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Let’s talk chickens

My husband’s father raised Bantam chickens. Show chickens. Beautiful little birds. My family had chickens when I was little. Until a weasel killed them all in one night. Mom & I sat in the yard & cried over their little mangled bodies.

We’ve had chickens since 2008.

Chickens are just part of the homestead. A soothing background noise that means I’m home. I really love to hear my rooster crowing. And he’s a beauty. His name is Billy Rae.

I started my flock with Rhode Island Reds. I like this breed. They’re good mama’s. They lay well. They’re fairly smart & sassy. When I think of a Rhode Island Red, I think of the Little Red Hen children’s story. My ladies stay around the “barn” area. They love scratching around.

They really like pears.

I got 12 day-old chicks from Tractor Supply in Batesville last August.

We now have a Tractor Supply Co. in Ash Flat, even handier. I love chicks!

I also have 2 Black Copper Maran hens.

Several years ago, I transitioned by flock from Rhode Island Red to the Black Copper Maran. I’d read about that breed in an online chicken group on Facebook. So I thought I’d try them.

They were great mama’s. In fact, my hen Jett even raised guinea chicks for me. She’d cuddle up and raise just about anything. I was sad when she passed away one cold day, at the ripe old age of 6. That’s old for a hen.

We don’t eat our chickens. We do eat eggs! Lots of eggs! I don’t wash my eggs to store them in the kitchen. I just rub off the dirt and store them in my egg skelter.

That dirty egg was buried in mud outside the pen one afternoon. I cleaned it as best I could & used it the next day.

Several things to know about chickens. First, they aren’t stupid. My birds aren’t like those poor souls who live their lives in a cage – eating & laying eggs until they die – a horrible life for a living creature.

I don’t clip my bird’s wings. They have wings so they can fly away from danger. That’s their nature. To fly.

I keep my birds in an enclosure, originally a dog kennel. We put a roof on it, added a few boxes on the ground & on the side of the enclosure. Added a bunch of branches for roosts. Wa la.

Chicken pen.

I put wood chips down in the fall, so the birds feet aren’t in contact with the ground during the winter. I also put plastic over the chain-link fence. Mostly to block the wind & keep some heat in. I put a light in when the temperature is going to be below freezing during the day. I use a red light. I don’t want to force my hens to lay during the winter. Again, that’s their nature. Why force things?

Here’s a graphic I found on chickens. I found it interesting.

I bet you didn’t know that chickens have a vocabulary! They surely do!

Another fact about chickens – they molt twice a year. They don’t lay while they are molting. And they can look pretty sad & malnourished while growing their feathers back.

Here’s poor Mahogany, looking the worse for wear!

We keep our birds in their enclosure most of the time. We’re the only house on over 1200 acres (only 42 are our’s) & everything critter in the woods loves to eat chicken. We lose eggs to snakes on occasion. We’ve even lost Bantam hens & chicks to snakes. But the opossums & raccoons eat the birds any chance they get. I hate coming out to feed them & find a headless body lying inside along the fence!

I feed my birds layer crumbles from Hirsch’s Feed. I supplement their feed with pelletized oyster shells. Making eggs takes a lot of calcium. The egg shells will become very thin if the birds don’t have enough calcium in their diet.

I collect rain water & fill the watering cans each morning. That’s when I let the birds out. I collect the eggs, fill the hanging feeder & fill the water. Then I walk the dog. When we come back from our walk, the birds have usually decided that the food I just put out is more important than eating grass & returned to the enclosure. I close & lock the door. That’s it. That’s all the care they need.

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