The Ole Cowboy
Several years ago, I started raising chickens for their eggs in central New Mexico as a new hobby. I started with a straight run, and got very lucky...11 hens and one rooster! Things went well, and I enjoyed myself so much I brought the kids with me when I returned to the Texas Hill Country 2 1/2 years ago. At the time, I was renting from a woman who just happened to have an unused coop on the back of her property, so I exchanged fresh eggs for the use of the coop! At one point, I had to leave for a few months (was supposed to take a few weeks) to bring my wife down from Cincinnati - when I returned, we rented a house, and I told Pat - the woman from whom I'd been renting - that I'd pick up the birds pretty quickly - just needed to build a coop where I was. She frowned, and very quietly said "Well, OK." She had become attached to them! I didn't want to do that to her, so I held off starting over.
Last year, we moved onto some property with a lot of unused ground space. Turned out our new landlords were very receptive to me restarting my chicken venture - then they showed me their "menagerie" - 5-6 different breeds of chickens in half a dozen coops, ducks, turkeys, peacocks, goats, pygmy goats, burros, a horse, miniature horses, pot-bellied pig, rabbit, llamas, alpacas - wow! - all right next door. So...the project began in our backyard!
I'm a cancer survivor - have been getting treatments every week since August 2010. This venture not only will provide us with fresh eggs, but gives me a little more purpose in life. Even on my questionable days, I get a chuckle or two out of the girls! So much fun to watch. But because of the treatments and the resulting illness for numerous days, it's been a year, just about, since I started my venture. The first coop is pretty rough - the run is within days of being completed (finally), then my 3 Ameracaunas, 3 RIRs, 3 NHRs, and 3 BRs will have 96 SF to run around in and live in. The RIRs and NHRs are about 7-8 weeks old, and the others are about 4-5 weeks old - starting to outgrow the 4x8 henhouse pretty quickly! We had also bought 3 Buckeyes - no idea of the breed, but being from Ohio, seemed appropriate...besides, my wife, who "won't go in the coop because I hate birds" insisted that if I was going to do this, we should at least have some birds representing where we're from!
Unfortunately, I had the babies in the henhouse when a major thunderstorm came through, with an accompanying cold front came through. I just happened to wake up during the night, and noticed that the heat lamp was off - the rain blew in enough to get the bulb wet and it blew! I went out in the rain, moved the heat lamp, replaced the bulb, and noticed that one of the Buckeyes was standing near the front of the henhouse just shaking. I picked her up, and brought her inside the house. I wrapped her in a thin towel, and went to sleep sitting up on the couch with her nestled on my chest. The next morning, she was pretty chipper and seemed to be OK! Being a novice, I assumed all was well, and took her back out to the henhouse, where I did a head count - I found the other two Buckeyes had died during the night - their little bodies were very wet and cold. Later that evening, I went out to check things, and found the chick I had "saved" was lying motionless in the trough part of the feed bucket. I though I had lost her, too, so I picked her up...and she moved! I decided to move her and the other 6 babies into the utility room for a while. That might, I woke up in the middleof the night, and heard chirping - went to investigate. I found my wife - remember...the woman who hates birds? - sitting at the table holding the Buckeye against her chest and talking to her. "She was chirping, and I thought maybe she was cold or needed some company" - 6 other chicks in the box with a heat lamp, mind you - and she's been kinda hooked since! Goes out with me to check on the kids almost every day, feeds them from her hand, and talks to them! Sure, she hates birds...
Anyway, here's about a two-week-old picture of our miracle chick, Maggie:
She's doing fine, holding her own in the henhouse (she's the runt), and growing on a daily basis!
I trying to replace the two we lost, I've found that Buckeyes are a little scarce, so I've ordered some babies (including a rooster) - arriving 06/08 - and I'm building a new coop just for them. Going to try raising Buckeyes...wish me luck! The progress on this new part of the venture will be posted on the coop pages!