I lurked for months on BYC before I joined. I didn't want to start posting, mainly because I knew nothing about chickens and didn't have anything to contribute. Finally on July 1, 2010 I signed up. I really should have done that much sooner, but I didn't want to sound stupid. Now I know I are stupid. My advice to lurkers out there is to sign up and join the party!
I studied the predator and coop forums nightly. I read all the success stories and the failures, so I could learn what to do as well as what NOT to do. I finally got started on my coop. I planted 4x4 posts, put up 2x6 rafters and nailed used tin on for the roof. My grandfather had taught me years earlier to drop a nail in the holes and goop them up with black pitch, so this I did and it has never leaked. I used lots of hardware cloth (NO chickenwire--THANKS BYC!!!) and used OSB board I had salvaged. When completed, I painted it with Oops paint from Lowes, again--THANKS BYC!! I had no idea I could buy marked down paint!
Finally it was done. I made lots of construction boo-boo's but it was strong and ready for chickens. I had found 2 Silver Laced Wyandotte laying hens in a town about 1 1/2 hours away so DH took me to pick them up. I wanted eggs NOW! I was thrilled with my new girls. My husband decided I wasn't so nuts after all, after he ate those yummy eggs. The next spring, I got 6 chicks from the feed store, 3 red sex links and 3 black sex links. They promptly grew up and laid enormous eggs. Chicken math at it's finest. One of those sex links was black with a lot of red showing on her breast, so I named her Robin.
Robin has become the undisputed Queen of the coop. She will walk on a leash wearing a dog harness collar, much to the delight of our grand daughter. We take Robin to the front yard for the game of "chicken on a string" which is Robin tied on a long string to a brick so she doesn't get away. She likes this and I think she lords it over the other hens. Robin is now 3 years old, bites like the dickens, pecks the head of any errant hen that steps out of line and lets everyone know she is still the Queen.
I was happy with my 8 hens, but ya'll know the story........chicken math again! Christmas in 2012, I got 20 baby chicks--for the grand daughter--of course.
We all played with the babies, even Parker, our black Lab/Great Dane!
Just my luck, over half of them turned out to be roosters! I had cautioned my grand daughter from the start that if they crowed, then off with their head. It was March and obvious which ones were roosters, when she asked to "cut a roosters head off today". So we did. I fried her "rooster nuggets" which she declared better that store bought. That's my girl! Later, I butchered the rest of them. I had one that I couldn't tell if a rooster or a pullet. Blind in one eye, kinda stupid, picked on unmercifully by all the other chickens, was Doofus. Doofus was blue, with red tones scattered throughout and beautiful. Yeah, a mutt, but a real pretty mutt.
Doofus was cuddly and so sweet. I wanted Doofus to be a pullet so bad. Robin disliked Doofus and made life real hard for poor Doofus. Robin rained down pecks on Doofus and the dumb bird hid his/her head in the holes in the cinder blocks when under attack. I guess if Doofus couldn't see the other chickens, then they couldn't see Doofus.
Doofus turned out to be a rooster. I made a deal with a friend, swapped 4 pullets and threw Doofus in with the deal. Doofus has a good home now.
Shortly after getting our first 2 hens, I was given a Great Pyrenees because she killed chickens. Her name was Paris and she hated the chickens. She rushed the wire, snarling and barking at them. Good thing I studied the coop forum on BYC! It took over 2 years, but finally the day came where Paris no longer wanted to kill the chickens. She arrived into her own, and became their guardian. Sometimes she had her own feathered entourage following her every step.
It was a long time coming, but Paris finally got there. She now keeps the chickens safe from feral cats, opossums, raccoons, and even hawks. The hens are shameless and will take food right from her bowl, so I usually wait for them to go to roost before I feed her.
I studied BYC again because I wanted to add on a run. I decided on a hoop run. I had my long suffering DH get me 3 cow panels and using scrap lumber, 6"x8"x12' beams, cinder blocks and lots of hardware cloth, I built a strong, sturdy predator-proof run.
Now I needed more chickens!! I got 7 Silver Laced Wyandottes from the feed store. They were so cute! Then they started growing feathers and got ugly. They got so ugly that I posted in the breeds forum a panicked post asking what I had! I was reassured that they really were SLW's, just in the awkward juvenile stage. Whew!
See what I mean? UGLY!!! Everything turned out OK and they are now pretty chickens, but they sure had me worried there for awhile. One turned out to be a rooster, I had a friend with several SLW pullets, so he went to be their new boyfriend. The 6 pullets have started laying.
I built a nice nest box for the hens, even put up a privacy curtain for them. But N-O-O-O-O-O-O they want to lay on the poop board under the little roost! It can get a little crowded sometimes, then other hens sit on the big roost opposite and scream their lungs out because someone has their spot! The SLW's? Well, sometimes they just have to take over. Nothing stops a SLW from laying her egg!!!
Then there is Rusty. Rusty comes from the Christmas batch of chicks from last year. Rusty is black, shows a little red and is small, giving suspicion that she has some bantam in her mixed background. Somehow, Rusty appointed herself second in command right below Robin. Rusty has never challenged Robin, she is more like Robin's trusty sidekick. But Rusty has this one weird habit. Not only is Rusty a self appointed #1 lieutenant, but she also appointed herself the resident rooster stand in. She stalks the unsuspecting hens, jumps on top, bites their head feathers until they squat in submission and then she goes through the "rooster motions" and steps down. The molested hen stands up, shakes out her feathers and goes about her business.
I saw an ad on Craigslist for Red Star pullets. Naturally I had to have some, so DH and I drove about an hour to go get them. I got 6 and they are calm, sweet and lay like a egg machine. They also are not in the least bit disturbed when our 6 year old grand daughter and the 7 year old little girl from across the street chase them all over the yard, catch them and lug them around. The little girls put them in a small cage-"chicken jail"-and put them on the picnic table, play with them, feed them treats and generally disrupt their lives all day long. I expected the harassed hens to suck up their eggs to the back of their throats for a week, but they never missed a beat, and laid like clockwork. What's not to love about Red Stars? They even let Rusty molest them over and over again.
I found a breeder of Blue Laced Red Wyandottes in a town near us, only 1 1/2 hours away! I PM'd her about any non-show quality pullets she might have, she responded and we struck a deal. Again, DH took me for more chickens. What a good man! he's a keeper! My magic number seems to be stuck on 6, because that's what a got, 6 BLRW pullets. Two of them were splash, so I named them Splish N' Splash. All 6 of them are big, beautiful and majestic. And these are the rejects???? They made my feed store SLW's look puny, sickly and reject of the rejects. The SLW's that I already had were 3 months older, but much smaller and had Leghorn like combs. What a difference. What a difference. Wow.
My favorite picture of Splish n' Splash
I snapped their picture and caught my reflection in the glass doors, as well as the twisty trunk of the crepe myrtle tree behind me. The red square in the upper left corner is the view of the tire store seen from my front door. But the real stars of the picture are Splish n' Splash along with one of their BLRW sisters. Aren't they beautiful?
And the new BLRW are smart too. DH got a bathtub for the dogs to play in (which they enjoy). Splish n' Splash were the first to figure out how to drink from it. The other hens have always raided the dog 3 gallon tub under the faucet.
With the addition of more chickens, the subtraction of roosters and some old hens, the number now is at 28. I love chicken math. It is great fun to toss bits of bread to the girls, they swarm at my feet, jumping up to snatch a morsel from my hands and running off with their bread prize with others in hot pursuit. I love to sit on the deck and just watch chicken TV. The girls are my joy. I love the fresh eggs and I love my feathered personalities. BYC is the best place on the entire web to come to find out all you ever wanted to know about chickens and a whole lot more you never thought to ask.
I show pictures of my chickens to anyone dumb enough to stand still long enough. We went to see our daughter and family and took them out to lunch. They recognized a neighbor lady there by herself and invited her to our table. She and I hit it off and yes, I showed her chicken pictures. My daughter humorously remarked that most grand parents showed off pictures of their grandchildren, not their chickens. I laughed, scanned my phone and said "Here! Here is a picture of my grandchild holding a chicken!"