A tribute to my first year of chicken keeping
How I got into chickens:
Two years ago, I started baking bread for my family, I have always loved to bake, so I started making sandwich breads and banana bread for our own personal consumption. Well, a friend of my moms found out and ordered a loaf, and I obliged her, but I was not planning on getting into anything big. She told her friends and soon I had quite a few orders each week, so I decided I would start my bread baking business. I colored flyers and handed them out to neighbors, and I even started buying my own ingredients. After a few months, I realized I had made $100, so my mom advised me to find something to save up for instead of spending it on random things here and there and basically wasting it. I wanted an iPod, then I wanted a camera, then I wanted and iPod again, one day we were driving past a house and I saw some chickens in their front yard, and it struck me. I have always loved animals, and when we raise our broilers, I always got attached to a few, and I had very fond memories of gathering eggs at my grandparents house and feeding their hens leaves and grass. I excitedly told my mom I wanted to save up for chickens, and she liked the idea, so I set a goal of $1,200 and started saving. I wanted to have the money by February of 2016 and it was March of 2015. I baked breads like crazy, set up at vendor events and bazaars, sold to friends and neighbors, I even shipped some to relatives in Michigan and Colorado. Meanwhile, my grandfather and I were designing the coop, I was requesting and reading every book I could find on chicken keeping in the library system, and requesting catalogs from every hatchery in the U.S. Here is a photo a days work baking:
The wait finally over:
I ordered my chicks from Meyer hatchery, and they were scheduled to arrive on March 17th, 2016. I had done alot of research on breeds, and when my mom mentioned in passing that a friend was selling 8 month old Lavender Orpingtons for just $15.00 apiece, I knew that was a great deal, so I called her and ended up buying a trio of Lavender Orpingtons on March 3rd. I named to rooster MJ, in honor of a pet duck we once had named Milton, so MJ for Milton Jr. Of course, the animal lover in me had to get the bullied hen, but she was sick as I soon came to find out. I loved her anyway and named her Ella. The third hen was named Stupid, because that was exactly that.
On March third, in the freezing cold air with a wet head of hair from swim practice, I picked out my first three chickens. I brought them home and put them in their new coop, so happy I am pretty sure I did not stop smiling all night long. I spent the next several days doting over my new loves and waiting to the arrival of my chicks in two weeks. It became apparent that Ella was sick very quickly, but I loved her until the day she died, the day my chicks arrived.
On March 17th, I woke up at 6:30 a.m., which if you know me is about 4 hours early. I got dressed and checked the brooder that had been set up for days and waited the call from the Post Office that my chicks were there. We brought home a loud box of 27 chicks, Silver Laced Wyandottes, Buff Orpingtons, Speckled Sussex, Welsummers, a White Leghorn, and Black Australorps, I had caught my dose of chicken fever early on. After settling in the chicks, I went to the coop to check on my Lavenders, and found Ella dead. New life and a death in one day was very sad for me, and I learned that death is the inevitable in chicken raising. I spent all day sitting with those chicks, staring at them, hardly able to believe I had actually made it through 11 months of waiting, and that they were actually there. I had two chick deaths, and it was so sad, but as I learned, chicks seem to die alot when they are little, but it still hurt nonetheless.
Unfortunately I did not yet have a camera until June of last year, so I didn't take many pictures of my chicks.
As they grew:
I fed them fresh picked herbs daily, and doted over them more than a mama hen.
I went on a summer camp and my brother was in charge of feeding the chickens while I was gone. The pullets were nearing laying age, but I had not gotten my first egg yet, so it was not part of daily routine to check for them. I got home from camp to find 3 tiny eggs in the nesting box, I think it was a welcome home present.
First predator attack:
With all the firsts and joys of chicken keeping, there are the sad firsts as well. My brother gifted me 16 chicks of two breeds he knew I wanted very badly and when they were three weeks old, I put them outside and they did fine for a few weeks, but one morning I got up to find 5 pullets dead and one half dead. I later found out a weasel had sucked their blood, and my half dead chick did live, her name is Rey and I call her my Rey of sunshine.
I bought my first incubator in November and hatched my first clutch of eggs, Buff Orpingtons, Black Australorps, and Austra-Whites. As I type this my second batch of eggs is hatching and I am listening to the cheeps of new chicks. My first hatch had a 92% hatch rate, we will see how this one goes.
The chickens were not thrilled with their first snow, but I loved seeing them explore.
Here are some of my favorite pictures I've taken the past year:
It has been a wonderful journey, and I am so happy to have been able to share it with you awesome BYC folks. Thank you to everybody who has supported me on this journey!