Sunday, February 21, 2010

The First Chicken Part 2

Once we were back in Ohio, we weren't able to just move onto our 7+ acres. There was no house, no septic, nor a well. (Still no well, but some day!)

We were 6 weeks a way from having our second child, and temporarily were staying with my parents. That didn't stop me from picking up fifty - yes, you read that right - fifty brown egg laying chicks from Tractor Supply.

Ever heard the expression putting the cart before the horse?

Yea, I seem to do that a lot. I did it with the chicks, and more recently, with those stupid pigs. (Don't worry, those dumb pigs will get their own blog post later.)

I brought home these 50 chicks because, well, it was a great deal! They were roughly 59 cents each (this was 2001, I don't see any feed stores selling chicks that cheaply now!) and if you purchased 50 chicks, TSC would throw in a FREE bag of chick starter! I mean, c'mon! They're giving you the feed for free with your chick purchase, how could you (or in this case I?) not buy the chicks?

Yea, my reasoning was not rational. It was a totally and completely impulsive thing to do.

So this time, I had the feeders and waterers and the chick feed...but I still didn't get a heat lamp, and I lost most of those chicks before they feathered out.

It's really a great idea to read on the care of any animal before you get it, but in my mind I was thinking, "It's chickens. How hard could this be?" and I'd seen my mom successfully raise chicks with no brooder/heat lamps so I didn't give it a second thought.

Out of those 50 chicks, only one white rock made it to adulthood. The rest either expired as young chicks, or were lost to predation. During this no-so-thought-out chicken venture, we packed up and moved from my mom's to our trailer that we purchased. The trailer was temporarily set next to my father in law's place, 500 feet up the road from where we are now. I like to call that place Ground Zero because it's where we originally had our first home, before some ugly circumstances made us pack up and move.

We settled on Ground Zero for the second time, and I had one fully grown white rock free ranging around the place. I have no clue where she slept, but when she started laying, we definitely knew it. She would be out at first light singing and bragging about the cackle berry she had just gifted to us....or rather, hid from us. We couldn't find her eggs.

That hen became my Father in Law's pet. He'd step out his front door daily with whatever food scraps he had and throw them out to her. Soon, she stopped coming down to our trailer (which was roughly 50 feet from his front door) and just stayed around his place, waiting for the goodies that would come from that front door.

Sadly, we found her one morning in the yard. The only thing we could figure was she had become eggbound and died as a result of it. Roughly 6 months after her death, my Father in Law was working on the foundation of his house. He had crawled under into the crawl space, and there, in a perfectly round nest, was an entire collection of light brown eggs.

All of us missed having that chicken running around the yard, even if we hadn't received her egg rent. That fall, my Father in Law surprised me with two black hens. They both laid a beautiful green egg. We had no clue what kind of chickens they were (I now know that they were most likely Easter Eggers). They laid an egg for us almost daily. It was a thrill to go and collect green eggs in the morning. They were kept in the barn, and I cannot tell you what ever happened to them. I just don't remember.

In 2004, when our third child was roughly 10 months old, we were finally ready to move onto our 7+ acres. A local farmer offered to move our trailer the 500 feet down the road with his tractor, and he did! He pulled it down and situated it right where we asked him to.

Right before our Big Move, my sister in law gave us her flock of Rhode Island Reds and a pair of bantams.

I will tell you, I'm not a fan of Rhode Island Reds. But, they were free, and well, that's an awesome deal!

We hadn't put up a coop yet, but I set up temporary cages/pens for the Rhode Islands to sleep in at night and I let them out to free range during the day. It was quite a surprise to us when a neighbor down the road came down and said, "I sold your chickens for you."

What?! Are you kidding me?! But no, he wasn't. He had actually found someone who wanted to buy all of the Rhode Island Reds, and he told the guy we'd definitely want to sell them.

I was so flabbergasted that I didn't think to put my foot down, or get indignant, or to send him off on his ear. No, I didn't do anything to make waves. I silently accepted $2 a piece (I definitely was ripped off!) for the birds and said goodbye to them.

The next year I decided I wanted chickens again, but I was going to do it right, and have a coop first.

There was an old yellow semi trailer on this property. Long story to how it got here, but it was here, and we decided to turn it into a coop. It worked, too. And I have a great snake story from when we were cleaning it out.

That yellow semi trailer had been filled with junk for years. We started hauling the junk out to clean it up so I could have coop in the front part with run, and storage in the back part. There was this awful fat groundhog that lived in there, but we chased him out in short order.

The other problems with cleaning it out was that it was a real snake harbor. One pretty warm day, as we were cleaning out the trailer, I heard a scraping type sound over the roof. The following conversation followed:

Me: What was that?
Him: What was what?
Me: That noise.
Him: I didn't hear anything.
Me: I did, I heard............ aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!

It was at this time a snake dropped down for some hang time - right at nose level with my husband's face.

Folks, I didn't look twice. I saw the snake, and I split. I was out of that trailer door and on our back porch before my poor husband could even react. I do not remember the sprint across the back yard, but it was a good 200 yards...No joke. I left my husband to survive by his wits, because this gal wasn't waiting around to see if anyone got bit.

Roughly 1 minute had passed, and my husband stepped out of Snake Haven and yelled, "Where are you?" He sees me on the back porch and says, "How'd you get there?"

My reply? I RAN!

We didn't resume the cleanup that day...In fact, I do believe we waited a good full week before we braved it.

We did eventually brave it, cleaned up the whole thing and chased the snakes out. We then put about a dozen red stars in that coop. Right around the time those hens started to lay, I decided I was tired of chickens and sold them all. I wasn't really tired of chickens, I just didn't like the red stars.

We turned the coop into a dog kennel for a short while. The whole kit and kaboodle has since been hauled out of here.

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