Being raised a city girl I never really thought in middle age I would be such a farm animal FREAK. Like freak out over goats, chickens, ducks, turkeys, the list could go on and on. I have been at this hobby for almost five years now. I always want MORE and in the spring it hits me pretty bad. My husband is fine with it because he would rather be financially responsible for animals than more children so we have our two AWESOME boys and a backyard full of well loved and pampered critters, mostly chickens. Chickens do not require college educations, orthodontics, or piano lessons. Well maybe piano lessons if you are one of those chicken keepers.
I am not that chicken keeper, the one who has chandeliers in her coop and an herb dispenser with freshly dried organic, uhhh, whatever it is those ladies use. No that’s not me. In some regards I wish I were like that, maybe one day I could paint my coop and hang a few pictures, I’m not much on organics though. No, my chickens might be considered a little ‘hood. I have roosters that are meaner than Mike Tyson and I can only feed them if I enter their pen with a large bucket for them to attack while I attempt to fill up their feed bowl. I love them anyways, it is an abusive relationship. All of my chickens are tough, not all of them are mean though, perhaps indifferent would be a good way to describe most of my flock. The ducks are downright anti social. They have all faced down hawks, raccoons, chihuahuas, snakes, and 90% have lived to tell the tale. Their coop is not heated and their housekeeper has been known to call in sick, regularly. She is a bit of a slacker, but don’t call the authorities, it does get done.
What those birds do have is an endless supply of layer pellets, water at all times, and they forage for whatever they can find in their quite extensive run that was built out after the predator issues. My chickens have some real estate. They have claimed it on Zillow. I will throw in some food scraps from the house every now and then. All of them get treats everyday in the form of birdseed, it is not what they live on and I do not confess to know if this is good for them or not but they love it, like I love my cookies, we all have vices. Don’t judge.
My chickens thrive without the fluff. I have lost chickens to predators during free ranging and when my run was not yet fortified. I did loose one hen to a choking incident and that was really strange. I was in denial for a few minutes when it happened but fortunately I had a good friend there yelling, “GIRL THAT CHICKEN IS DEAD!”, everyone needs that friend. Maybe I’ll write about that one day. For the record all of my chickens have been buried in my pet graveyard. I guess I am THAT kind of chicken keeper.
The mama hen and her babies in the featured picture are all alive and well down in my chicken pen as I write this blog, all grown up and egg laying. They were my biggest triumph and also my greatest heartache. In the few years I have been keeping chickens I raised many baby chicks to adulthood, this was the second time I let a hen go broody and hatch babies. Most of my chickens were lovingly raised in my guest bathroom tub, with a heat lamp and round the clock in house attention. What took this hatch up a notch was I ordered baby chicks from a hatchery, their arrival carefully coincided with the hatching of this hen’s eggs. I slipped those little doodles right under her and she was not one bit the wiser. It was what I called a level 10 chicken keeping move. She hatched four “biological” and had four “adopted”. In my over confidence I did fail. I lost one of those sweet adopted babies that had traveled through the post to me by a tragic food bowl incident. They were tiny but I didn’t think tiny enough to get into that feeder. One did and died. It broke my heart when I found it a few hours later. They can’t live long without Mama’s heat.
I share this bit because it is discouraging to lose the babies. A wise man once told me that if you have live stock you will have dead stock. I’ve repeated that saying a million times every time it happens. I am that one though that mourns the deaths. Every single time it breaks my heart. I scream, and cry, and clutch my non existent pearls, and I write eulogies that would make a funeral director proud. Funeral directors run in our family so maybe that is why it comes naturally to me. It is therapeutic. I have written some great ones. Pulitzer Prize winning ones in my humble opinion. Although my husband wouldn’t let me publish them at the time because he said people won’t get my humor in grief, so I have those tucked back. It is hard when you loose one of your farm babies. Especially if it is because of an oversight on your part. The death of this one was my fault so in my sincere heartbreak I wrote a poem. My version of a Haiku, if you know what that is, I had forgotten but was reminded in one of my kid’s home school Literature programs. So without further adieu, here is my Haiku (sorry), in honor of my baby chick I lost this time last year.
Baby Chicks Yay
Travel by Train, Plane, Automobile
New Mom is Trying Hard
Only to Have One Freeze in Jar
This is not one of my best memorials, I know it is awful quite honestly, I believe I wrote it in the amount of time it takes me to walk from the coop to the house, I may have paused by the woodpile long enough to thumb out the letters in the notes app on my phone. That app is where I ran across it and thought I should put it out here for prosperity’s sake. It is time for spring chicks, I’m thinking baby quail this year!!! I hope your chicks all grow to be big, beautiful, egg laying hens. If you lose one don’t take it too hard. It goes with the territory. Keep on keeping on keeping chickens, and ducks, and goats, and all the other creatures God has given us to be in charge of.