Why DO we keep chickens?

Discussion in 'Pictures & Stories of My Chickens' started by PulletSurpriseWinner, Mar 19, 2013.

  1. PulletSurpriseWinner

    PulletSurpriseWinner Out Of The Brooder

    Jun 27, 2011
    Hi, all:

    I haven't signed in for a long while; there has been a lot on my plate recently. Now things are beginning to subside a bit; and I read with interest the poll that's up today.

    It gave me food for thought. I certainly love our chickens, but it got me thinking specifically about, Why DO we have them?

    It hasn't been a very easy go for us. We lost one of our first five chicks almost immediately, and I worried about them constantly. Knowing more about chickens now, I realize that although you take the best care of them possible, there are likely to be losses.

    We bought Pippa and Peewee, a speckled Sussex and a farm mix Old English Game, from a local farm. We had agreed not to buy birds from questionable sources. But the place was a mess, and the poor things, other than being dirty, were plainly healthy. We took them home and put them into quarantine, but where the others could see them. They both improved under our care, and we gave them preventive treatment for mites, worms, cocci, and washed them several times to remove the muck from their plumage. Both birds began to thrive, especially Pippa. She was very friendly, tractable, and growing like a weed. Her plumage was beautiful. But, at the end of their quarantine period, we tried integrating them with the other girls. All of them except our black Silkie abused them; our buff Silkie was REALLY mean to them. We were concerned for their safety, and donated them to a wonderful woman in the next town who has a huge place and keeps over a hundred chickens. They integrated immediately, and we visited her several times so see how they were doing. But realistically, it was a loss- I especially missed them.

    The next loss, our black Silkie, Rachel; was especially painful. She was with us for six months, and she was really fond of my wife. She'd follow her everywhere, and loved to be held. We brought her in for frequent house visits; and other than the occasional dropping, she was a pleasant guest. She was prone to sour crop, and though we managed to save her with traditional cures first time, the second time carried her off. Despite our best efforts, we know she suffered and we felt incredibly sorry for her.

    It was a cold, rainy day in December when I went outside to dig a hole for her in the damp, freezing ground. I felt very desolate as I laid her into the ground and covered her up. I used a large stone to mark her grave. At the time, I was quite ready to call it quits. But we still had three other chickens to care for, and I soldiered on. Their company had really begun to grow on me, and as I focused on them, the enjoyment of keeping began to return.

    Come spring, our buff Silkie, McNugget, went broody. We decided to order five more baby chicks from the hatchery where we'd ordered our girls the previous spring. We timed the delivery so we'd receive them at the end of her gestation and we could graft them to her.

    "Nuggie" was a dedicated broody, sitting on her practice eggs all day, every day. She had to be lifted from the nest twice daily so she'd eat, drink, and poop. She was also incredibly affectionate at this time; she'd just hunker down and make her soft "mom" sounds the whole time she was being held. She likes being scratched gently between the wings, and would close her eyes with bliss. Unfortunately, all the babies arrived dead. This was during the heat wave last year, and a lot of innocent chicks suffered bad deaths during shipping. I was ready to throw in the towel 'til next spring, but my wife found an ad for a local breeder who had one-day-old chicks ready to go. We bought six, straight run, and put them under McNugget. Despite our fears, she took to them immediately.

    Trouble is, poor Nuggie is dumb as a rock, and kept trampling the chicks. We tried to help, but she just didn't clue in. Next, we tried putting them in a brooder, but both the babies and Nuggie were upset and would cry the whole time. We felt there was no recourse but to return them to her. We added places for them to hide, but they didn't understand; and at any rate she wasn't attacking them. She wound up trampling four of them to death; one of the Silkies, one of the Ameraucanas, and both the D'Anvers. One Ameraucana and the black Silkie both survived. Trouble is, they both turned out to be roosters. Our breeder had agreed to take back any 'roos, but it was hard for me to bring them back- I was now attached to them. She was very compassionate, and assured me that if she didn't find them homes, she'd use them for her breeding program. This was a reasonable solution, yet we were back to square one.

    We have had some hard times since fall, but our chickens have been a solace to us. They are beautiful birds, curious, friendly, and very entertaining. Of course, the eggs are a welcome gift, even at the reduced rate they lay during winter. They all come running for their treats when I head down to their quarters for cleaning, feeding, and watering each day. We also love to take them out when there is no snow, for free-ranging; they REALLY enjoy time outside their run. They are talkative, and it's fun to listen to their "conferences" when they are getting up, as well as when they're settling down for bed. And I've never seen anything funnier then when we give them feeder crickets from the pet shop; it's like the greatest thing they've ever had!

    So after all this talk, back to the original question, Why do we keep chickens? For my family, it's surely been a winding road, but the answer is simple: Just because we enjoy their company. I will always want to have chickens in my life.

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