A Visit From a Chicken Ghost

Something really crazy just happened, and I feel the overwhelming need to tell someone about itI was sitting outside with my dog in the sun, listening contentedly to the lovely sound of a rooster’s crow. How I miss that sound, I thought to myself, when I realized… Why am I hearing it now?? It happened again. “What the…?” I said, jumping up. My hens were making the noise that means something exciting is happening (usually reserved for when I get mealworm bag).

I ran to the coop, and sure enough, Sybil/Sid was standing right there before me. (Sybil/Sid is one of my bantam roosters I had to give away the summer I got my chicks). And while it wasn’t Sybil (that would be crazy because I’m pretty sure he is in a better world) it sure looked like him, but grown up. It was a bantam rooster, about the shape and the size of a sugar pumpkin, if sugar pumpkins had gray, white, and black markings. “What the…” I said again, at a complete loss. I live in sort of a suburban area- this chicken would have had to cross five backyards to get here, and why would he do that? Did someone drop him off because they heard I had hens? And of course: IS HE DISEASED?! (I bet you were expecting that one). Anyway, I lured him into a separate pen I had fenced off by sprinkling mealworms and blueberries, plopped some water on the grass for him (all this travel must have made him thirsty) and set off down the road looking for potential home-bases.

I figured it must have been the closest coop down the road- they had recently gotten chickens (and goats, and sheep, and oxen) and I often heard crowing from that direction. I had never talked to them before, and they have three rather large and very protective dogs so there was a little bit of trepidation knocking on their door. But it all worked out, because the woman that answered was very nice, we drove back to the coop, she caught the escapee, and the fiasco was over in thirty minutes.

I must be doing something right if all the chickens in the area want to vacation at my coop 🙂


A Rainy, Bittersweet Day

Today we got a call from a man looking to buy Sybil. He had seen my CraigsList ad, and wanted to buy him for his son’s three hens. Ironically, he wanted a rooster to crow whenever something happened so he could run out and protect him. All day long rain has poured to the earth, making everything soaking wet. When the man, named Oscar, arrived in his shiny blue pickup truck, my father and I walked out to the driveway to meet him.

My stomach was in knots, tears were hiding behind the surface of my eyes, and I was shaking (not just from the cold). Maybe I’m a bit “sensitive” but I LOVE my animals, and giving one away was no easy task. He inspected the strutting little fellow with us, asking questions like “What do you feed him? Are pine shavings better than hay? Does he always have constant access to feed and water?”. I answered the questions competently enough, and was able to keep my voice steady.

Before he arrived I had already set up a cardboard box full of pine shavings, with a sprinkle of scratch and meal worms, so I caught him and brought him over to that. He shook a little in my hands, and I hope it was just from the dampness. He waved his head, trying to get a good look at his siblings, but didn’t squawk all that much. I kissed his head, whispered “I love you” and plopped him in the box. When he tried to fly away my father grabbed him and put him back. 

I shut the lid, and turned away as my father handed the box to Oscar. He smiled, graciously taking the box, and generously offered us a visit to his home to check on him. I smiled back, and said we’d love to, and walked into the house as he backed down the driveway, with Sybil in the backseat. 

After this, I walked to my room, mumbling something about changing into sweatpants and cried, and cried. 

I know, I’m dramatic. It’s the way I am. When my tears dried however, and the rain let up, I began to feel much better. Sybil had, so far, avoided butchery. He is going to a good home, with green grass, hens of his own, and the freedom to crow his heart out. Much more than I would ever be able to give him. 

One little hen…

I write today with a very heavy heart. My writings are punctuated by a loud, melodious calling from the coop outside. A rooster’s crow. Little Sybil, now tentatively named Sid, has been crowing for a week or two now. All. Day. Long. So our little “covert” egg operation has been discovered by, well, pretty much everyone. But at least I have two other hens, right? RIGHT!?

Nope. Today, as we dropped into the car Edith howled to the sound of the motor. Well, he tried to crow (he sort of failed, but I don’t want to hurt his pride or anything like that).

Two out of five died. Two out of five are roosters. One hen. Why me? The world seems to be working against me for the moment. I’m just a teenager that wanted to have a few pet chickens and a garden. But now I am forced to make decisions that will eventually result in the death of two of my beloved, healthy, happy, and trusting pets. I have contacted sanctuaries, fellow chicken farmers, stared at pages and pages of CraigsList. The answer is always the same. No one wants a rooster. Everyone wants fresh chicken meat.

So I stare at my lovely little roosters, Edith resting on my lap as I stroke her feathers. His feathers. And I think of what it will all come down to. I prepare myself to be the heartless sacrificer that I am supposed to be, defending the ears of my annoyed neighbors and family. Edith stares right back, loving, happy, trusting.

Picture updates!!

Lessons Learned

The chickens are already 6 weeks old! I can’t even bear to look at their little chick pictures- they’ve changed so much! When I got them they were tiny rolling, peeping balls of fluff and now they are sleek, feathered, and huge! They also have a very strange resemblance to dinosaurs. They continue to be cooped up inside their tiny little brooder box, much to my disgust. My poor father only has time to work on the coop during the weekends, so naturally it simply isn’t getting done. First it was the foundation, than the walls, last weekend it was the roof frame. Its frustrating! I feel so utterly and completely useless- I’m just a teenage girl, what am I supposed to know about building things? All I seem to be good for is painting the siding, and even with that I am slow. As you can see, I’ve a lot to  learn, and little time to learn it all, but I have learned so much in just these six weeks!

Things I Have Learned

  1. Ordering chicks via mail is way more trouble than its worth- the Express Shipping costs a ridiculous amount, and its so stressful for the birds! It would be better just to find a good breeder nearby where I can select my own. Besides, I believe I lost two birds from the shipping stress!
  2. I should have given the new chicks electrolytes as soon as they got here in addition to their water. They needed to replenish all those nutrients they lost from three days without food or water! It was because of my ignorance that I lost two precious chicks
  3. Have the coop ready BEFORE the chicks arrive. NO PROCRASTINATING!!
  4. Chickens grow way faster than I had ever expected or would have believed. Its really quite disturbing interesting….
  5. Don’t get so attached to your chicks. I love my Edith more than anything, but she is turning out to be a rather handsome… rooster, and that my parents will not stand for they’ve assured me
  6. Chickens fight. A lot. And then they snuggle together. And then they go back to fighting. Such is the way of the chicken life.
  7. Chickens like eggs and yogurt. They like them quite a bit.
  8. At a certain point chickens should stop sitting on laps and arms, because those legs and arms will be covered with scratches and bruises and people will get concerned.
  9. Chicks do not smell. Six week old chickens do. Very bad.
  10. Don’t hold chickens close to your eyes. Enough said.
  11. Give them the best life they could ever want and have, and let that be enough.

The First of Many

This post is the first of many, if all goes according to plan. I hope to share my experiences with gardening, chicken keeping, coop building, and everything else that comes my way. Stick around, and keep checking back for more posts! I suppose its only fitting that I talk about the first day of my chickens on the first post of my blog… So lets start there!

At exactly 5:45 in the morning, the post office called my home phone. It was a Wednesday, and I had school in an hour and a half… I had gone to bed at 11pm. Normally, if anyone attempted to wake me up at this hour, I would not be a happy camper. But as soon as my father swung open that bedroom door, and called my name, I couldn’t stop grinning. I threw on a pair of jeans that I found lying on my bedroom floor, along with a tshirt, put my hair up, and splashed my face. When I got downstairs the EcoGlow was plugged in, the shavings spread, and feed and water prepared. We hopped into the Subaru, and drove down to the post office in the town over. I waited by the little half door, rang the button, and tapped my foot. Soon a faint peeping got louder and louder, and the top of the door swung open. An older woman held out a squarish box full of highly disturbed birds, and asked for a signature as I took the scissors and swung open the top. The birds sprinted over to the sunlight, peeping their little hearts out. I counted four, which was strange, because we had ordered five little female chicks. I shrugged, and was thankful for receiving any! We drove on home, opened the box once more, and I carefully picked each squirming chick up and dipped her beak in water. And there I sat for the next five or so hours, just watching and smiling and being happy. 

So there you have it, the first of many stories about my little hens…