My Chicken Raising Story
This is the story of how I got my chickens and all of my experiences with raising them. I hope you enjoy it. Beware though that it is l-o-n-g! Please post comments and questions. (I have also made a thread on this same thing for better conversations. https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/942048/my-chicken-story)
(The farm where I fell in love with chickens)
My fascination for chickens began in January of 2012 when my family and I travelled to my grandparent’s poultry farm. I’ve always loved going to their farm, seeing them, and taking care of their chickens and other animals. To make this long story short, I was collecting eggs in my grandparents’ coop one day and suddenly had the idea to incubate some of the eggs! (I didn’t know a thing about chickens then and didn’t know that roosters stop fertilizing eggs in the winter!) I placed three eggs into separate socks and put them by the fireplace. I waited for two days, and unfortunately lost them all….to my grandparents’ dogs! They ate the eggs and one of my socks too! I cried thinking they had killed my “chicks”, but my family explained that the dogs probably ate the eggs because they were rotten and smelly. Well, that incident did not discourage me from having chickens. Things just fell into place and I soon had some chickens of my own. Sooner than I thought I would!
(My grandma leading the way down to her chicken coop)
Within three months, after much praying and talking about it as a family, we decided we would try keeping chickens. I did all the research that would be needed and my dad and I built the coop. Of course I decorated it with painted designs and posters to make it a true chicken paradise!
I made an order at out local JAX farm store in march of 2012 for five chicks; a black australorp, a buff orpington, an easter egger and two sebrights. However, on the day I was to pick them up, the order was screwed up and I ended up with an easter egger one day and then two buff orpingtons and two sebrights the following day. I named them Quanie, (the easter egger) Sunny and Gracie, (the buff orpingtons) and Speckles and Freckles (the sebrights.) Speckels was loud and cuddly. Quanie was skittish and active. Freckles was a devil chicken! Gracie was friendly and ugly. Sunny was friendly and soft.
Speckles had pasty bottom and was very sick. She would not stop peeping and wouldn’t eat or drink. All she did was stand under the heat lamp and peep with her eyes closed. It took me four days to get the pasty butt to go away. My mom, dad and brother all said that she wasn’t going to make it. But my grandma encouraged me to continue treating her. I carried her in my pocket to keep her warm and she finally healed completely. She was very small and had to catch up on growing since she had been so sick.
I loved taking my chicks outside! I was scared to take them all out at once in fear of them running away. So I would take one or two out at a time. Sunny and Gracie would follow me everywhere. I loved Sunny and rejected Gracie! She was so ugly! Sunny would sit in my lap and sleep while Gracie would try and get under my shirt. I didn’t like that very much. Speckles didn’t like to explore the outdoors but instead sleept in the sun. Freckles was constantly running from me and flying away. Quanie, the loner, would follow me on occasion or simply ignore me.
(Gracie and Sunny)
Once they developed the pecking order, ciaos began! Gracie and Sunny became buds and ignored the rest of the flock. Quanie was the bossy one. Freckles was mean, mean, mean and Speckles just ran around trying not to get pecked!
After 8 weeks, the moved outside into the newly finished coop. That night they were very scared and I was sad. My babies were gone from my bedroom! I put a box from their brooder in the coop to give them something familiar. They all piled underneath Quanie trying to fit in the box together! After the first night, they slept on roosts.
(Speckles and Freckles in the second night in the coop)
It had only been about three months before I decided that Freckles was going to have leave the family. She was too wild to be in confinement. Whenever I opened the door, she would fly out onto the coop roof. She pecked me and other people. So one day we packed her up and took her to our friend’s farm. They happily took her. There she was able to free range. Unfortunately, after about two weeks, Freckles went broody, disappeared to find a nest and never came back.
Speckles was very sad to have her sister leave but life in the coop settled down immediately. Peace had finally come! Somehow, Quanie got bumped down in the pecking order and became the second lowest. Gracie was the new queen! Sunny, her buddy, was right next to her and Speckles, of course, was at the very bottom of the new peck order.
(New pecking order)
It was August now and Quanie and Gracie were preparing to lay eggs. Quanie was the first pullet to lay on the 6th. I had never been been so excited for an egg in my life! I called all my family and friends to tell them the great news! Gracie was not far behind and popped her first egg out on the 10th.
(Gracie laying her first egg!)
In early September, Sunny grew mean and feisty suddenly. Now what?! My favorite chicken had turned against me and now attacked me and refused to sit on my lap. So, that is when my eyes were open and I saw what a special chicken Gracie was and how much I missed out in her life. So, Gracie became my new favorite and was even more affectionate than Sunny.
On the 6th of September, Speckles laid her first, tiny egg. Man, was I happy! The little chick whom everyone but grandma and I had given up on, had accomplished her greatest deed! Speckles sure was a tough girl! Sunny finally laid on the 10th of September. Her attitude became more docile but not like before.
Then the first winter moved in. My girls did shockingly well. They made it threw without any issues and continued their laying duties. The next spring I had my first broody: Quanie. However, she was only broody for three days. Later that same spring, she became egg bound. I found her puffed up and lethargic. I brought her inside and gave her a bath and massage. After an ointment treatment she went back outside. I had read that herbs were soothing to hens so I put some in the nest with her. That next morning, there was a pretty, blue egg waiting for me! Phew! I had just lived through my first chicken emergency! Hopefully no more to come, right? (Wrong!)
That summer, my chickens began to be noticed and people in town would come over and want to meet them. They became the rage at our lodge. I sat down one evening and decided that I would start selling eggs. This was a huge hit for guests and neighbors alike. Little kids who had never touched chickens got to hold their first ever at my house. People who had been scared of chickens from childhood, changed when they met my docile girls. My chickens were changing people’s lives! People also loved the chicken coop! Everyone couldn't believe I made it so fancy!
One afternoon, I was helping my mom fold laundry and I suddenly had an idea to write a book about raising chickens! I blurted it out to my mom who said it was a great idea. I then went to work coming up with the skeleton. Housing, feeding, breed choosing, health care, herbs, etc. I told my dad and brother that night. My dad said he would help me print it. (He thought the book would be 10 pages long though!)
It took me about four months to write my 177 page book. Once it was finished, I asked how we would print it. One evening, I was making some edits and my computer crashed. My entire book had just been deleted! My work! I cried myself to sleep that night. After a day, I found that I still had the basics. So, there I was, re-writing my book. Finally, it was done…for the second time! My dad said he would take care of printing it. I then received a call that people would be willing to print it for me….for FREE! Oh I thought I would burst! However, I was in for a big disappointment when the book came home. Dad handed it to me and said that it got messed up. Messed up was an under statement. Every picture had been misplaced. Now the text was scattered and even unreadable in places. There were blank pages and pictures missing.
This book was to be gifts for my friends. More importantly, it was to be a “thank you” to my grandma for inspiring me and teaching me. Although very disappointed, I made the best of the two awful mistakes and ended up giving it to her anyway. It made her break down and cry once she saw the Dedication. “I dedicate this book to my supportive, fantastic Grandma, who was my most helpful guide to keeping chickens!” My book had still been a success!
Then after a few months, I had another idea; to make a new book with even more info! So taking my old book, I added 185 more pages of info. My editor is editing this book currently. I plan to publish this one. (Feel free to PM, to know more about my book.) By the end of the summer, I had received money and requests for my uncompleted book! People from all around the world wanted a copy of it! One couple from Australia who came to our lodge said they would help me sell my book there! I received an email from my grandma saying that my book had touched people’s lives.
One day in late fall I was outside reading with my chickens. I had my head down and was not watching them as they free ranged. I suddenly heard loud squawking from inside the bushes where they were digging. I figured that one of them had pecked another. I heard Gracie making all sorts of sounds and heard loud thunks. “Yes obviously just a squabble” I thought to myself. But then the squawking grew louder and the leaves were rustling. I looked up to see Quanie sprinting out of the bushes…followed by a red tailed hawk! I jumped up and kicked the hawk. It quickly turned and flew off.
I ran to find my brother for I had no idea where my girls had gone. We found Sunny, Gracie and Speckles under a tree. Now, where was Quanie? We walked all around our 5 acre property trying to find her. Finally, I spotted her under a bush. I ran to her and tried to coax her out. She would not move. I reached in and pulled her out by her tail. She was frozen stiff. I looked her over for wounds. Nothing but broken feathers. We took her back. She didn’t come outside for the rest of the day.
I went to my room where my emotions went wild! I cried as I relived what had just happened. I thanked God that Quanie was alive and not hurt. As I thought back on the whole incident, I realized that Gracie fought the hawk off. Her sounds were the exact sounds she makes when she fights. The thunks were her jumping at it. This is not as crazy as it sounds. Gracie has a history of attacking and fighting with wild animals. She has chased wild birds, attacked bunnies and even chased after deer and a stray cat! If it hadn’t been for Gracie, I wouldn’t have had Quanie!
(Free ranging room)
I went on a trip in September. When I returned the first thing Speckles did was attack me. She was griping my finger and trying to spur me. That next morning I heard her crowing! Every day, she attacked whoever entered the coop and she crowed each day. The only explanation I could think of was she was tired of confinement. After two months of heartbreaking actions, we took her to our friends' home. She free ranges there and even has a buddy all to herself. Earlier this year, I went to see her for the first time. I cried with what happened: I squatted down, called her and she ran over and jumped in my lap. I was for certain she had forgotten me as chickens have a bad memory. But Speckles blew me away! She remembered her "mom"!
That winter was a hard one. No Speckles. Also, Gracie got a terrible case of frostbite. She slept in cold, wet bedding which froze her feet. She couldn’t stand for two days straight. She, luckily, recovered but now can’t bare the cold very well and has a weak left foot.
Having three hens was a wonderful experience. They had never been so peaceful. They were all friendly and got along well. It was the perfect flock size. But, as all of us chicken addicts know, you can’t not get more chickens! So I planned on getting two new chicks in the spring earlier this year.
(Three, content hens)
Again, I did all the research and prepared a brooder. This time I wanted a speckled sussex and another buff orpington. I ordered my chicks from the same store. Believe it or not, I almost got another messed up order again! They accidently marked down that I would be getting the speckled sussex in another month’s time. So they only had ten available for someone who had already placed a hold on them. If it weren’t for my brave mom’s words about how they did the same thing two years ago and how we would not continue to shop there if they didn’t do this, I wouldn’t have gotten my sussex.
But I did and named her Rosie. The buff orpington chick was named Daisy. They hated each other at first since they were from different cages. They started out at separate ends of the box but by the end of the trip were entangled around each other! I planned to raise them differently from what I did with my other girls; tame them even and document how they grow.
(Rosie and Daisy; new additions to the family!)
Each time I do it I’m always astonished at how fast chicks grow! They go from little, helpless, fluff balls to independent, large and mature pullets in just a couple months. I loved raising Daisy and Rosie! But I always had the worry and dread of what would happen it they didn’t get along with my three other hens. I at first tried not to get too attached to them since they may have had to leave. But that sure didn’t work! Daisy was timed, shy and quiet from the beginning. And Rosie was clumsy, curious and active. I love how they can be so different and still love each other so much!
At two weeks of age, I started to grow super worried about Rosie. Her comb just kept growing and growing and growing! Was she a he?? I cried thinking that she would have to go and Daisy would be all alone. Not to mention all the drama of introducing one chicken to a flock of three! That is when I started doing research and a TON of it! How to sex speckled sussex chickens. Is there ways to tell if they are boys or girls. And that is when backyard chicken articles kept popping up. Finally, I ran to find my mom cleaning one of the cabins. I asked her if I could join BYC just to ask about Rosie. She agreed after talking to my dad. As soon as I had made an account I posted about Rosie. Everyone said she looked like a he! NO!
I kept posting for about three or four weeks. After two weeks of discouraging news I decided to just wait it out. I skipped a week of posting. Once she was five weeks old I posted again. All the responses I got was that she was a she! Thank you, God!
After 10 weeks of fun, Daisy and Rosie moved outside. I set up the area of introducing. I split the run in half using chicken wire. That way they could see but not touch each other. They did not like each other at first. Boy was Gracie mad at me for bringing new birds into her flock! After three days of them not being able to touch each other I took them out in the yard to free range. I thought everything was going great until I brought them all a treat. There was pecking and a lot of it! The poor babies had not a clue what to do!
(Hiding out of reach of the mean girls!)
It took about a month for them to be able to be left alone together. They still were bullied intensely but at least knew where and how to hide. After another month, they all were getting along like old friends. My prayers had been answered! I had gone from five chickens to three to five again and everything was working out great! There was not tension when you walked in the coop.
Rosie and Daisy were 14 weeks old and doing great. Until one morning I went to let them out for the day and found Daisy wheezing and unable to swallow. I immediately freaked out and took her inside. I then called my grandma and asked her what to do. She told me not to let her free range or eat in case she had a crop issue. She also said no oil and to get her to drink as much water as possible. I then made a thread here on BYC and got the same answer.
With little improvement I kept asking questions. By this time I had tried Duramycin, apple cider vinegar and lots of water. Nothing helped. Then I found out that vaginal cream could really help her. I tried it and it did in fact help. Now her crop bulge and breathing was back to normal. But she had some sort of throat infection. Her throat was swollen and hard. She didn’t have canker or other common problems. She had most everyone stumped. Finally, the BYC member Two Crows thought that maybe she was sleeping funny. I put a sock on her neck to keep it straight and stiff. The next morning she was much better. After a week of the sock she was back to normal!
(Daisy with a throat and crop issue)
Rosie laid her first egg on September 20th. And Daisy the 1st of October. Rosie helped Daisy by laying in the nest with her and then announcing when she laid!
(Rosie with Daisy)
This summer a woman who makes phone books approached me. She wanted to know if I would like my chickens to have a page in the phone book! (Our phone books have pictures of animals from all over town just for fun.) So now my chickens are even in a phone book! I know that people from all over town know I have them because I was downtown this summer and heard people saying there were five chickens at misty mountain lodge!
My chickens have not only changed my life but have touched many others. I could have never asked for a better flock. They have inspired me to write books and articles. If I didn’t have them then I would never have joined BYC and met all these astonishing members. Plus my grandma and I wouldn’t be as close as we are now. I owe my knowledge to my grandma and I wish to someday be like her.
I hope that my book helps people as well as my articles here on BYC. I want to thank everyone here on BYC for being so kind and helpful to me when I was freaking out about Rosie and Daisy. I also want to thank Two Crows for being such a wonderful help to me and being such a great friend!
I love my flock and will continue to raise chickens until I’m old and can’t clean the coop anymore! Haha!
Thanks for reading!