January 2012......

New BYC and I thought I would start over. I am not sure I am any wiser now but I sure know a lot more about chickens than I did when I started in May 2010.

We started with 29 chickens. We bought straight run. After a couple of months we realized we had at least 14 roosters. Lesson learned: DO NOT buy straight run chicks! Today I have 29 chickens....had to count them in my head! But only two roosters from the orginal chicks and 7 hens from that same batch.

My DH built me a coop and run. I thought at the time that it was plenty of room and I would never need anymore. Then the two of the roosters were struggling for dominance and I removed one and built him a very small space. My DH came home from working out of town and laughed at me and did an addition to the original coop. Quite amazing really and worked out great. But the rooster I put in there needed girls and so I bought him five Barred Rock girls. After a overly long segregation period they made a nice little flock. Except the rooster that I felt sorry for, built him his own coop and run and bought him girls decided he hated my guts. For months he did everything he could to try to get to me. Never was quite sure if he wanted to spur me or breed me. Finally 'rehomed' him.

I had a LF Barred Cochin rooster that needed his own flock so I bought him a couple of girls and decided when I rehomed the other rooster that he could have those girls too. So I put my sweet Harry and his girls in with the Barred Rock girls. Then Sweet Harry decided he hated my guts too.

So, what I have learned in two years with chickens. Roosters have a job. It is to serve and protect. They breed, they crow and they protect. Maybe because I am the only one they see and they are secure in their coop and run with a top on it.....maybe I am the only one they can protect their flock from? Never mind that I am the one that brings treats and feeds and waters them. Rooster has a job to do.

But.....now I have a 'rooster slapper'.....badminton rackets picked up at garage sales that are stationed at each gate. And not to really 'slap' with....but great to redirect an aggressive rooster with. Push them away. I also have a 'rooster catcher' that I keep by the gate should it be needed. It is a heavy laundry basket. Plop it over the rooster and put a couple of bricks on top. Gives me free range of the coop and run if I need to use it.

I have made chicken feeders and chicken waterers. I have built fences and put tops on my runs to protect my chickens from intruders. I now own two traps that I set as needed and afterwards dispatch predators. I have had losses and cried over my sweet chickens...yes, even the roosters. I have read everything I could find to read and the most and best information I have gotten here, off BYC, with the help of other chicken lovers.

I have had two broody hens so far. Losses with both. The first one was lost to one of the first of the racoons in the spring. I thought I had put her and her eggs in a 'safe' place to sit on her eggs. A small corner coop inside the big run. Safe from the other chickens and nice and safe for her. When out one morning to let the chickens out and she was dead and half eaten behind the small coop. My fault. There was one 'not secure' place on top of the corner coop. Lesson learned, but it was not over. Once the raids started it would be a couple of months before it was over. My poor son in law.....he was getting a text from me at least twice a week to come help dispatch. Six racoons, one possum and two ferel (and I mean ferel and very hungry) cats later the raids finally stopped. And my coops and runs that I thought were secure are now SECURE!!! It was like once they found us they told the entire county! Losses are hard and painful to go through.

My second broody sat on her eggs, in a 'broody pen' that I made for her and VERY secure, for 21 days. I had toe surgery and my SIL was taking care of my chickens and my DH was once again out of town so she brought the eggs to me on the 21st day and I hobbled to the closet to candle the eggs! None were viable. So we discussed it and decided to put fresh eggs under her again. On about day 15 I hobbled out to check on her and started screaming SNAKE as I was grabbing a tool to pen it down. My DH was home and came running. ALL ten eggs were now inside the snake. Snake was dispatched. Wonderful broody pen was put up on cinder blocks and lots of fresh air could get to my broody and she was put back in the flock on the third day. So sad of a loss. Sad also was my DH who was getting excited to see his broody hen hatch her eggs and then watch the little family pecking for worms together. Ah, all the lessons learned!

Then this spring....my unsuspecting DH decided that I needed an incubator. The man that wanted nothing more than a broody hen hatching eggs so he could sit in a lawn chair and watch them peck. He left town to work and I set my first incubator of eggs. 21 days of storms and rain and power outages. Me worrying about my eggs. Hatched 38 out of 40 and was hooked!! So on the heels of the first hatch I gathered me up 40 more eggs and set up the incubator once again.....hatched 40 out of 40. Thank goodness for people who wanted chicks!! But I kept enough for another flock.....17 hens and one rooster.

Did I mention the third coop yet? My DH came home from working out of state....looked in the bathroom where there were TWO brooders and said 'get them out of the bathroom'. I am not real sure he missed me. So I moved the first batch of babies out to the chicken tractor and the latest batch of babies out to the brooder in the garage. I had rehomed quite a few of the chicks. But then I started talking about 'another' coop and run. My DH explained to me, quite loudly actually, that they were 'just chickens' and 'other people' did not have three coops and runs. The third coop and run is nice, real nice!! And no where near capacity!

So, now my DH is working in Florida for a while. I am trying to rehome my two older roosters because I think I would like to have a couple of 'hen houses' for a while without a rooster. The middle coop and run have all my spring hatch in it as well as one rooster that we all loved and kept....who by the way actually seems to like me!! Rooster slapper is still by the door. So far no use for it except sometimes to push those sweet hens away so I don't step on them.

But my point would be that I feel the need to get the incubator out, dust it off and test it and prepare for the next hatch.....by the way....DH says NO MORE CHICKENS.....but he is going to be gone long enough that I think I can get the one coop 'filled to capacity'.....after all....I love my chickens!!

Things that I think are important to good chicken keeping: Keep your coops and runs clean and fresh. Feed the best you can feed. Read up on what things are good for chickens to eat...not just what they will eat. I make sure during molt I feed them 'treats' that are good for their feathers and their general health while they are going through it. Watch for signs of disease. And yes, I feed medicated feed to my chicks. I choose to do it because after reading everything I could find to read about it, I understand that there are many diseases that chickens can get simply from the soil and the air. If I can prevent it my chickens are beter off. Fresh water and fresh feed. And treats because my chickens are good eaters of the feed I give them and the treats are fun and interesting for them.