Episode 1: http://gloriouscreations.blogspot.com/2008/09/fowl-story.html
Episode 2: http://gloriouscreations.blogspot.com/2008/09/leghorns-mass-exodus.html
We talked about how spoiled we have been with having fresh eggs. What will we do when the girls decide they are going to molt? We will be 6 weeks with out a single egg.
We began reading books on the subject of raising chickens. One was a small paper back called, “Starting Right with Chickens”. There is a whole farm series of “Starting right” books. We contacted Missouri extension service. They had a great floor plan for a chicken house. It was 12 ft by 12 ft. We decided we would make two of them connected with a 10 foot wide room for storing feed, implements used with chickens and an old refrigerator for storing the eggs.
While we were building the “coop” we ordered baby chicks. We ordered one hundred straight run. Straight run means you get whatever hatches. It is usually fifty/fifty, pullets and roosters. Pullets grow up to be hens. You can order all pullets and it usually cost over double. We knew we wanted to try our hands at butchering our own chickens. We didn’t know what kind of chickens we liked so we ordered the heavy breed assortment because we wanted layers that would be productive in the cold Missouri winters. We also wanted to be able to butcher the roosters. You only need a couple of roosters to keep 50 hens happy. A couple of roosters are ecstatic with 50 hens to share.
The chicks came. They were in two boxes with a sisal type straw in with them. There were instructions to dip their beaks in water to teach them to drink and to peck at the food to get them to eat. You have never seen anything like a box full of one hundred walking cotton balls. They are all colors. We had no idea who was who. They didn’t give us a pamphlet showing us what our five breeds of chicks looked like.
We housed them in the carport which had been closed in for a nice little barn. We made this area that was 8 ft by 8 ft. We enclosed it with 4 ft high walls (we figured the little cotton balls wouldn’t be flying that high very soon).
The area was outfitted with a hooded heat light in the center, just outside of the area the heat reached we had the feed and water. We had regular lights around the rest of the pen.
We were on our way to supplying our neighbors with eggs…only five months to go.
A month goes by and we have growing chicks. Now that they are feathering out we figure we could identify who was who. Boy, were we surprised. Several were pink with white top hats (beige crested polish); black checkered with white top knots (silver laced polish). And the list went on. None of them looked like they could be light brahmas or dark brahmas, buff Orppingtons, Rhode Island Reds or Barred rocks. I called the hatchery and they said they’d send us out a new assortment. We said we just wanted our money back. They said no. We asked them what should we do with the others and they told us they didn’t care, drown them. So here we are stuck with weird chickens. They were all on the skinny side so we wondered how much there was to eat on them, and wondered what we would do with them. Mind you we were new at this, it never occurred to us these funny looking skinny chicks would lay eggs too.
The new chicks arrived and we had to make another area to raise them. We had been warned the larger chicks would pick on the younger chicks, that chickens were cannibalistic. We decided to put the rush on the chicken house and finish it.
The new Chicken house was finished and the older chicks moved in. They were happy as can be with their new larger quarters. Next step was to make them a yard to run around in. With the older laying hens we had discovered the delight of chickens when they are free to “flock” around.
One of the biggest thrills a chicken gets out of doors is to dust bathe in the sun. They scratch out a place till it is raw dirt and then start in scratching and turning and scratching more till the have a bowl shaped depression filled with powdered dirt. They begin with fluffing their feathers, sifting the dirt under their feathers. We have witnessed a hen being possessive of her dust hole and another hen trying to get in her hole with her. You have heard of an ostrich sticking her head in the sand. That is literally what we saw this hen doing. She went behind the hen in the hole and pushed her head down under her body and kept squeezing under her till she had lifted her out of the hole. And voila, “Ha ha it’s my hole now!”
Caring for the chickens, feeding and watering, was our 5 year old's job. She was fascinated with chickies. As they grew older she became a little disillusioned with them. She called them “persons”. One day she came running in the door, hollering, “Mommy, mommy you’ll never guess what the persons did. They gave us a present.” What kind of present I asked her and she proceeded to describe the egg in minute detail.
I was shocked, we were told they were an exotic assortment. Now this is one of those moments when you say, why, did I have such an obviously dumb moment? Of course exotic birds lay eggs, even those who aren’t chickens. They just lay either smaller ones or not as many.
Oh NO, we were going to butcher those babies as soon as they got big enough. We now have 58 hens that will be laying in the next couple of weeks. They have just been presented a stay of execution. That will be 58 more eggs than we were counting on each day. What will we do? Now chickens don’t lay everyday but almost. From reading I had been doing, we should expect more than 300 eggs from each of the exotic ladies.
You do remember we ordered 100 chicks and got the wrong chicks and they replaced them telling us to drown the others. In one month the heavy breed laying assortment will start laying too. I have 53 hens in that bunch. What will we do with 100 eggs everyday? That is just a little under 9 dozen eggs a day. Worse than that, it is approximately 56 dozen a week. I only have one month to plan what to do with them. We had homes for the eggs from the 58 ladies. Now twice that amount. Guess what the grocery stores can’t buy them from me. Why, we aren’t inspected (we haven’t paid our dues).
We had to think of another solution. Our son came up with the bright idea to advertise the hens for sale. So that is what we did. We advertised fancy breeds for sale at the feed store. BTW, there were some we just couldn’t part with because they were so cute. We still ended with 65 hens we couldn’t part with. Needless to say we ate lots of eggs (glad we were physically active). It was before cholesterol was known to be a major health factor.
Other blogs by me:
Where I have stories of my cats and other pets
a blog about my courtship with my husband,
and a blog about my most embarrassing moment.
A "Soap box" blog where I do air my opinions.
blogs about the wildflowers on our farm
Organic methods we use, some cooking and some poetry,
blogs about Seed sprouting, insects, and garden pictures
Blog about an endangered beneficial beetle
Blogs about our pair of pitbulls.
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