That first year!

Our Roost

9 Years
Jan 13, 2011
ScottsVille, michigan
Last year during the month of April just after Easter, we took delivery of 25 chicks slated to be all hens. We selected 5 birds each of different breeds. A good combination of egg layers and meat birds of the more docile pet quality and climate friendly! The coop and run area were just getting their final finishing touches with barn red paint and white trim. It was the Taj Mahal of chicken coops! The breeding box for the chicks was set up in the garage with a couple of heat lamps at each end with water, feeders, and bedding in place. Everything was perfect, right? Some simple chores of feeding, watering, and changing bedding as we watched them grow was all we would have to do in our minds. How hard could this be?
Before taking delivery of the birds we made our first trip to the local feed store to become acquainted on food grain and what ever other supplements might be needed for baby chicks. Couldn't be too expensive, right? Our first mistake was walking past the horse trough filled with baby ducks. Too cute not to at least buy a pair of these beauties to play with along with the chickens! After all, what were 2 more mouths to feed? Why not! Right?
We divided the breeding box in half. chicks on one side, ducks on the other. Plenty of room. Right? We purchased medicated starter feed and got well versed on additives needed as they grow and when to add the this and thats and the dos and dont's until they are ready for it kind of things one should know and be aware of. Let the fun begin! Right?
One early morning the phone rang and it was a call from the local post office. Our chicks had arrived! The lady on the other end of the phone line said the sooner we could pick them up, the sooner they would have some peace and quiet in the post office again. When we got there, a box on the front counter was awaiting us with 25 peeping little chicks causing an awful amout of racket too cute to describe. She smiled and we knew from the start we were in serious trouble from the get go. Hence we escorted them to their new home called "Our Roost".
The rest of the year was a real learning curve for us and we got blind sided by a lot of unexpected unknowns and inexperiences that only seasoned ckicken farmers would be better prepared for.
The first week we watched in awe as the chicks and ducks seemed to be really enjoying their surroundings and the special care and attentive handling they were getting. At this point we were very happy also. Then came poopy butt! An anal discharge needing immediate attention and if not attended to, it could become life threatening to the bird. Quite common amongst baby chicks until they start to mature as we had read. Every morning I checked the butts of 25 little peepers and changed diapers so to speak.
Chicks never stay chicks forever! Over the next few weeks their soft fluffy bodies began changing from cute to ugly duckling in appearance as real feathers started to appear. The itty bitty poop balls were getting bigger and so were the chicks as they were now turning into chickens. 3 hens became Roosters to our surprize! Not part of the plan. The 2 ducks that were yellow were now changing into white with toes fastly becoming webbed feet. The water and feed dishes were filled with everything but food and water. Simple chores just got more frequent. Who said chickens can't fly? One morning I went out into the garage and to my surprize, the edge of the breeding box was lined with chickens roosting all along its edges and just staring at me as if to say, we need a bigger box!
It would be a big relief introducing them to the coop and getting them out of the garage finally. Right? Well, that was partly true. Things were going pretty good and they were becoming accustomed to their new digs. Who said chickens can't fly? The bigger they got, the more flighty they became. The once lush green run area was becoming barren and the chickens were seeking to free range outside the run area for more vegetation. They became permiscuous! I had let them out of the coop earlier in the day and went back to check on water and feed for them. Much to my surprize once again, they were all lined up on the fence staring at me as if to say, we need more room or a bigger box! Enoughs enough! It was time to clip wings. Problem solved Right?
Summer progressed and it became blistering hot so I opted to build a water barrel, pvc piping with nipplers and a rain gutter trough to fill it. I also put a 5 gallon bucket with nipplers out into the run area so the birds wouldn't become dehydrated. It was a bonus during the summer months. Right? It truly was till winter came and the barrel froze solid! I'll solve that problem by next winter Right?
Our first unwanted visitor of the summer was a red tailed hawk and in a flash a bird was gone. Our second unwanted visitor was a bobcat and in a flash another bird was gone. our third unwanted visitor in the fall was a coyote and another bird was gone. Drat! I erected a roofed florida room and attached it to the coop with with heavy gage chicken wire to protect the birds and provide a means to let them out into an area when we wern't around to watch them all the time in the open run area. Heck, I even had a gate on it. Perfect solution, Right? It worked out well til winter set in. The extremely heavy snow accumulated over 18 inches and collapsed the metal roof. When it finally caved and gave way to the heavy snow, it made it almost impossible to gain access to the coop. We managed a small path to the coop door and were literally stuck until the snow started to melt to clear the debris.
Its april again and yes, I remember lots of things and all the unexpected dilemas about that first year of raising chickens, and I also remember the first egg! It was all worth it. Right? Let me just say that we will be doing this for a long time yet to come. For all of you raising chickens or about to, always keep in mind that at the end of the road, when you get all the bugs worked out, its worth it! Right? Right!!! Good luck and have fun!
I enjoyed ready your post! I'm a newbie, I have 6 2.5week old chicks. I've wanted chickens for a long time and my daughter convinced me to get some :)

Thankyou, I really didn't post any questions for anyone to answer specifically. Looking at the calendar, I realized it had been a year since my companion and I took on this crazy notion of doing what our grandparents had done during tough times. I mean how hard could it be. Right? Ha Ha. We have had more fun than a barrel of monkies and often look at each other and wonder just what the heck we were thinking! We are both over 65 years old and needless to say, its not about eggs or putting food on the table. Its really funny because every time something seemed to be going right, it went wrong! Ya have to laugh and live and learn from your experiences. Kansas is a great state and you have lots of corn to feed those chickens!

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