Meet My Chooks!

Be sure to check out my Coop and Run Page, and my Mud Eradication Page, too! :)
Part I: Clarice
I became a chicken mom purely by accident. In 2003 I moved to a small farm in Middle Tennessee with my dogs, cats, tortoise, and horses. I had no intention of having chickens--I'm vegan, so don't eat eggs, and I already had plenty of responsibiltities!

Then, in 2005, my neighbors down the road moved and left behind a Barred Rock hen. She started hanging out in the pasture with my horses and my then roommate and I started feeding her and worrying about her. Winter was coming! Hawks were everywhere! Before long I had purchased a used 10x10 chainlink dog kennel from Craigslist, and my roommate and I had made a cute little coop.
Below on left is Clarice when she lived out in the Wild. On the right is her first coop.

Once Clarice had a place to live, I enlisted the help of the new neighbors, in whose tree Clarice roosted at night. They caught her for me and Clarice came home. She wasn't too happy at first. Captivity wasn't really her thing, she told me--she was a Wild Chicken. And really, she has never become even a little bit domesticated! She is still a Wild Chicken and wants as little to do with me as possible! And despite being the smallest, she is very much Boss Chicken over the other girls. In fact, she even crows!
Part II: Olivia
Of course you can't have just one chicken--you need a flock, however small! So I adopted a lovely Buff Orpington cross, whom I named Olivia. Below are Clarice and Olivia in their early days together.

Part III: Svetlana
Eventually I decided to adopt a 3rd hen--mostly because I worried about something happening to one girl and the other being left all alone. A hoofcare client of mine raised chickens, so I got a red sex-link from her. Svetlana joined our little flock in 2008. She is a very sweet and pretty girl, and she lays lovely dark brown eggs.

Part IV: New coop
Once I had 3 chickens, the old coop, cute as it was, just wasn't big enough. I found a great building on Craigs list which I adapted for use as a chicken coop. Check out my Coop Page and my Mud Eradiction Page for more info on the girls' current home.
Part V: Olivia's illness and death
Olivia, so pretty and gentle, was never a normal egg layer. From the start, she laid eggs with soft shells and she laid irregularly. This mattered not a bit to me since I don't eat them anyway (I add them to the dogs' food and often to the chickens' food as well), but it concerned me for Olivia's health. When she was 3 years old she developed egg yolk peritonitis resulting from internal laying. My excellent avian vet (search for one yourself HERE) told me that eventually I might have to consider spaying her, but that first we would try antibiotics and supportive care. Olivia lived in the house for 2 weeks while I forcefed her and dosed her with antibiotics and anti-inflammatories. She recovered well and for the next 2.5 years laid relatively normally (for her) and enjoyed good health. In June 2011, however, she became ill again. The vet again diagnosed egg yolk peritonitis and we agreed that it was time to spay her. The vet wanted to wait a few weeks, however, to allow her to stabilize and to get antibiotics into her. During that time she seemed to do well--she ate normally, roosted up high as always, and was active. I felt pretty optimistic going into the surgery. However, as it turned out the situation was more dire than anyone imagined. Olivia was full of pus and her surgery took more than 2 hours. The story in more detail is told HERE, but the sad end result is that the day after surgery Olivia passed away. I now wish (as does the vet) that we had done the surgery 3 weeks earlier--or even better, 2.5 years before when she first became sick. But hindsight is always 20-20. :-( We miss our Olivia. I am comforted by the knowledge that I will see her again at the Rainbow Bridge.

Part IV: The Next Generation (Audrey and Bianco)
After Olivia's death, I planned originally to get one more hen, but I was convinced that asking a hen to live alone for the 30-day quarantine period was a bad idea. So I chose 2 pullets (or so we thought!) from a group belonging to a client of mine. They were 8 weeks old when I chose them and 12 weeks old when I was able to bring them home (at which point they both still looked like girls to the BYC forum!). Several weeks later, though, I started suspecting that Bianca was really BiancO, and the BYCers agreed--I had a roo!
There was no way I was going to return him to what we all know would be a very uncertain fate, so we're hoping that Bianco can control his hormones, once they kick in, sufficiently to allow him to live happily with his 3 girls. I successfully introduced them all when the Young 'Uns were around 16 weeks old, and we are hoping for the best. They have a large run and coop for just 4 chickens (10x20 and 4x10) and I am adding perches to the run to provide more vertical space for the girls to escape to if necessary. Worst case scenario will have Bianco living separately at least some of the time in one run, with the pen gate closed between him and the girls, but I hope that won't be necessary.
Here is Audrey, who is an Australorp/Araucana mix, from just a few days old through 6 months:



And Bianco at the same ages: