a hotline for any and all hen- and egg-related questions that might come up as you get to know your backyard flock.

And let me just reiterate that my kids could not be happier. They fill the food and water, collect the eggs, close up the coop in the evening, let the hens out in the morning, feed the chickens scraps, and want to know everything there is to know about chickens.

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And did I mention the eggs are delicious? I guess that goes without saying. And if you’ve been finding it difficult to locate non-GMO eggs (from chickens fed non-GMO feed), you can even upgrade to the organic non-GMO feed The Easy Chicken has sourced.

It’s kind of like they thought of everything.

So if you are in the St. Louis area and want to learn more about backyard eggs made easy, check out The Easy Chicken web site, find them on Facebook, or just drop them a line:

The Easy Chicken Contact Info
Telephone: 314.852.2802
Email: contact@theeasychicken.com

They will also be at a few farmers’ markets on various dates this summer where you can stop by, ask questions, and arrange for your own flock of backyard hens:

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The peak laying season is just around the corner – contact them now to get the most out of your backyard hens this summer!

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*Obligatory disclaimer: We are happy to call Seth and Maria, owners of The Easy Chicken, local friends of ours. But friends or not, I would not have made our backyard hens a reality without The Easy Chicken, and I would not have written this post if I wasn’t truly happy with our experience with both our chickens and their company as a whole.

St. Louis In Bloom

Spring has sprung early, whether you were ready for it or not, and it would be quite a shame to miss out on it, especially here in Saint Louis. Soon it’s going to be a hundred degrees and a hundred percent humidity and we’ll all be lamenting the loss of those breezy days in the 80s. I’m not a big fan of that kind of regret, so we’ve been spending A LOT of time outside.

I’m in taking-pictures-of-flowers mode, which is working out well with the Natural Light challenge in this month’s Project MCP, because flowers were made for natural light. For my submission I decided to try the free blog-it board template from MCP:

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A couple of those are from the neighborhood, but the orchids are from the Orchid Show at the Missouri Botanical Gardens. If you are in the area, I highly recommend going – it was stunning! Here are a few more of my favorite blooms from the Orchid Show (these are all SOOC because I had WAY too many pictures from the day to edit them all).

The Classic

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The Old Man

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The Flamenco Dancer

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This one is clearly trying to eat you.

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My daughter’s favorite: all orange!

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Polka Dots

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But looking at these pictures is not enough. Get outside and let the sunshine bloom you a little bit after the long (or even not so long) winter!

Take A Hike

I’ve mentioned before that when it comes to how my children spend their time, there are four areas that I try to focus on, and one of them is time outside. This week we received a delightful gift: a warm, balmy day in the middle of November, so “time outside” quickly moved to the top of our list of things to do. And instead of a standard walk to the neighborhood park, we, for whatever reason, decided to attempt a hike at nearby Castlewood State Park.

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My kids are 4, 3 and 18 months, and I’m guessing that a rocky, hilly hike isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when you think “preschool activity.” But I’m quickly learning that my kids are often capable of a whole that more than I would think at first and I’m willing to let them try just about anything (within safety limits, obviously). So if you’re wondering if your average preschooler can handle a 2+ mile hike over hilly terrain — including going both down and back up a 206-step staircase on the side of a hill — the answer is a resounding “yes”. Not only can they handle it, they might just absolutely love it (and so might you)!

Here are a few tips for taking to the trails with your young ones.

Tap into your inner boy scout and be prepared. Pack a small snack (trail mix on an actual trail? they’ll love it) and drinks, and a couple bandaids probably aren’t a bad idea either. If you happen to have a pair of binoculars or a magnifying glass lying around, toss those in as well. And if you’re bringing a really young one, don’t forget a wrap or backpack or front carrier for when they need to ride. I broke out my Moby that has been packed away for a while, and I was surprised at how happy my little man was to be snuggled up in it again! (ok, he’s not showing it here, but he was delighted, I promise.)

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Let them lead. Don’t even set a distance goal for the hike. Choose a trail (or let your kids choose) and let them take the lead! If they want to stop and examine the moss, and the bugs, and the acorns, and the lichon on the side of a tree, and the sticks, and the bolts holding the stairs together, and the chickadee, and the leaves, and the little trails in the dirt made by the water, and every single spot in the dirt trail that might possibly be an animal print, then sit back and let them. We tend to think a hike has to have a goal, but with your kids, the hike is the goal.

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Let them be amazing. Several times during our hike the little mom voice in my brain brought up the concern that it was time to head back because we had been walking a while and I didn’t want the little darlings to tire out. But when I watched my little darlings and honestly considered how they were acting, they were totally fine, and eager to keep exploring. My 3- and 4-year-olds went further and faster and on more difficult trails than I expected, and even my toddler, whom I expected to carry pretty much the whole way, walked on his own two feet at least half the time we were out, which included scaling a giant set of more than 200 stairs. If we give our kids a little breathing room, and even expect them to do a little more, well, they just might.

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Recruit an extra pair of hands. The trail we were on would not have been a good choice if the kids’ very able grandma was not along with us because there were several spots that skirted a high bluff and required that all kids be holding an adult hand. But even if you’re simply trapsing through a forest, the more adults, the merrier.

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Take them seriously. Yes, they can most likely do a lot more than we expect, but they also have to take twice as many steps as us to cover the same distance. So when your 3-year-old — even the one prone to whining and overreacting — says she needs to take a break, it’s probably best to find a rock and have a seat and a drink of water (unless a mid-trail meltdown is what you were looking for).

Enjoy yourself! If your kids see you having fun, letting go a little, and exploring, they will do the same. If you’re drudging along talking about how steep the hills are or how hot or windy it is, don’t be surprised if their attitudes follow yours.

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And, most importantly, just resign yourself at the beginning to the liklihood of a behind-the-bush potty stop. That way, when it happens, you can take it all in stride.

Being a short drive from Saint Louis, Castlewood was a great choice for us as there are a bunch of different trails of varying length and difficulty, so there’s lots to explore and you can choose a difficulty level that suits your family. We planned our hike for the morning and packed a lunch that we left in the car, so when we got back we broke out the sandwiches at a nearby picnic table, which also happened to be by a little playground. How do I know my preschoolers can absolutely handle a 2+ mile hike on hilly terrain? Because five minutes after we got done and they had scarfed down half a sandwich, they sprinted over to the playground and proceeded to run, jump, swing and slide for nearly an hour. Clearly, our hike failed to exhaust them sufficiently, although they were all three asleep in the car long before we had finished the short drive home.

Walking The City Streets

We live in the city, with young kids.

[Side note: we don’t own an SUV or a minivan, either. We have three kids properly restrained in car seats in the backseat of a Camry. Go ahead: call us crazy.]

I’ve never lived within the city limits of any other big city, let alone with young kids, but Saint Louis is a great city for families. We’ve only been here a short time and still have oodles of things we want to see and do with the kids, but you can see under the “Take Me to Saint Louis” heading in the right sidebar just a few of our initial Saint Louis family favorites.

There are a host of questions commonly asked by non-city dwellers when they hear we live in the city, but one of the ones that really makes me laugh is about vegetation: “Aren’t you going to miss the grass and the trees?”

Ummm… No. Because the term “concrete jungle” does not depict actual reality, at least not in Saint Louis. Many of the houses in our part of town are more than a hundred years old, which means many of the trees on these streets are about a century old as well. 

We actually live on a street with a lot of rehabbed houses, but still, they kept as many trees as possible, and I totally appreciate the effort, especially in the summer when we’re desperate for the shady walks, and in the fall, when the stunning colors brighten up everything and make the bitter chill in the wind seem like more bark and less bite.

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Street after street of georgous Autumn gilding.

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Are you wondering why my little Mister is always walking away in the pictures?

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One, I think there’s something a bit magical about pictures like that, with a young life heading down a long path, an unknown but inviting future set out in front of them. But I can also admit that one can have entirely too many pictures of the backs of heads. No, this isn’t all my doing; it’s that my little man has decided it’s beyond funny to turn around every time he sees my camera. Look, he’s actively hiding!

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Little does he know he’s enabling me in my romantic attraction to “walking away down an unknown path” pictures.