We raise chickens. We didn’t plan to really. We fell into it through a program called the Chick Chain with a local 4H Club. Our then 9-year-old son received 25 one-day-old chicks to raise for about 4 months with the agreement he’d bring his 5 best to the local County Fair. These chicks would then be auctioned to the highest bidder, and those funds used to buy chicks the following year for the program. What we didn’t expect is our son Mo received the Reserve Grand Champion award, which meant his chickens were the 2nd best of the show.
And from that moment on we were all hooked! I’m sad to say Mo’s affection for the chickens has worn off, but me and our three Littles love to care for them and they offer me a form of therapy honestly. There is just something therapeutic about watching them interact and to learn their language. They actually DO have different clucks and calls that mean different things. Now I’m not a chicken nor do I speak chicken, but I do understand a lot of their language. I come running out the back door for instance if I hear our rooster sending out a distress call, and I now know why our grandmas used to say “Now don’t go getting your feathers all ruffled” because I’m here to tell you the ladies most definitely DO ruffle those feathers at a certain time … or rather, after a certain event involving the rooster.
Fast forward a few years and we’re knee deep in chickens. Black sex-links from 4H, New Hampshire Reds from last year’s Spring chicks we raised and a lone one I believe is a Bantan. On March 25, we went on a whim one day to the feed store and picked up 12 new chicks. We chose 6 Bantam pullets and 6 Buff Orpinton female chicks. We were so excited especially about the Buffs as we’ve always wanted some and they are so sweet and fluffy! Up until May 7, our babies were growing and had also outgrown the brooder. We did lose one of the Bantams on the second day they were home, finding the pullet one morning on the bottom of a pile of chicks. This can happen as they all huddle together to stay warm. We do use heat lamps for them as well, but they naturally like to stay close together just as they would with a Momma hen.
Unfortunately, we had a tragic circumstance with a stray dog we found across the street and had taken in as our own. He was so curious of the chicks and one evening while we were all away, he was able to enter their fenced pen and also breech the metal locker, which we’ve used two years for our chicks when we transition them outside but before we put them in with the adult hens. We had thought they were safe and he was safe from having access to them, because we knew he wasn’t ready to be alone with them off-leash. Our chicks had been outside only a week when the tragedy occurred. They were just 7 weeks old, but we were already loved them very much. This last collage shows the last photos we have of them, and they were all taken the last week of our sweet babies’ lives. We will always miss them! They all had names and we had great hopes for them in our flock.
It is a tough lesson for our Littles to endure and honestly it hit me hard as well, but we’ve learned that sometimes farm life involving animals can leave us facing circumstances that are just heart-breaking and difficult to walk out. We will always remember those weeks we had with our Bantams and Buffs, and one day again we will have more Buffs. They are just too sweet and cute. The photo at the top of this post was taken of one of our Buffs when she was a couple of weeks old.
Just a week before we lost our early Spring chicks, we had 5 chicks hatch from our new incubator. These babies are all from our own flock, which is a first for us! They were born on April 30 and May 1!
We still have a lot to learn as we discovered that 13 of the 18 eggs we incubated were in fact fertilized, but for some reason only 5 of the 13 hatched and of those 5, only 3 survived. They are doing so well and are now 5 weeks old and were more than ready to be transitioned outside. We kept finding them walking about the garden shed where we keep the brooder, presumably having flown the brooder! On Sunday, we moved them to our second pen to begin their acclimation to the outside world. They have spent time outdoors under our watchful eyes, and they are always chasing bugs that fly into their brooder. They are spreading their wings literally, practicing flying and just so precious!
While the keeping of chickens is hard work and the pay-off monetarily doesn’t make sense practically speaking, there are rewards and gains that can’t be measured in dollars and cents. Our children are learning valuable lessons in responsibility, nurturing of creatures, putting others’ needs above our desires, and that farm fresh eggs really do taste better! Nothing is honestly more thrilling in the simplest of ways than arriving in the henhouse right at that moment when one of our ladies has just laid an egg, and we gather it up noting its warmth and thanking her for her hard work!
I hope to share more posts about our chickens as I revive this oft-forgotten blog. Please let me know what you’d like to know about chickens and I will try my best to make this as educational as possible!
Our chicks from our own flock are now about 6 weeks old and we just moved them out to the pen and small hutch! They were scared at first, but now they love it and are exploring and testing their flying skills too! They are just adorable! I will add more photos; these were taken within the last two weeks.