Our Chickens

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I did not want to get chickens, or any other type of farm pet, but I changed my mind after reading about so called free range eggs, and what happens to roosters after they are discovered. So we ended up buying a dozen babies of varying breeds in April last year, spring chickens, if you will. Some of them are supposedly doomed from the start, but also our 4-at-the-time-year old got over-excited and doomed them a little more, boo. So we ended up – much later – with 6 birds, and one day I spotted a hawk careening down the hill, chasing the chickens in the orchard where they live!! The bloody thing actually went INTO the chicken house! Anyhoo, after some bird netting strung between the fence and the apple trees had allayed my fears somewhat, I called a guy from Craigslist and secured 4 more birds – I had put in a lot of lady hours and too much infrastructure considering I hadn’t wanted poultry to begin with – to enhance my ailing numbers. A very good and helpful friend assisted me (did the job for me) in checking the new butts for bugs and sprinkling some powders up there somewhere, *shudder – let it be known and I do not like touching birds or many animals of any king, shudder* and integrating the “hobos” as I termed them (they didn’t live inside the small separate cage I organised for them, they sat on top of the bloody thing all night, predators be damned). After a few days or a week, I can’t remember which, they all moved into the hen house with nary a squawk. I was surprised to find that the old lady chicken (the Craigslist guy stuffed her into the box when he thought I wasn’t looking!) put the rooster in his place and seemed to assume top of the pecking order!

Months later, one unfortunate bird from the hobos got eaten by something, feathers were spread high and low, and Husband volunteered to hoick what was left into the bushes with the longest-handled shovel we have, bless his heart. I don’t ask him to do many of the chicken jobs as it was my idea (well actually, it was a friend’s idea but I ran with it) to get the bloody birds, but it very nice of him to help and, of course, I do not mind at all not doing nasty jobs involving carcasses.

Fast forward to a few months ago, and I was locking up the chicken house and collecting the eggs, or intending to collect the eggs, I opened the hatch to the nesting boxes and one of the Sunny Twins was sitting on what I assumed to be a bunch of eggs, egad! I was flabbergasted, for no other reason than I didn’t know what I should be doing, and I sort of felt a bit pervy because I stood around looking at her for a long time. Eventually I went back inside empty handed, resolving to get the eggs when I let the birds out in the morning. But I didn’t. I decided to let her have a chance with the eggs, and so I left her the eggs and watched her scuttle back to the nesting box after breakfast every morning, and started watching the calendar when it was nearly 3 weeks later. I did mark the eggs, so that when one of the others decided to scoot in with her – and they did almost everyday – I would know which one to take in for my breakfast. During all this Amelia, who is an Americana, had been flying out of the orchard and nesting wherever she saw fit, from under the bedroom deck (we wired it up quick smart as soon as I cleaned out the 27 eggs she had put in there), to the front garden (14 eggs), a side garden (9) and finally back in the nesting box when the Sunny started brooding, so Amelia stopped for a few days, and then started again in the outdoor nesting box. I was so thankful that there were no predators around nabbing those eggs!!

Originally I think there were 9 eggs, then there were 7, then 4 hatched, 1 got pecked by the chicks and Mama Sunny and I turfed the last one into the bushes, encouraging all those nasty predators I had been so worried about. Oh my goodness were they adorable!! I would stand around for 10 minutes all the time watching the chicks climb out from under Mama and wobble around. I lowered in some chick feed and a small water dish, and watched them grow everyday.

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One of the babies fell out of the nesting box, right around the time I was googling “when are they big enough to leave the nest”. I still didn’t want to touch the birds – sure they were babies, but still *shudder* and also I’m sure the Sunny would peck my eyeballs out. By the end of the day I had decided to get the long-handled shovel and scoop up that baby and pop it back in the box, but Mama Sunny had all the babies out in the yard when I went out to the orchard! Hooray! Problem solved.

We built a ramp for them to get back to the box, but Mama Sunny made a nest on the floor, and everyone lived happily ever after.

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But then we went overseas for nearly 3 weeks, and while we had a house sitter, I didn’t ask him to send me daily pics of the babies, so when we came home (luckily they were all still alive) they were huge! Also, they were no longer with the Sunny, but were always with – and even sleep in the nesting box with – Mabel, the old lady chicken who is apparently their adopted grandmother. The chicks are still cheeping, but they are 3 months old so it won’t be long before they are clucking or cock-a-dooing instead, and yet they still all sleep with Mabel. It’s endearing, really.

The point, is that I love my birds, not even reluctantly anymore. We lost our baby last year mid-pregnancy, and while we had our support network, it was so relaxing and comforting to watch my chickens grow. It was so much fun to just sit and watch them in the little box I made for them from an old cupboard, and take the air temp and adjust the lamp for them. Then we moved them outside and I sat in the fold-ups for ages, just watching them squabble and scratch and snooze their days away. Soon after our loss my Dad built them a bigger house in the orchard, and when I acquired the hobos I built an extention, so now they have the pink wing and the yellow wing. Mabel and the babies Kate Winslet, Muttley, Rhett Butler and Isabella sleep in the nesting box of choice, while the rooster Buffy sleeps in the pink wing with Scarlett, Amelia and the Sunny twins; Bill Murray, Ella and Willow sleep in the yellow wing.

The boys occasionally ask for a pet dog, and while there are a bunch of reasons why the answer is no, I also remind them that we have pets already.

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