Saturday, February 25, 2012


We love our chickens, and we love their eggs. They were our first farm animal. We bought an original flock of chicks about 6 years ago, with some friends. They raised that first group in two baby pools in their garage. They were suburbanites with 6 kids and wanted the experience. Once they were grown into pullets we moved them here, into the coop on wheels that Handyman had built.

They were a terrific flock, half Ameracauna (Easter-Eggers who lay green eggs), and half Rhode Island Reds, with a few unique specimens thrown in. We lost several to hawks, especially in the beginning. We had made them a wonderful aviary with pvc and poultry netting. It eventually got destroyed in a windstorm. Then for awhile they were free range in our orchard. It was absolutely delightful and hilarious to have chickens on the front sidewalk, looking in the sidelights at the front door!

Ameracaunas are wonderful, and they can vary greatly in coloration. We had one who was completely white, named Tweety. We knew she was an Ameracauna by her green legs. We also had one black hen. Her feathers are tipped with gold, and she has the puffy cheek feathers so common to EE's. Even as a chick, she was striking. Our friends named her Falco, because she looked like a falcon.

One spring early on, Falco went broody. This is when a hen decides she wants to hatch chicks. They refuse to get off the nest, no matter what. While they are resistant to getting off the nest, they also lose most of their fear of you in their zeal to sit. Usually hens raised without mothers (like ours), do not go broody.

Falco was a zealot. It went on for weeks. But we had no rooster, so there was no chance this was going to work out. I belonged to a great website called Backyard Chickens, and they have lots of bulletin boards for chicken lovers. I happened to see a post offering bantam hatching eggs, for a low paypal payment, including shipping. So I bought a dozen.

They arrived by Priority Mail the next day, wrapped in bubble wrap.

Bantams are small chickens, about half the normal size. I had had bantams as a teenager. They are terrific. More personality than 3 full-sized chickens. Beautiful colors, lots of fun. Since the eggs are tiny, we put all 12 under Falco.

She was unsure for the first day. Probably ready to give the whole thing up. I think she had already been broody for almost a month at this point! An entire sitting would only take 21 days, so I'm sure her hormones were ebbing. But she was swayed apparently, and commenced sitting. (I'm sure she was happy that I was no longer stealing her eggs.)

At about 2 weeks we candled them, and by golly--there were multiple ones that showed distinct promise. This being our first time to candle eggs, we were too unsure to take any away from her, even if they appeared empty. And on the night before day 21, we moved her and her nest, into a baby pool in our garage.

Sure enough, she hatched them! It was the most glorious, wonderful experience ever. Four fluffy little tiny chicks. We were enchanted. Then our stupid corgi decided he should catch one, and that was then end of that one. Kids learn about death...check that lesson off the list.

Fortunately we had 3 left. And spoiled they became. These were purebred bantam varieties. It turned out that we had a hen and rooster Buff Brahma Bantam and a Blue Cochin hen. They were tamed from birth, just about and became our favored pets. They grew up in our flower garden and we learned the vocalizations of the mother hen. The special sound that says, "DO NOT MOVE! EMMINENT DANGER!" and the one that says, "Come and get it!"

She was a wonderful mother. And she never went broody again. I have several scrapbook pages of "the chicks", and their miracle mother, Falco.

I tell you all this to say, that Falco is now the oldest and only hen left of our original flock of 28. I have one other hen, who I bought as an adult and several little bantam hens raised by their mothers, (who think I am Godzilla.) And Caesar, the little bantam rooster, is the only sibling remaining of his hatching. He is an older guy now, too.

So now we're having the urge to start a new flock. Little #3 doesn't remember raising chicks, so it's time to start thinking about another go-round. We've been through hawks, coyotes and even a loose dog massacre (someone else's dog). Having birds will definitely toughen your hide. But they are fun and the eggs just can't be beat. I purchased organic large eggs at the store, and my homegrown ones are still more orange and robust.

Another idea rattling around in my spring feverish mind...


Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I enjoyed your post. Your love of your chickens shone through your words. I love our chickens, too. They were our first animals on our ranch, and we've been raising them for 5 years now. They really do provide great entertainment and healthy and delicious eggs.


Cynthia said...

How fun, I would love to have chickens someday.. maybe when we move after I retire.