BYC Member Interview - Ursuline Chick

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Dec 12, 2013
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@Ursuline Chick

Come say hello to Ursuline Chick! She's been a member since July 2017 and comes to us from New Orleans, Louisiana.


1. Tell us a bit more about yourself.
As most of you know I live in New Orleans, home of strange chicken laws. Like a rooster is an exotic animal and is banned in Orleans Parish, but you can legally own 4 hens, if you have no other pets.
My family has lived here for over 300 years.
My husband is also a BYC member.
I have 1 son, 41 years old, who lives on his own.
And an adopted daughter, who is biologically my granddaughter, she is in college. We have had her since she was a baby and are very proud of her.
Hubby and I are both Registered Nurses and have spent most of our careers in critical care.
All of this brings me to my member name. My daughter graduated from Ursuline Academy, as did a lot of the women in our family, including me (too many to list). My daughter's graduation ring is a 70 year old ring that her great-grandmother wore to graduate. For those of you who are unaware of the school, it has been around since 1727 and is the oldest continuous all girls' school in the United States. So my member name is Ursuline Chick. (I thought it was kinda cute.)
You will also note, under my name, it says "Chicken Outlaw". That is due to the fact that like many New Orleans people I own more than 4 pets.


2. Why and when did you start keeping chickens?
I had a kitchen garden in the side yard outside the back kitchen door at our old house and started talking about owning some chickens. This was before Katrina (2005), my husband bought me a book on chicken keeping to read. I don't remember the name, but it was a great book and I learned a ton of things I should and shouldn't do to both prepare for owning chickens and how to care for chickens. Then 3 weeks before Katrina we bought a new house, without selling the first. Although I still wanted chickens, priorities changed. Now we need to keep a roof over our heads. After a few years we were living in the "new" house. (Both houses were under 8 feet of water for at least 3 weeks)
I took an area of the backyard and started a kitchen garden. Trying to begin a normal life after years of just trying to pay 2 house notes on homes that were unlivable and an apartment to keep a roof over our heads.
One day I noticed my husband and our neighbor from across the street having a big conversation, which I inserted myself into. The neighbor was complaining about a cockerel that his wife and 2 sons had picked up coming home from a baseball game. The cockerel was trying to cross a major highway and the kids were afraid he would be run over, so they brought him home. Now they had no place to keep him and their dog was going nuts 24/7. So I begged my husband (in front of the neighbor) like a five year old for the cockerel. Hubby said yes, I think out of embarrassment! We were no where ready for chickens.
Thank goodness it was a weekend. The cockerel slept on the back porch rail, while hubby spent the weekend building him a coop.
Being an only chicken he would get bored and peck on my French doors in the backyard until I came out and played with him. After a couple of weeks of this, I told my husband we needed to buy him some hens.
We found someone on Craig's List selling laying hens for $20 each. We went out there and picked out 3. A white hen who laid pinkish eggs, a barred rock who laid brownish eggs and a beautiful Speckled Sussex that never, ever laid a single egg for me. She and the cockerel were my favorites.
After about a year, some poor man had to get rid of 9 hens, so we took them in, so then we had 13 chickens and had already expanded the coop. My 1 cock bird and 12 hens, we gave away eggs to all the neighbors and family. Our daughter ate an egg (cooked different ways). every morning before school and was a straight A student.


3. Which aspects of poultry keeping do you enjoy the most?
The fresh eggs are of course is one of the nice things about keeping hens. It is always fun to take the chickens out to the empty lot next door and watch them run and jump after yummy bugs, and such. The older people walking their grandchildren always stop and enjoy them. Often I would pick up the rooster, ask if it's okay and let the child pet the rooster while I hold it for the child's protection. We even had a police officer who loved to stop and watch them and chat a while. One day he asked if he could approach the rooster or would the rooster attack him. Although the rooster never let him get close (unless I picked him up first). The rooster never attacked him. And I made a valuable friend.
He told me once that he would see me speeding down the Main Street in the neighborhood and figure I was in a hurry to get somewhere, and just let it go!
The year someone reported me for having a rooster, we just happened to have a broody hen. I was given 15 days to re home my boy! So I took eggs from some of his favorite hens and put them under a broody. We used the hospital cage that first time. And had a good hatch rate, but again had to re home the boys.
Using a broody every few years to hatch new birds has been a lot of fun. Training the babies to come to our call, stay out of the street and neighbors gardens have been fun. My first boy and the speckled Sussex would take cracked corn from between my lips (chicken kisses). The look on peoples' faces when they realize my chickens are trained. How excited the little ones are to be able to see a real live chicken. And of course how relaxing it is just to watch them do their thing, what ever that is at the moment.
My first rooster found a home in a town called Amite, Louisiana, with a farmer who took animals to children' schools and gave talks about the animals and farming.


4. Which members of your flock, past and present, stand out for you and why?
Gosh, where do I start?
Well I've told you about my first chicken, the rooster and my speckled Sussex. Years went by and the Sussex got old and slow and sometimes picked on. So when we went to the empty lot I would pick her up and take her out, then call the other chickens and when it was time to go in, I would call the chickens and then go back for the Sussex. One day I called everyone back in and went back to get my Sussex. She had crossed the street and was running thru the neighbors' unfenced yard to the back service alley. I stood there and thought, "Oh, no, she is running away from home!" Then I ran over and caught her. I miss her and the rooster so much and it has been many years since they were part of my flock.
I've had some real characters in my flock. One black australorp would sneak to a spot near the fence where no other hen or person would see her, hop the fence and go for a walk. Once she walked down the service alley and on the way back it started to get dark, so she fell asleep on a pile of rubbish that had been put out for the garbage man. It took about an hour, 2 humans, and 2 flashlights to find her.
Then there was the morning I checked my E-mails and found one of my hens picture on our "next-door neighbor" site. She had gone across the service alley to the next street over and was having lunch at my neighbor's flower garden. I rang the man's doorbell, apologized and offered to pay for any damages, he laughed, thanked me and quoted something from Monty Python, the hen had already gone home.
When we first got the 13 hens, the one who would sneak over the fence, cornered a neighbor's black cat in the corner of the cat's car port, bawking it's head off and terrifying the poor cat. I grabbed the hen and ran home. That neighbor wasn't home, thank goodness.
When our daughter was in about 2nd grade and we had recently got our chickens, she took delight in bringing the rooster to school for the blessing of the pets.
She also looked forward to making a salad from the kitchen garden veggies and a boiled egg, A lunch all from her own back yard, she bragged she would bring it the next day. During the day the hens hopped the garden fence and ate the lettuces to the roots. She was so angry when she got home, she wanted to cook them all and bring chicken soup to school for lunch.
We came home one evening and my second grade daughter looked at the hens and looked at me and said, "Our rooster is really mean. He makes the hens give him piggy back rides around the yard!"
I never really had any problems with my rooster. He pecked me and my daughter once when he got his first 3 hens. And then he pecked me once another time and I looked down, only to find I was standing on his foot. (I don't think that one counts.)
Recently, 2 days before a major hurricane was to hit, a lady had a bantam hen and one chick in her garden (they didn't belong to anyone). I have never owned bantams before and never intended to. However someone had to help these poor chickens, so I took them in. We still have them, mom is called Midge (after me). And the chick turned out to be a cockerel, his name is T Boy (little boy). I am hoping and praying if he crows it will be low and soft. I don't want to re home him. He is so sweet.


5. What was the funniest poultry related thing that has happened to you in your years as an owner?
I once spent a whole day under my house with nothing on but a nightgown while 8 eggs were hatching under a broody hen. The last egg I had to take inside, make a heating pad mama and aid in the last chick hatching. The others had already hatched and had started running around, so mom was trying to watch them and left the last egg with an external pip hole, peeping it's head off. (It really was fun, it also does a number on your blood pressure.). Thank goodness I keep coconut oil in my pantry, it really came in handy that day.



@Ursuline Chick

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