When my oldest daughter first approached me with the idea of raising chickens I thought she had come up with another grandiose idea that
would never come to fruition. My vintage doll is an idea person. She has colossal ideas like other people have a glass of water. It is a regular occurrence. Her best friend has commented that if even one of her big ideas is successful, she will be a millionaire.
But I have to admit, this idea was a winner. I told her to research chickens and find out what care and feed they needed. She came back with a six point presentation, proving that they would pay for themselves in eggs and that their care was fairly simple. Before I knew what had happened, one of my sisters, kindred spirit, crunchy granola mama that she is, had worked together with my dad and built a mobile coop. She informed me of her plan, picked my girl up for a birthday outing, and came back with two bantam chicks. It is hard not to fall in love with baby chicks! They were two week old fluff balls. My doll called them Shercluck Holmes and Davy Cluckett (yes, those are boy names for hens, but I have never heard them complain). Now, we do not have a farm. We have a nice sized backyard and we live in the suburbs. But it seems to be plenty of room for a couple of chickens.
When they started laying a few months later, we were all in! Oh, the
richness of those fresh, home grown eggs! Every other egg pales in comparison to the taste and color of these little eggs! Our chicken are the little bantam ones, so they lay smaller eggs. They are also cuddly and friendly.
Well, we were so excited about our eggs, that we got two more chicks. These were six weeks old. We were surprised to find what a month of gentle handling does for a chick. These two were, and still are, a wild pair. Eugenie Cluck (named for a marine biologist that my daughter admires) and Robert Downey, Jr. (she has soft, fluffy down). We had done some research on how to integrate the two pairs into the same coop. We got two because a new chicken always needs a friend to help her cope with the pecking order. Pecking order indeed! It is a real thing, folks! Those big chickens pecked on and harassed those little chickens and scared us to death. But then, Shercluck’s motherly nature kicked in (silkie bantams are known for this) and, after she established herself as the boss, she let the little chicks snuggle under her wings to sleep at night. It was a beautiful illustration of Psalm 91:4. “He will cover you with his wings. Under the feathers of his wings you will find safety. He is faithful. He will keep you safe like a shield or a tower.”
We then converted the tortoise pen we were saving until our tortoise grew, into a coop of sorts. These gals are terrific at eating the bugs out of our
garden, but they do not always leave the tasty plants alone. They free range during the day, having their fill of plants, grass and bugs, only occasionally wandering out of the yard. We supplement with feed that is good for laying hens. They are protected, in addition to a critter proof cage, by a Nite Guard Solar Powered Night Predator Light. It is a blinking light near their cage that resembles the eyes of a predator, so that other predators think the chickens are being watched by something bigger than they are. We opted not to clip their wings, because one of their only defenses is to fly up into a tree when they feel threatened.
Almost a year ago we added another chicken to our coop. She is our charity case. She is a half blind buff bantam with PTSD they call Squawkagewea. As my girls will explain, she lost her family to opposum attacks and a stroke. She apparently witnessed the grisly massacre because is afraid of everything, including her own shadow. She has a missing toe and was not initially accepted by our little flock. We had to give Squawkagewea her own
private box inside the coop to protect her at night and to raise her status as special. She has slowly adapted and, while picked on by the girls lowest on the pecking pole, she is allowed to hang out with the flock and share meals by our bossy white hen. Sound a little like middle school? There are lots of life lessons to be learned from observing our little backyard chickens.
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