Monday, March 14, 2011

Chickens, what the books don't tell you.

Growing up, I remember my Grandmother having chickens roaming about the farm.  I can recall her covering the front of an overturned metal barrel with a wire grate at night to protect the hen and her chicks.  These memories create a desire of a simpler, more self-reliant life.  I want my children to have the same memories and the same desires, so last April we introduced them (and ourselves) to the world of chickens. 

Henny Penny
Now I had done research, bought books, talked to other people who have or have had chickens.  Nothing could have fully prepared me for the trials, experiences, and the great amusement these last six months of chicken rearing have brought. 

1)  Dogs and chickens don't mix.  We learned this the hard way.  In April we had 7 chicks, by July we were down to two.  Now our dog didn't get them all, some died as a result of a fox literally getting into the hen house.  I was worried how the kids would handle the death of the chickens (because someday they would end up on our plates), but they took it very matter of fact.  I tried to explain the circle of life, but being five, they looked at me with blank stares and then asked if they could ride their bikes.
2)  Chickens eat A LOT!  Because of our dog (see number 1) our chickens don't free range. We feed them bagged poultry feed.  I was amazed at the amount of food my little feathered friends can put away.  I have been looking around for a recipe to mix my own feed, but my girls seem happy and healthy so I hesitate to change what is working.
3)  Watch out!  Chickens will peck you when hungry.  My daughter learned this the hard way.  Evidently her had got in the way of the feeder and a beak.  Ouch!!  I had to explain to her that chickens don't have hands, so they have to use their beaks to explore.  They are curious creatures, and more than one have they tried to "explore" my pantleg or boot.  They also seem to really like the color red, hmmm.
4)  I am surprised at the holes in the chicken coop and yard.  I didn't know that chickens could dig like they do.  The outside chicken yard is fenced with an 8 ft. tall dog kennel (which works great because you can move it, and it has a gate).  I have to constantly move the fence because my girls try to tunnel under it.  I have also had to move dirt around inside the coop because they are creating holes under the walls and I worry what might get in there with them.
5)  Chickens know who feeds and takes care of them.  They recognize my voice and come running when I call to them.  I love the sounds they make when they try to call back to me.

All-in-all, if you are thinking about getting chickens, do it, but be prepared for those "oh no" moments.  I love my chickens and the feelings of peacefulness they envoke when I am around them.

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