Our Flock Sprabeary
Our StoryMy family had chickens, ducks, guineas, and geese when I was growing up and as I got older with a family of my own, I knew I wanted chickens again. Before that my grandparents had chickens and guinea fowl and my great grandparents did as well. The line of poultry may go back even further if I were to do any investigating. My husband had a few chickens and guinea fowl before we met and his parents were raised on poultry farms.
My husband and I and my two step children live in a neighborhood within the city limits. Our city doesn’t have any ordinances on poultry and we don’t have an HOA but I knew I didn’t want a rooster because I didn’t want to disturb our neighbors. When our daughter outgrew her playhouse, it seemed like the perfect time to convert her playhouse into a coop and we began our chicken journey.
During this time my husband and I had been struggling with infertility. We so wanted a child of our own but it just wasn’t going to happen. We were getting older (both of us in our thirties), and both with fertility medical issues. One day I came home to find my husband got me a brooder, chick food, chick grit, a water-er, feeder, and three day old chicks! What a surprise! What a wonderful surprise! Those three girls were just adorable and oh so sweet!
I named the yellow puff ball Permelia, one of the yellow and black puffs Purley and the other yellow and black puff Dee, all in remembrance for our families’ deceased grandmothers. I put them in a winter hat and they snuggled deep inside and traveled around with me wherever I went…. to do housework, to make dinner (sanitary, huh?!), to do laundry, to sleep in bed (gross, huh?!). When watching TV or reading I would lie down and let them stretch out on my chest. They would stick their little necks out as far as they could reach and kick their feet out behind themselves and fall fast asleep.
That same week, I went to our local feed store (D & L Farm Supply) to get some treats for the new babies. That’s when I first discovered Chicken Math. They had dozens of fuzzy puff babies and they ALL wanted to come home with me. I settled on one black straight run Silkie (turned out to be our rooster) and two black and white pullet Marans (not sure that’s what they are anymore). I named the Silkie Isabel and the Marans Lily and Anna, after our grandmothers who have passed away.
I, then, happened upon Backyard Chickens! Oh, how my world changed! I read everything about my chickens and how to feed them, what to feed them, the proper coops, etc.
One day, my stepdaughter and I went to a chicken show at D & L Farm Supply. It was so interesting seeing all the beautiful hens and roosters of all breeds! My daughter loved seeing the best dressed competition with all the little outfits on the chickens. Just so happened, they were having a buy three get one free sale on older pullets. Chicken Math! My daughter wanted a chicken of her own so she bought the Golden Comet (Adaline) and I bought a White Leghorn for my son (he later named it Hedwig, from Harry Potter). I saw some little bantams who looked awfully beat-up. Evidently someone had brought them in and just given them to the feed store. I chose a Barnevelder (I named Mary Christine) and a Blue Andalusian (Mattie) who both had bald backs and necks from being picked on. They were very skinny and extremely skittish. The new pullets became known as the Little Girls.
The Little Girls and Big Girls (as my first girls were called, even though they were only about two weeks apart) did not integrate. They free ranged in the backyard together but in separate areas and the Big Girls stayed in a chicken tractor my husband got and the Little Girls stayed in the old playhouse at night.
Hedwig started sneezing the evening we brought her home. I hadn’t read up on keeping flocks quarantined yet and my ignorance nearly proved fatal. She had snot bubbles and was very lethargic. We really didn’t think she was going to make it, and since we just got her, we were not really very attached to her yet. But, she got well over the next week. Then Mary Christine started sneezing and Adeline and Permelia too! Mary Christine started to get better over the next week but Permelia just seemed to be getting worse and she was my favorite of all the chickens. Adeline got well but is now blind in one of her eyes, not sure if it was from the sickness or if one of the girls pecked her eye out, as she is lowest on the totum pole of chicken world order. I started doing research on Backyard Chickens and my husband called every vet in our area. All the vets said to cull Permelia. Backyard Chickens gave mixed advice, some said to humanely cull her because it was likely a disease that could spread to other chickens and she would have it the rest of her life, some told me to put antibiotic in their water and put VetRX on her beak and some down her throat with a syringe. So I began her treatment. Slowly but surely she began to get better. You can see how horribly sick she was here:
But she made it!
So the girls are now all about eight months old and are all healthy and doing fabulous. Only Isabel is a boy. Our first egg was on August 21, 2012!!!! A very small, white egg laid by Mary Christine. I have since finished transforming the play house into a chicken coop for the girls.
Update!!! August 29, 2012- My husband and I were renovating one of the coops that the girls haven’t been using and lifted the roof off to find SIX eggs in a little nest in the corner. No telling how long they had been stashing them there. We put them on the patio table and continued working. When I next looked up Lily was on the table moving all the eggs under her. So cute! I honestly felt bad taking them away from her.
The Big Girls (and Guy)Isabel- (Black Silkie Bantam Rooster, hatched 3-2012) He cock-a-doodle-doos repeatedly every morning, rain or shine, and every evening. Sometimes he jumps up (about two inches) or runs at me to peck me…only me… not the kids or my husband or our cats or our dogs… just me. I’ve since read on Backyard Chickens that I should pick him up when he does this and that has really curbed his unwanted behavior. He runs around, grabs the Big Girls by their necks and tries to get on them. They scream and want nothing to do with him. He sometimes plays it slick and pecks the ground and calls the Big Girls over then does a little dance around them with his wings pointed downward and then lunges on the closest one (usually poor Permelia). Isabel leaves all the Little Girls alone, as they peck him. He prefers Permelia of all the chickens, and then Purley and Dee. The girls have since begun to tolerate his behavior and now just lay down for him to do his business and get on with it.
In Chicken Pecking Order
Lily Anne- (Hatched 3-2012) She was sold to me as a Marans but not sure what she is. Maybe someone could help me on that? She is one of my favorite girls but she is very bossy and mean to the Little Girls. Lily pecks the Little Girls when given ANY opportunity. She loves to follow around anyone in the backyard, watching with curiosity at what they are doing. Lily comes RUNNING when any chicken’s, dog’s, cat’s, or kid’s name is called.
Permelia Jane- (Buff Orpington, hatched 3-2012, died 9-9-2012) Permelia is my favorite of all the chickens. She is so very sweet, and possibly a bit spoiled as she only comes when called when she wants to. The others will come running but she will stick up her beak and find something more interesting to do on the opposite side of the yard.
Permelia crossed over the Rainbow Bridge on a Sunday. She never got to lay an egg or become a mother. She was tragically killed by a dog we were fostering. Permelia will always be remembered and loved. She was such a good girl.
Anna- (Hatched 3-2012) Anna was also sold to me as a Marans, maybe someone could tell me what breed she most closely resembles? Anna is the tallest and heaviest of the chickens. She also always seems to be giving you the stink eye. She likes to peck the little girls too but is very sweet to humans and the other big girls.
Dee- (Salmon Favorelles, hatched 3-2012) Dee and Purley are our twin girls. We also call them Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. They are extremely comical in everything they do… running with their heads down, zig zagging across the backyard… cocking their heads sideways inquisitively… screeching annoyingly until you give them a treat… running straight at each other, heads down, and then bumping their chests together. The twins don’t like getting up high and never fly.
Purley- (Salmon Favorelles, hatched 3-2012) See Dee’s description, or Chicken TV DeeDum Network. This is Purley after eating spaghetti. It's difficult to keep your beard out of it, you know.
The Little GirlsMary Christine- (Barnevelder??) Our first girl to lay an egg and she has laid one every day since. She is the boss of all the chickens, even the big girls and even Isabel. When Isabel is lucky enough to mate Mary Christine, as soon as he's finished she pecks him and chases him while saying chicken curse words.
In Chicken Pecking Order
Hedwig- (White Leghorn??) My son's chicken. She loves all humans. And human food.
Mattie- (Blue Andalusian??) Mattie was our third girl to lay an egg. She lays very small, white eggs about every other day. After Permelia’s death, Mattie became Isabel’s favorite girl to mate. The day Permelia died, Mattie ran around the yard looking behind and on top of things, inside the coops, screeching. Our son said she was the chicken in charge of role call and just knew if she didn’t find chicken number ten Mary Christina would be maaaaad. She is the flighty-est of our girls. She enjoys being around us but doesn’t want to be held. Mattie also likes to fly up on anything high up.
Adaline- (Golden Comet??) Poor Adaline is at the bottom of the pecking order. She was our second girl to lay an egg. One egg she laid on August 24, 2012 and not one since. Adaline is blind in one eye. She is very sweet and isn’t afraid to jump in your lap or on top of the patio table.
Update: Adaline is now laying regularly and I do believe that if I didn’t fetch the eggs daily she would become broody.
The New Girls
Phoebe- (Buff Orpington, hatched 8-2012), we call the three Orpingtons the triplets. They have no fear of the other chickens. And do what they wish.
Katie- (Buff Orpington, hatched 8-2012)
Wilma- (Buff Orpington, hatched 8-2012)
Beatrix- (Silver Laced Wyandotte, hatched 9-2012)
Helen- (Silver Laced Wyandotte, hatched 9-2012)
Little did my husband know, but by getting me those chicks that day he helped me through a trying time in my life. Or did he know? I really feel like getting the chicks helped me come to terms with our infertility and filled a hole in my life, a mothering need that needed to be nurtured.
One day, when we move to the country, I would love to have some turkey, pea fowl, guineas, ducks, and geese too! But, I surely can’t fathom going back to a life without chickens!