This past spring, we bought our first chicks. Our last flock was older when we acquired them, and this year was our first experience with chicken babies. They spent their weeks in the brooder, and we transitioned them gradually to the chicken coop area. The same time all this was happening, we had our first broody mama from our original flock. I don’t remember the exact count of how many eggs we acquired for her to sit on, but she ended up with 7 little chicks.
Needless to say, our back yard flock was a bit overwhelming all spring and summer, especially while our Cornish Cross birds rounded out the variety of poultry inhabiting our ever-evolving hobby farm.
All the chickens we now have are our flock we acquired in April. They are beautiful mixed flock of Buff Orpingtons, Rhode Islands, and Barred Rocks. We also have 3 Asian Black hens, and a beautiful Asian black rooster – not so creatively dubbed “Mr. Rooster.” Most of the girls get random generic nicknames from me, because everything needs a name. I mean, someone who uses such a creative nickname as “Mr. Rooster” can’t be lowered to just calling the chicken “Chicken!” Only a few have stood out enough to warrant their own names, though. There’s Queen Victoria. She is a regal Barred Rock, with a whitish-looking sash across her chest. Then there’s Cleopatra, one of our independent-minded Asian Black hens. She isn’t big on the whole flock vibe; she spends more of her time wandering around alone. And she likes to be told how pretty she is – as long as you do so from what she considers a safe distance. The rest are usually called Buffy, Rhode Island Girl, or whatever else comes to mind. Mostly because I can’t be bothered telling the ones without personality apart from each other.
But finally, there’s “My Girl.” She is a classy little Rhode Island Red with the best personality of any chicken we’ve yet to encounter. She has the biggest, brightest comb of all the girls, and she loves the family. She comes to find us – mostly my husband – to get a neck scratch and little sweet talk every day. She can NOT be contained – no matter what you do she gets out. And, Bret has fallen in love. That’s how her name came about; he goes outside, she comes running, and he says (every time), “Is that My Girl?” One thing about it, she knows she’s special. She greets me at the back door after devotion every morning, looking for Bret. She thinks she belongs inside with us, the cats, and sometimes the dog. But that’s where Mama (me) draws the line! I lost the cat battle a long time ago, and I lost the dog battle; but, there will not be a chicken inside if I can at ALL help it!
Early summer, these chicks had lots of opportunities to roam around the back yard while we would be outside. Not much harm in it…We were watching them, and they were just babies after all. We like letting them free-range as much as their safety and our circumstances can permit. Fast forward until now – by the end of summer, the chickens think they “rule the roost.” (Lol, sorry I couldn’t resist the cheesy pun!!!) We keep them in their coop area, and they are only SUPPOSED to free-rage when we are home and able to monitor them. Reality doesn’t look exactly like that, though. The reality is that they get out and in whenever they please. We try to keep them in, especially when we are all going to be away from home, but they get out every day. They have destroyed half of my tomatoes in one afternoon. They leave “gifts” on our porches, so a person can never go in our yard barefoot. (Whoever began the whole concept of earthing – aka going barefoot outside – every day either has no animals or is way more into the entirety of nature than I can bring myself to be!)
The chickens all-time favorite phase was apple time. We have an apple tree that drops fruit from the end of July through the end of August. They loved trying to beat us to the apples each day, and many times succeeded. I loved that season as well, simply because there are few things as entertaining to watch on a homestead as a group of chickens running. I laugh every time.
We have learned a few tricks to keep them rounded up. The biggest success has come from sharing with them. When bread starts getting a little old, I like to feed it to them. I like to be out there with them, tossing the pieces close to me. I always call them a specific way as well. They have learned from this habit two things. 1. They can trust me. This was the goal. If I am associated with something good, they will want to see what I’m doing. 2. When they hear me call them, they come find me. Now, I have to deliver some kind of treat or it won’t work the next time. Let me just tell ya, taking the time to do that simple trick has saved us lots of running around after chickens. There has been PLENTY of that as well, trust me! I guess I should be thankful for my time reading How to Win Friends and Influence People. Finding a common goal that we both wanted and letting the chickens see what was in it for them was exactly what we needed. Thanks to that little trick, I won’t spend every afternoon or evening chasing chickens.