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Hi all! If I got into a huge amount of detail about my chicken-keeping experience up until now I'd have a shelf full of books. I'll get it short so I can get into the fun stuff; the pictures and the stories about my chickens! Still, a bit of back story....
My husband (at the time fiance) and I spent about a year looking for a house. We were particular and were not in any great rush to move. While I was in school we'd been living in a home we were renting from his parents, a generous and very beneficial situation. We found our "dream home," though it probably would have turned almost everyone else away. The previous owners did nothing in the way of maintenance. The house was falling apart, they let animals roam without supervision (goats, dogs, pigs, and yes, chickens), the filth was absolutely horrific. Regardless, the location was absolutely perfect; nestled off of a large creek, the road ending at our driveway so there is absolutely no traffic near our home, a large yard surrounded by nothing but fields and cow pasture, and though we didn't know it at the time, we ended up with wonderful neighbors... except for the folks on the corner up from us who were friends with our home's previous owner... but we won't get into that.
The battle to buy the house lasted about a year. It was being foreclosed upon and because of some silly stipulations, we would not have been allowed to buy the house until certain (expensive) repairs were made. Putting our faith in the bank, we made the repairs ourselves (at least the stuff we were able to do) and those repairs were extensive (and only scratched the surface). In the summer of 2012 we finally signed the papers and the house was ours.... but that was just the beginning. It took us until August of 2013 to actually move in and during that time were learned far more about the home's previous occupants than we ever wanted. We had to gut the house in its entirety, including ripping up sub-floor that had been ruined by animal filth, new electrical work, new plumbing, new walls in a large majority of the house, new carpets, toilets, appliances, a water purification system large enough for a twelve person household because someone decided it would be a good idea to put the pig sty on top of the (very shallow) well, and the list could go on and on.
During that time, we had to collect and care for the chickens that had been abandoned on the property. They were not being fed (despite the folks on the corner claiming they were) and had been running amok around the neighborhood. Even when the previous owner was still in the house, they had even been getting inside the house via unkempt siding and, much to our chagrin, they were laying eggs by the hundreds in the attics and walls of the house and the garage. I can attest to the horror of having a rotten egg explode like a shotgun in your face and the awful odor that follows.
Three huge white leghorn roosters and one lonely little hen were all that were left when the previous owner finally had to stop messing around with what we were doing at the house. And with those four birds, our chicken-raising story began.
I worked up a ramshackle coop out of scrap wire and bits of wood that had been left in the yard.
After doing some research, I realized that three roosters and one hen would just not work.... I hunted down some birds at local auctions, and my supreme inexperience left me getting chickens that were not what I needed... at all. I did manage to find two lovely hens, an Easter Egger named Rosa, and a Silver Laced Wyandotte named Hilda. Both have since passed on, but Rosa at least lives on in the two generations of chicks we've hatched these last two years. On top of those, I bought what looked like three very young hens, but they turned out to be EE roosters. Flint, Ember, and Steel were their names. Hitting up another auction, I thought I had hit the jackpot when I bought a box of "bantam hens," not realizing exactly what a bantam was at the time. They were, indeed, hens, but they were young, way too small, and didn't keep the adult roosters from getting far too aggressive with the three adult hens we had at that time.
Eventually, something went wrong and we lost Hilda, Flint, and all six bantam hens to unknown issues all at different times over the course of a few months. I still don't quite know what happened, though I'd put money on it being related to the bantam hens coming from an unknown and probably not so good place. Two of the white leghorn roosters, Muldoon and Kiin, were rehomed, and eventually Steel was, as well. We began building a huge coop during this time and got it halfway to completion sometime around October of 2012. At that point, I lost my father. It was one of the hardest times of my life and a lot of things were put on hold, including the completion of the coop.
We've gone through quite a few birds since then, mostly by rehoming the roosters. Only recently have we lost any hens, and it was to an outbreak of parasitic worms. The problem is under control and my flock is on a deworming regimen now, but it was too late for three of my favorite girls.
Now we're nearing the final stages of completion on the coop! The run is at full size, at about 14.5 feet by 32 feet long with an 8 x 8 coop inside. We have 50 birds right now and the current list of breeds is:
- 6 white leghorn
- 3 buff orpington
- 3 brown leghorn
- 4 copper marans (three black and a blue)
- 2 Olive Eggers
- 7 Easter Eggers
- 3 mixes
- 1 rescued meat bird
- 6 Speckled Sussex
- 6 bantams of various breeds
- 9 fuzzy chicks being raised by broodies
I've written far more than I intended... so I'll cut myself off with some pictures of birds I have or have had these last two years! Almost all of them have names and stories of their own... I hope to write them all down one day! Thanks for looking!
(Picture courtesy of my awesome best friend, Wellgarth)
Okay, so I suppose I should add a little backstory for the little chicken that managed to get CPOW up there. Her name was Flourbum and she was a little sweetheart. She was hatched from one of the very last eggs our extremely old white leghorn hen, Lydia, laid and was sired by that handsome red easter-egger (who is crowing) in that picture up there. She had a heck of a time getting out of her shell, and required some serious assistance because I had no idea what I was doing and the incubator was not nearly humid enough. It was my first attempt at assisting a chick in hatching, as well, and I nicked a blood vessel. I had to dab her in a healthy amount of flour to keep her from bleeding out, hence the name "Flourbum." She grew up quite strong, though!
She was friendly, but intolerant of cats despite her rather small size. She was one of the only chickens that would let me hold her without fuss, and the only one to actually seek out the attention. Flourbum managed to sprain her leg really badly last year and spent some time indoors for a few weeks being coddled. She was returned outside, but something went amiss early this Spring and she grew very ill very fast. Within a short few days and despite my best efforts she did not make it. Birds are far too good at hiding illness and she hid hers with the best of them. My husband and I were devastated and our yard is a quieter place without her energy. She is now buried under a young apple tree with a small wooden marker on her grave.
I will admit to having an extreme fondness for the chickens that we hatch that are a result of letting the flock do as it pleases. I get such gorgeous combinations, so why not share? I'm not entirely certain of the parentage of a few of these mutts, but I'll throw in my guesses where I have them.
First up: Hob, the white leghorn roo x easter-egger hen combo! When he hatched, he had a hard time eating and drinking. I had to hand feed him for about two weeks until he perked up enough to take care of it on his own. Only days after I was confident he'd be fine on his own he developed a nasty hock issue, which can be read about here.
Next up, one of my project birds, Cinder! There's nothing I adore more about easter-eggers and the chickens that spawn them is the fluffy beards that some present themselves with (with the green/blue eggs a close second). It's a trait I love so much that I plan on creating my own little private "breed" of sorts. The goal? Almost exactly what you see below, but with black/blue/gray legs without feathers, smaller combs and perhaps a neater, more consistent flecking of red feathers amongst the black. The ingredients? Easter eggers, of course, and some lovely black copper marans, as well. Cinder is what folks are now calling an "olive-egger." Woo!
Following Cinder, we have a yet unnamed hen who is a mixture of brown leghorn, easter-egger, and ameraucana. She is just too pretty, and her dark olive-green legs are awesome. I'm hoping she lays some lovely eggs! Her mother laid very pale blue ones and she was a brown leghorn/ameraucana mutt herself.
And last, but not least, is one of my friendliest birds, a hen we're calling simply "Buddy Chicken" until she gets a more permanent, fitting name. She has the weirdest little feathers poking out the side of her one foot. She's a strange little bird.
This year I had not one, but three hens go broody! Two are first-timers, and in relation to the blue copper marans hen, that fact spelt an unfortunate end for one poor chick. Regardless, I ended up with one batch of 8 for my tried-and-true buff orpington hen, a single chick for my blue copper marans, and five lovely little ones for my black copper marans! The blue is a bit of an idiot and makes a terrible mother, but I couldn't be happier with the fantastic mothering the other two are doing! Have some pics!