My chicken story starts in an unlikey place, when my sister and I wanted a pet, a cute little dog or cat that we could cuddle with. We tried hard to convince our parents but our parents said, “No,” and that was final. Final that is, until one day when we were at the farm of our friend Ute. Hearing about our ‘Pet Predicament’ she asked if I wanted to look after two of her chickens during the summer. I said “YES!” and my parents said yes to. As well, my dad even helped me build a chicken tractor.
(A chicken tractor is a movable coop that is usually used during the summer or in places which have a warm climate year round.) A few days later we brought two Plymouth Rocks home. One was a Cockerel that we named Pirate and the other a Pullet that we named Fraidy. A cockerel and a pullet are the technical terms referring to a rooster and hen under one year of age. That summer even though I didn’t get any eggs from Fraidy (she was too young, Pullets don’t lay until they are 5-6months old) I got to hear Pirate learn how to crow! At the end of the summer when I gave Fraidy and Pirate back to Ute I gave them back knowing that they had taught me many things. 1. Chickens are fun and quirky animals 2. Ideally you don’t want to have one cockerel and one pullet alone cause the rooster will bug the gal 3.You can’t lead a chicken around the yard with a rope tied to his/her leg :0 4. Next summer I want to have Layers and I did. For the next three summers I had layers and read about chickens from the book Raising chickens for dummies.
Early this spring, however, I decided that it would be fun to build a year round chicken coop and have a few layers and get eggs! I also decided that instead of starting with full grown hens I would get chicks: 1 Rhode Island red, 1 black Plymouth Rock and 1 barred Plymouth Rock. And so the reading began. I read and read and read until I felt as prepared as I could be and after the reading there was the doing, so to speak, where I had to get everything ready. So my mom and I went shopping for brooder material. When we got home this is how I set up the brooder.
1. first I put out the plastic storage crate I got from Zellers 2. I attached a wooden pole to the crate and clamped a light onto it. The rest of the material I got from the Buckingham co-op 3. I put in wood shaving 2-3in deep and after (this is the crazy part) I covered the wood shaving with paper towel cause you don’t want the chicks to think that the wood shavings are food 4.I washed out and filled up my chick waterer 5. I filled up my chick feed dish with chick feed. 6.The last thing I did was stick a thermometer into the brooder to see if it was the perfect temperature which is 90F.
A few days later I drove over to Ute’s house (we had combined our chick order) and Ute showed me the 3 chicks she had picked out for me. They were soo cute! Super excited I picked up the box the chicks were in, drove them home, carried them up the stairs, picked them up one after the other and put them in the brooder. Whate I did first was I dipped the chicks’ beaks into their water dish to show them how to drink. After that, I watched them as they got acquainted with their home. The girls ate, drank, pooped, peeped and fell asleep.
For the first week I let nobody pick up the chicks but after that I picked them up and showed my sisters how to hold them. Even my older brother who doesn’t like chickens said that the chicks were pretty darn cute (Yes!). The chicks grew so fast. After 6 wk they were fully feathered!!! At that point I brought them outside for an hour everyday (kind of like hardening off tomato plants) and then once they were acquainted with and acclimatized to the wide world it was moving day.
I got my chicken tractor out, the main chicken coop wasn’t ready yet, and we put the girls outside. I breathed a sigh of relief they weren’t fully grown (and they wouldn’t be until they were 5 months old) but they were not babies anymore and their susceptibility to illness had certainly decreased.
Well the saying, “don’t count your chicks before they hatch” is probably a good one. I shouldn’t have been so sure that everything would work out perfectly, cause when the gals were 2 months old my mom said one day around lunch that Medly wasn’t moving and looked uncomfortable. I went outside and my mom was right. Medly was not moving! I picked her up and she showed no sign of recognition. Worried I phoned up Ute and she said that I should give her water with a dropper cause Medly didn’t want to drink by herself. So I picked Medly up and did just that. I repeated giving her water many times that day. In the evening I felt like she had improved but when I woke up the next morning and went to check on her I found her dead. Crying, I buried her feeling like I had let her down. But I realized that with life there is death and Medly had always been the smallest of the 3 girls and the 2 other chicks were still alive. The 2 others did survive and at 5 months they laid their first egg.
It was as exciting as I had thought. But I wasn’t too surprised cause the girls were acting strange all day jumping in and out of the nesting box and running around clucking. The next morning I went outside hoping to find more eggs ( I had gotten the egg fever!) but that day and the next there was nothing. Wondering what was wrong I phoned Ute and she said to get a light into the coop because hens lay eggs when they think the hypothetical babies will survive. (You see we were already starting to have shorter days. It was the end of September and chickens need 14 hours of light if you want them to lay.) I set up a light and it worked. The next day when I went outside there were 2 eggs in the nesting box. In fact at this point my chickens are laying at least 6 times a week. I started giving my chickens sunflower seeds cause sunflower seeds give chickens calcium so the shells of the eggs they lay are stronger. Also chickens like sunflower seeds. They are like treats. Chickens treats also include, pasta, oatmeal, rice, and fruit. I give my chickens treats every second day. I also try to spend special time with them apart from the time when I look after them. So now my chickens are super friendly and they even come when I call them! Everybody isn’t perfect and there is one time when they don’t come. That is when they’re dust bathing.
It’s more like dirt/sand than dust but the reason they dust bathe is the same reason we have baths, to keep them clean. Dust bathing keeps chickens free from external parasites so if you ever find a hole in your lawn that a chicken is sitting in don’t get angry cause the chicken is keeping clean. Also this week I moved my chickens into a new coop that my dad made me. One of the many things I LOVE about it is the dropping board under the perch, and how easy it is to clean the whole coop!
I am happy to be able to tell you about all of my adventures. If I, at fourteen, can look after chickens, feed them, move their tractor, collect their eggs, raise chicks in a plastic tub in my bathroom, keep an eye on my girls while they run around my yard I am sure you too can do the same and enjoy fresh golden yolked eggs like me! It really is lots of fun.
Hope you enjoyed reading my presentation!