My journey as a chicken-keeper started when Darrell and I bought our little farm this winter and inherited four laying hens in the process. Since then, I’ve learned quite a bit about these wonderful creatures.
1. Chicken Math
This became evident to me even before I had come across the term online. If you enjoy having a couple of chickens, you will inevitably want more. And more. While it’s best to start small, the numbers will grow and you’ll have a hard time sticking with the status quo. I started with four White Leghorn hens. Then I came across Jersey Giants and was enamored with the stories about their size and temperament, so I went out and got two hens and a rooster. Then I found a wonderful enabler who set me up with six more hens. The flock stands at 13 and I’m itching to get more.
2. The Variety
I used to think chickens were predominantly white or red and laid only white or brown eggs. I was wrong. After inheriting the first four hens in the move, I set out to learn all I could about chickens (which will be ongoing process for the rest of my life). The first thing I learned was that there are a crazy number of breeds available in all different colours, shapes, and sizes. They are capable of laying a rainbow of eggs. In addition to the white eggs of my leghorns, I now have birds that lay different shades of brown eggs, and a couple that lay green eggs. The green eggs are perfectly normal inside, they just have a different coloured pigment in the shell.
3. Change Is Bad
Shortly after starting on my chicken journey I moved the feeder to a different spot in the coop, thinking it would give the hens more room to gather around it. They responded by refusing to eat out of the feeder and generally trashing the coop. When we replaced a side door with a screened window, Arrow (our rooster) nearly had a meltdown and made one heck of a racket. Even putting a brick on the floor caused the need for all 13 birds to closely inspect it. Adding new birds after the quarantine period will often disrupt the laying schedule for a few days and always results in reestablishment of the pecking order. Chickens are creatures of habit and change takes some getting used to.
4. ChickenTV Is The Best Show
Forget any show you watch on TV or Netflix, nothing is as entertaining as ChickenTV. After a day at work the best way to relax is to watch the birds wander around the pen eating bugs, chasing each other, visiting the horses, and wallowing in the dust bath area. They force me to slow down and relax because I just can’t stop watching them. I love their curious nature and watching what they’ll get into. Like any good show, the time flies by while you’re watching it.
5. The Personalities
I should have realized this would be the case because my pigeons always had personalities, but for some reason I didn’t expect it with the chickens. They have such strong and unique personalities. Smokey, one of our Easter Eggers (EE), is the pet of the coop. She’s the friendliest little thing, always flying up to say hi, falling asleep in Darrell’s arms, and she loves to chatter away. She’s the first in line for treats and the last to give up when I tell her the treats are all gone. Bandit, the other EE, is her polar opposite. Bandit is as independent as they come and sits at the top of the pecking order without ever having to fight. She’s not a pet. Big Red is a Euskal Oiloa and likely my favorite of the bunch. Her curiosity really gets to me and I love watching her work things out. I usually have to pick her up to get her inside at night. Then there’s Arrow, who turned out to be the perfect first rooster – mellow but protective. We had one run-in early on where he tried to give me heck for picking up on of his hens. I responded by picking him up instead and we’ve gotten along ever since. He enjoys treats, following his hens around, and squishing himself into a small next box.
6. The Enablers
There are many people out there with the chicken addiction, and they’re eager to have more members join the group. They’ve encouraged me to get new birds, look into new breeds, and make it through the tough times (which do happen). They’ll share their experiences and provide a lot of laughs along the way. Chickens are even more fun when you can share their stories with others. Darrell has turned into my number one enabler, falling for the birds as much as I have. He doesn’t even say no when I suggest we may want to pick up some more hens.
Life with chickens is better than life without them. They provide us with fresh eggs and great enjoyment. They may have caused us to take some time away from fishing, but they’ve proven to be worth it. I love being a chicken-keeper.