Thursday, December 29, 2016

My Hens and I

Since my last post I have learned a lot about raising chickens. There is trust now and I remember that day well, feeling like a mother hen, as they ran to me, greeting me with clucks...but most likely because they grew accustomed to receiving treats whenever I came outside. Oh well, trust was built regardless of how it was obtained!

Between 8 and 10 weeks old the weather had warmed nicely so I moved my girls to their newly bought $800 chicken coop. (That first egg was getting really expensive). The young hens loved the outdoors and took to their new home like a fish in water. 

My girls went through their growing pains as all chicks do...from the cute little cuddly chick to a funny looking thing with wings as their feathers grew in. After months of growing and changing they finally became the beautiful girls I have today. I remember hearing the first "cluck"! From "chirp, chirp, chirp" to "cluck, cluck, cluck" and oh how excited I was. It was like hearing my daughter say her first word! They were maturing as God intended and I couldn't wait for my first egg!

As the weeks passed and the girls matured, we all grew friendly and trusting as some of the hens would fly up and roost on my arm or shoulder or head. Of course this was because they knew I was the alpha hen and not because they were impatient to receive the never ending supply of specially baked treats they had come to love! Nah.  Life with my girls went on.

From the blog Happy Hens Equal Fresh Eggs

The hens were reaching 19 weeks old. Then IT happened! I opened the nesting box lid and there it sat...The first egg! I held it gingerly in my hands, not wanting to crack it or drop it as I walked cautiously back to my house. As I entered my home (no...I did not drop the egg), my husband said I was wearing the biggest grin he had ever seen! The next day there were two eggs and within 2 weeks all 10 hens were laying. The first week, after I had full participation, I received 48 eggs...that's 4 dozen eggs from 10 hens! The second week I received 58 eggs and the following weeks I received 63 to 65 eggs...each week...5.5 dozen eggs EACH week!! (I had started tracking my daily count on the kitchen calendar). 

This is what a $1200 egg looks like!

What is that saying, "Watch what you wish for"! In my last post I mentioned how I sighed when I thought about having fresh I sigh when I look at the two baskets on my kitchen counter that are overflowing with eggs and the 4 dozen I have in the refrigerator! My neighbors love to see me coming as I bring everyone eggs who need them. And thank goodness Christmas arrived because I shared 15 dozen eggs with family members. We carted gifts and eggs as we traveled for Christmas!

Sadly to say this post doesn't have a happy ending. I was warned of predators by neighbors, books, and articles but it was and still is important that I let my girls free range to obtain the most nutritious eggs I can. And my girls were not and are not as happy "cooped in their coop" during the day. Every night as the the sun sets the hens meander back to their coop where I close them in safely...except the one that was attacked by a bobcat near the woods, the one that was picked up by an eagle and the one that was accidentally left out because I miscounted heads and we woke to a murder scene in the yard the next morning (I still feel guilty about that one) now there are seven. 

My girls still free range and I have the best eggs to share with friends and neighbors. We meet challenges (expenses) as they occur...heating element in waterer now that winter is here, extension cord for heating element and extra bedding for warmth. What can I say....I love my girls and even with these colder days I'm still getting 4 to 6 eggs a day! 

Life and adventures and lessons learned will continue. 

From the blog Happy Hens Equal Fresh Eggs

From the blog Happy Hens Equals Fresh Eggs

Thanks for visiting and I do hope you drop by again.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Beginning.....

I've always had a fondness for fowl, of the rooster and hen variety that is. Over the last many many years I've collected and have received as gifts all sorts of roosters and hens of the still life, ceramic and artsy variety that is.

Since moving to the country 18 months ago I've contemplated, several times, the idea of raising chickens for their fresh eggs. Every time I cracked a store bought egg I would daydream and sigh about my possible future chickens and the fresh eggs I would receive.

This past Spring, a week before Easter,  I wandered (accidentally of course) into a Tractor Supply store and came out with a box filled with 10 chirping baby chicks and promptly began my backyard chicken adventure.

I'm the type of person who, before jumping into a new hobby or venture, wants to read every book, pamphlet, article and internet post that's related to my,  literally in these case, new pet project. My daughter,  knowing this, bought me all sorts of chicken raising books for Christmas; therefore, I was "read up" and prepared on the do's and don'ts and possibles and maybe's of rearing backyard chickens. In the meantime my daughter acquired three mature Leghorns of her own and was receiving fresh eggs almost immediately. *sigh*

On that beautiful Spring day, a week before Easter, I stepped out of the Tractor Supply store. I was  filled with anticipation, excitement, wonder and worry, carrying my box of 10 chirping chicks, knowing that half could possibly die due to some horrific baby chick disease I'd read about but certainly not die by anything that I would do, the confident novice that I was. Along with my chicks tucked safely in their box I loaded the car with a heat lamp, heat bulbs (two kinds, because I was unsure if one would be warm enough and the other too hot), pine shavings, chick starter feed, probiotics, a small feeder, a small waterer and a smaller checking account balance.  Good thing I already had a large plastic storage container that was to be their first home.

That sunny Spring day turned cold and windy by night fall and I worried like a mother hen about my chicks in their blue plastic storage container in the garage. I worried about the clip on the heat lamp not holding.... falling into the storage container and igniting a fire in the pine shavings...killing my baby chicks and burning down my house. I worried if the chicks were too warm or not warm enough. I worried about them getting trapped behind the waterer or feeder and getting cold. I worried about all the poop they created that might harbor that dreaded horrific intestinal disease that is so common in baby chicks.  I worried about cleaning out all the poop they created in a timely manner while hoping they would build an immunity to that dreaded horrific intestinal disease. That first night I believe I checked on them every few hours and each time the chicks were snuggled cozily together under the perfect temperature from the safely clipped heat lamp. They were getting more sleep than I. 

After the first few nights...maybe 7 or mind settled down (possibly due to weariness) and my worrying became less as my chicks and I settled into a nice routine. They...eating, pooping and sleeping and me...refilling feed and probiotic water and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning all the poop these tiny creatures produced!

Every day I picked each one up...cuddling it in my hands...trying to build trust. At the end of a full week of being a chick mom I still had 10 healthy chicks...eating, pooping and sleeping, yet still afraid of and scurrying from "the hand" that reach in from above. 

At this point...and I mean at the end of this first expenses added to $84. Or to look at it another way, the first egg laid would be an $84 egg. But of course, as always, there is more to come!

Thanks for visiting and I hope you return to read more about what I've learned in the past 6 months and my adventures in raising Happy Hens and receiving Fresh Eggs. 

What stories do you have? I would love to read about them.