When I started talking about wanting chickens in my backyard most people either thought I was kidding or crazy. The backyard chicken “movement” wasn’t as visual as it is now…not that I had anything to do with that. But I was determined. I had dreams of playful chickens scampering about and more eggs than I could eat!
Finally last summer I took the plunge. My daughters and I drove to the local Ace Hardware (think Ace but with a feed store feel) because they were the only ones in Phoenix with chicks in July! We each picked out two cute little fuzzy balls, purely by their look. The only ones I knew for sure were the Rhode Island Red and we did get 2 of those.
So we came home with the following (or so we were told):
6 sexed female chicks
2 Rhode Island Reds
1 California Gray
1 Yellow Leghorn
1 Black Sex Link
1 Barred Rock
First lesson: Buy from a reputable hatchery or local breeder. After a few months we found out that we had a cock in the hen house. Being a city-girl I thought that one of the hens we desperately ill. I couldn’t understand why she was making such a strained and terrible noise. Well SHE was a HE and he was finding his cock-a-doodle-do. It took about a week before it finally dawned on me that she might be a rooster… A few pictures posted on Backyard Chickens and it was confirmed. I had a Rhode Island Red Rooster! I won’t go into much detail on his “departure” from our little homestead expect to say Camp Kenmore welcomed him shortly there-after. Later, when my girls started laying eggs, I realized I didn’t have the breeds that I was told I had…egg colors and mature looks didn’t match.
I know that I have:
1 Rhode Island Red
1 Black Sex Link
1 Blue Wyandotte (they thought this was the California Gray)
1 Red Laced Wyandotte (they thought she was a Yellow Leghorn)
1 California Gray (granted she does look like a Barred Rock at first glance)
Second Lesson: There is a lot less frolicking and a lot more work. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy my girls, I do! But they are indiscriminate poopers….they poop anywhere, anytime. They need care, not a ton but they need it. I learned how to clean a coop and terms like “deep litter”. The different feeds from starter to layer and store bought to hand-milled organics. I learned that they can strip a flowering plant down to the nub when you’re not paying attention. Feed, water, clean and wait. Yes, I waited 6 months before I got an egg! So work and patience were definitely part of my schooling.
Final Lessons: Chickens have personality. Each of my girls is different. Some a chatty and others more quite (stealth chickens are sort of an oxymoron though…especially when they lay an egg). I have found they trust sweet children more than big adults that come in their coop. My 7 year old is often referred to as “the chicken whisperer”. I have found they are more than my backyard livestock, they are working partners in our happy band of misfits; from the eggs they produce, the scraps they devour, the compost additions they create and the endless enjoyment I get from sitting out watching them with my morning cup of coffee. A year into my little chicken journey and I am hooked. In fact we are planning to add 3 more to the flock over the fall. Next lesson? How to introduce new girls to the click.
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