Chickens can make some of the best childhood pets, especially during pandemic. Kids and chickens go hand in hand. They teach lifelong lessons, show where food comes from and can become a child's best friend. I'd like to share some tips for those of you getting started with a family flock in Lamorinda (Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda) and surrounding towns. Keeping chickens is an amazing adventure!
Getting started: Where to get baby chicks?
We ordered 10 rare/standard package chickens online from Hoover's Hatchery (via Tractor Supply's website) in June and they arrived within 3 days. For mail order baby chicks, the post office will hold the package. Make sure you pick up as soon as the post office calls you.
Here's a list of suggested places to get baby chicks:
Concord Feed Pet & Livestock Supplies
228 Hookston Rd, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523
Concord Feed has a good selection and put out a calendar of dates with breed types around Valentines Day (Feb). It's a weekly rotation through spring-summer. The baby chicks sell fast though so make sure you go the day their baby chicks arrive.
Tractor Supply - Hoover's Hatchery
We got our chickens from Tractor Supply and couldn't be happier. They are the least expensive place online to get healthy and happy fluff balls.
Dare to Dream Farm
They sell baby chicks, coop ready chickens, and started pullets.
Pine Road Farm
3734 Piner Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95401
This is a family operated farm and hatchery in Santa Rosa about 1.5 hour from Lamorinda, that specializes in rare, heritage and non-industrialized breeds. This is also a great place to get fertilized eggs for your home incubation project
What kind of supplies and where to get them?
Chicks feed, waterer, bedding, nest box etc. Concord Feed is one of the bigger stores near Lamorinda where you can find most supplies for your flock. This should be your first stop to get the basic supplies. I've also joined a group in Lamorinda to purchase feed from Modesto as a group at a discounted price. Click below to see their prices for November 2020.
What about the coop? You will need a brooder box for your baby chicks with heat source until they reach about 6 weeks old to move into the coop, and when your baby chicks is ready for the coop, check out Papa John's workshop. Papa John is a household name for many Lamorinda chicken keepers with his famous Kiefer Sustainable Coop method, his deep soil low maintenance method is loved by many locals.
Some Tips to Involve the Kids
Start with 4 to 6 chickens. Factor in that not all baby chicks will survive (eg. lost to sickness or predator), so although you only need a small flock (4-6 chickens) to deliver you a dozen eggs per week, it is better to get more baby chicks. Roosters are not necessary for eggs, so be sure to select all females.
Start with baby chicks verses pullets or full grown chickens. This way it is much easier to end up with friendly chickens instead of ones that are going to be skittish around you. Also, why skip the cute little fluff balls stage? Hatchlings are absolutely adorable!
Handle the chicks often. Baby chicks will be fearful of you at first too, but it’s easier to begin to bond with babies than adult chickens. Start with feeding and cleaning up their brooder box, they will learn to trust you over time. Being able to handle your chickens will make for more enjoyable adventures. Just like dogs and cats, you’ll become pretty good friends with your flock.
Have the kids name the chickens. This is so fun and also helps get them involved right away. Our chickens are named DJ Chick Chick, Yellow Butt, Chocolate, Hawk, Shy Guy, and Roo Roo.
Observes and discover their world. By understanding and observing you can quickly determine each chicken’s personality, their role in the flock, who they seem to be “friends” with and many other personality! Encourage your kids to start and keep a chicken diary.
Plan other family activities with the chickens in mind. Learn to grow a garden, explore the outdoors, create forts and make fun crafts. Learn to make homemade healthy treats for your flock and also begin to learn how to cook. Eggs are a great place to start!
Everyone helps with chicken chores. One the best things you can have kids do is gather the eggs from the nesting boxes. As they get older, the responsibilities can increase by topping off the feeders, refilling the waterers and eventually helping you clean out the chickens’ coop and attend to other chicken needs.
Chicken Keepers Communities in Lamorinda
Consider joining a kid’s chicken group. Lamorinda 4-H group is part of the UC Cooperative Extension and has a very good curriculum for their various projects. Project leaders are typically parents in Lamorinda. They offers a wide variety of projects! Animal projects such as swine, rabbits, beef, goat, poultry and horse are very popular; as well as Drama, Sewing, Foods, Cake decorating, Shooting Sports and Rocketry etc!
Join the local Facebook group "Cluck". Cluck is a community of people who are interested in or already raising chickens. The intention is to share photos, tips, concerns and joys of raising chickens as a hobby.