Then Four Chicks Remained

 

For nearly the last two months, our home has been an aviary for baby chickens. I’ve raised and cared for nineteen downy fluff balls that became awkward tweenagers and now resemble miniature versions of the adults they’re quickly becoming. Last week, my coworker picked up her friendly buff orpingtons, and I drove thirteen chickens out to my friend’s farm this week. I was particularly eager to drop off the Lakenvelder rooster who proved to have a keen interest in improving his crowing ability and whose repeated efforts terrorized my dog (and us).

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Thirteen chickens (10 hens; 3 roosters) awaiting transportation to their new home.

Now, four no-longer-baby chickens remained of the nineteen. To our own backyard flock of chickens, we will add a Silver Gray Dorking, White Faced Black Spanish, White Laced Red Cornish, and Buff Cochin. The Dark Brahma that my husband liked was most assuredly a rooster, so we kept the cochin instead. The Spanish will join Fortunata as a pet chicken because she’s very sweet and isn’t a dual-purpose bird. We’re auditioning a name for her that I hope to reveal soon.

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Fortunata wants to know what these strangers are doing in her coop.

We’re currently bringing the chickens out of their kennel and placing them in Fortunata’s separate coop during the day (while she wanders glibly about the yard) to allow the chickens to scope each other out. Each evening, we return them to their kennel and allow Fortunata back into her coop. This weekend, we plan to combine the chickens, Fortunata included, in the main coop. I hope that with the addition of five chickens that we can integrate everyone without Fortunata being bullied too badly. I don’t want her to start cramming herself into nooks and crannies to avoid being picked on again, but I also don’t want her to live by herself for forever. The main bullying culprits are in the freezer, but I know each flock will have its own pecking order. I just hope that our flock will agree on that order without real bloodshed this year.

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The “baby” chickens have a day outside while the adult chickens stare at them from their own separate coop.

Even as I’m planning to pack away the chicken brooding materials, I’m already pondering which changes I’d like to adopt for next year’s batch of chickens. For example, the chickens roosted atop the waterer and pooped all over it, which made providing them fresh, clean water somewhat challenging. Worse, they knocked it over, which was a stinky mess of a disaster each time it happened. I’d like to try a different watering system, like using chicken nipples. They’re not quite as weird as they sound. Similarly, I’d like to experiment with a different feeder to reduce wasted feed. And I never want to raise chickens in a kennel again where they can kick out their bedding and generally make a mess of whatever room they’re in.

I am, however, very happy with the decision to invest in an ecoglow for a heat source. I loved the way the baby chicks would peek their heads out from underneath the ecoglow just as if it were a mother hen, and it is a safe and efficient source of heat for them. Additionally, it allowed the baby chickens to sleep when I was sleeping, which was a real boon when I had a rooster begin crowing at three weeks and 18 other chickens making noise in our small house.

I’ll hopefully never raise 19 chicks again (unless I get a farm with a barn!), but I’m glad that I was able to help my coworker and a friend while raising my own chickens. Still, my husband could not be more relieved to have his home free of so much chicken chatter. Everyone, especially my dog, is happier now that the Lakenvelder rooster is gone—except, perhaps, the Lakenvelder rooster, who quickly realized that he was no longer the big man on campus as the fully grown roosters strutted about the farm and taught him a thing or two about crowing.

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