Why five chicks? Well, the website I kept coming back to in my travels, Chickens for Backyards, offers chicks in various configurations, but their mixed breed packages come in multiples of five. Chickens for Backyards is a good site for many rational reasons: it's relatively easy to navigate, they have a good variety of poultry, including many chicken breeds, they offer "sexed" chicks so you don't risk getting a male and then having to figure out what to do with him, they provide lots of information. But what pushed my emotional buttons was the videos. Here is an example:
See? In addition to having sweet little (noisy!) videos of baby chicks, the folks at Chickens for Backyards have produced a series of videos designed to help you select "the right chickens for your backyard!" I struggle to describe the production values of these videos, all of which begin with a cartoon graphic of a chicken sunning in an Adirondack lounger, umbrella drink in...er...wingtip, while another mows the grass and a third swings on a tree swing--all as twangy intro music plays in the background. Then Byron (or Byron and Mike) appears to explain to us why the Black Australorp or the Barred Plymouth Rock is the right chicken for your backyard. After viewing a few of these, it dawned on me that they arise from the same gene pool as the "There Goes a..." series of videos Max loved (putting it mildly) between the ages of about 3 and 7 in which Dave and Becky explained and demonstrated the fine points of monster trucks or delivering the mail.
Now, you would expect that with a series of such videos promoting the virtues of various breeds of chickens that the editorial stance would be fairly neutral and limited to describing the traits and characteristics of each breed. Or at least I would. Which is why the following video totally disarmed me:
Here's what Byron says in this one: "Although every breed we offer at ChickensforBackyards.com can make an excellent backyard pet, today I'd like to share with you a little bit about my favorite, Buff Orpingtons..." His favorite??? I'm not sure exactly why, but when a guy who's trying to sell me a whole range of chicken breeds reveals his favorite to me, I just trust him more, somehow. That's when I knew Chickens for Backyards was getting my business.
Another gut decision was that I wanted hens that lay brown eggs (yes, the color of the egg is a characteristic of the breed). I considered Araucanas, the blue and green layers favored by Martha Stewart, but in the end I like the stolid feel of a good brown egg. And despite feeling certain that I would love Buff Orpingtons every bit as much as Byron and his family do, I also felt like I wanted a chance to decide for myself which was my favorite. That meant ordering a mixed lot of brown-egg-laying chicks. And although tempted to order more than 5, I heeded the advice I also found on the web from experienced chicken-raisers that the most common newbie mistake is being overly ambitious and starting with too many birds.
As for the coop...although I am an inveterate DIYer, I knew that building my own coop right now was more than I wanted to take on. I also did not want to spend the upwards of $1000 that seems to be the norm for many coops. So I engaged in some pretty rigorous comparison shopping and ended up with what I think is a good compromise: the CC-28 from the oddly-named "CC Only".
The excitement builds!