I've learned a lot about raising a flock in the past year. As I've probably stated before, I didn't necessarily start out wanting to raise chickens. It was an opportunity that presented itself after I graduated from college with my Associate's Degree in Graphic Design. My sister had just started her second semester of high school and I wasn't doing much other than lazing around and some frantic house-cleaning. Since I'm still an amateur and I'm constantly learning new facts and obscure details about bringing up my birds, I thought I'd just describe a little bit about what I've learned. This is more of a general guide I've been following on how to handle myself whilst raising the flock. Being Young Does Make a Difference I think some people forget what it's like to start a hobby when you're younger. You always seem to have an older, more experienced adult telling you that maybe you should reconsider/continue. In my case, it was my father. My Dad, as much as I love and respect him, is a pessimist. Or perhaps he would prefer to be called a "realist". Dad had watched my little sister raise the chickens with minimum interaction because she was always busy with school. He's still not particularly happy that she doesn't perform chores like laying out concrete or monitoring the feed going to the birds. When I said I was taking over (in not so many words), he told me I should leave it to my sister. I think he was trying to get her to do her chores, but either way, I was not swayed. My Mom, on the other hand, was all for improving the flock. You see, Mom's always wanted loads of animals. To her, owning livestock is the obvious choice considering you can own multiples of each animal and it doesn't seem odd...or like you're a hoarder. Plus (don't tell Mom I said this, I think Mom likes to brag to family members about the fresh eggs and the fancy foods I make with them, heehee! <--Fancy Food And forgive me for sounding adolescent, but I get pretty annoyed when I'm told what to do. It's one of those things that really separates young adults from normal adults. At 21 years of age, I'm torn between being mature enough to handle criticism and being mature enough that I hate being told what to do. Money Is An Issue As a young adult with no steady income, there are many things I have to do that can affect my flock. Since the flock is now a family affair (Dad has come to really like some of our hens and Mom loves watching them do hilarious little things), there is always a way to get feed. When I had a steadier paycheck, I was buying feed on my own even before I was flock master. Mom and I are pretty good about alternating between buying feed, and Dad sometimes purchases the feed in exchange for some things he needs done around the house. I'm totally game to do chores, so long as my babies are fed. Recently, I invested in quail. I had talked to Dad about it and while he was interested in the benefits of quail eggs (they are said to help with digestive tract health, prostate health, and skin health), he wasn't quite sure he wanted to put in the time and money it took to build a quail cage until next spring. The opportunity, however, was too good to pass up on. I ended up with six quail and no secure place to put them. My situation isn't ideal. I know that if I was paying for all these animals myself, I'd have to sell most of my flock just to keep up. But Dad saw those little quail growing up right before his eyes and ended up talking with friends from work. Turns out, there is quite a market for quail where I live. Now Dad is eager to begin building a proper pen and incubator for them and their eggs. In the meantime, I've placed my quail in a grow out pen where they have been for two weeks. In case someone things I'm condoning this kind of investment without a back-up plan if things go wrong, I'm not. If you think there may be a time when you can't afford a necessity for your flock, I really think you should reconsider trying to raise a flock. I know I can continue what I do because I have familial support. However, if this were not the case, I'd really never be able to afford my flock as it is. Having A Social Life...Maybe I can't drive. I know, I was supposed to learn in high school. At the time, I was kind of busy helping Mom take care of my Grandma and I guess I never got around to it. To be honest, I haven't had much of a social life before. My life in high school is a blur, due to some unpleasant experiences and some flailing friendships. In college, I was a bit busy trying not to scoff at my whiny classmates while learning how to mold and paint an eggplant in digital clay. Traveling is not always possible. Those happy last-minute road trips you go on over the summer with all your college buddies? Yeah, not likely to happen. Any trips I make need to be planned at least two weeks ahead of time. Someone needs to stay home and I need to lay out complete, detailed instructions on how much food needs to be put out, how often eggs should be picked up, what to do if that rooster with the creepy eye starts pecking that overly enthusiastic chick with the skin tag, etc. It's the ongoing joke/realistic-scenario that whenever we leave, something decides to die. It actually doesn't happen often with our normal flock, but when we have chicks that just hatched or delicate turkeys that need watching, it can be difficult to detach yourself from your flock. As a young person, though, you need to get out there and see the world. I know it feels safe to have a plan for your future and maybe the flock does that for you, but life normally doesn't sort itself out that early on. Find a way to venture out of your comfort zone. Owning a flock is great, but using it as a crutch to get out of pushing your boundaries isn't good for you or your birds. You're going to end up resenting the hole you've put yourself in. So if you're worried about leaving your animals alone with family members who aren't as well versed in the comical language that is "fowl language", I'd suggest getting somebody you trust to join you with the flock every once in awhile. Educate your brothers/sisters/mothers/fathers/friends/amigos on how you do things. You will then be able to seize your opportunity to go out to the club at least once for some much needed relaxation time. Sure, they may never be able to pull an egg out from underneath a less-than-amiable hen (I'm talking to you, Mom), but at least they'll get a chance to experience what you do on a daily basis. The Difference Between Ambition and Stupidity Forgive me for ridiculing my own age group, but I'm particularly aware of the consequences of my own decisions. When I decided to purchase a higher quality feed for my chickens, that was ambition paired with the knowledge that I could improve the quality of our eggs. When I thought it was a good idea to try my hand at mealworm farming as a primary food source, that was stupid. I know, it's tempting to take on all sorts of different tasks. We youngins are from a generation who, despite the lack of job security and rising financial issues, feel like we can do it all. We think we can raise 50 chickens and hand-till a garden and dig for worms in hard Texas soil and raise meat rabbits and blog all about it and still get 8 hours of sleep every night. Here's the truth. You can't. You can't and you know why? You can't overwhelm yourself. Just like never taking any time to relax, putting too much on your plate will kill you. You'll resent your flock and you'll regret that decision you made to buy all those fuzzy little chicks months ago. I overdid it a couple months back. I was taking care of a flock and was planning to raise turkeys and suddenly, two baby mourning doves were given to me to foster. I got mad because I had fostered a mockingbird before and just when I thought it was going to make it to adulthood, it died. I didn't want the responsibility of taking care of these birds when the risk of losing them was so high. Well, I took the **** things in. One died and the other, luckily, made it to adulthood and is living happily in a little aviary. Those two months, though...God, I thought I was going to die. I was neglecting my flock because I had to feed the dove every few hours. I was neglecting the dove because I had to spend at least two hours daily with the flock. I wasn't getting work done fast enough and my boss was constantly calling me. Mom was getting mad because the kitchen was a mess and when are you going to clean your room? I was a wreck. I got sick twice. My psoriasis acted up. It was hell. My point is that yes, you can push yourself to improve yourself and your flock. But don't push yourself so hard that you end up making your life difficult. Raising a flock takes so much commitment and adding on jobs without a care won't do you any good. If you kill yourself trying to create the ultimate homestead, you'll never be able to truly enjoy it. Enjoying Your Flock I know that in the midst of raising a flock, young adults kind of forget to sit and enjoy the fruits of our labor. Just like how we forget to enjoy the little moments in life that are precious, enjoying a flock is important. After all, we put all our efforts into making the best quality life for our birds. We go through the motions of cleaning coops, carrying 50lbs bags of feed, researching obscure poultry illnesses, meticulously counting each chicken to make sure nothing has gone amiss throughout the day. After the Great Dove Debacle, I had a hard time appreciating my flock. The cute expressions, the dinosaur-like running, the egg songs, they had all lost their luster. I ended up going on a short trip to San Antonio that reinvigorated me. It was after that point that I was able to regain my confidence and actually enjoy life again. Suddenly, seeing my turkey poults hop around was cute again. Picking up eggs was like picking up tiny little miracles. Heck, eating those eggs was like tasting a little bit of awesome every morning. <---We were relaxing whilst watering the lawn, talking about how raising chickens was a lot more fun that we had expected. I'd love for some feedback from both adults and young adults who have been raising a flock! Despite what I've learned in the past year, I'm still a total noob compared to some of the other great BYCers, haha! A salute to all you BYCers who have managed to withstand the test of time, I only wish to be half as fruitful as you all! And here are a few extra pics from our flock. I kinda like showing them off, heehee!