My Experience with Chicken Keeping

I was about three or four when I convinced my grandma to bring me to the chicken swap to get my first flock. I don’t remember any of them except for a Barred Rock that I named Ms. Speckles, and I have no idea what the rest were. We then eventually moved to Georgia, where I kept the chicken keeping hobby.

The house we moved to in Georgia came with a chicken coop, along with a flock of Rhode Island Reds. The coop that came with the house was to small for those birds, so we built them a much larger one. The coop was surrounded by trees, making it perfect for a run space. We ended up fencing off part of the trees for them to have, since the trees and undergrowth were to thick to use for anything anyways. The fence had to be built up to about 7 feet or so because the chickens would find ways to fly over it, whether it was jumping over it, or flying on top of the coop and then hopping out, those masterminds were always thinking of something!

When we added on to the flock it was through a sketchy guy on Facebook, not my definition of reputable. I had no idea how to introduce new flock members, so I only stressed the Rhode Islands out.

After about another couple of weeks, I noticed some strange black dots appearing on the new pullets crests. After some research I realized they had fowl pox, a disease that’s untreatable. We didn’t want to keep investing in vet bills, so we put them down. We had them buried in our yard with a little funeral, and at least I knew where they were going they would be happy.

Shortly afterwards, my Rhode Islands began to fall ill. I believe this was caused from the stress of the new birds. There was a vet that took chickens down the road from my house, and I brought them there, hoping for a cure. The vet had told us the illness was untreatable, and it was respiratory, but he could give us medicine to give to the sick bird to temporarily get rid of the disease, but he warned us it would keep coming back, and it did. Eventually I decided to have them put down, to prevent any further suffering.

I waited a few months until I purchased my next flock, letting the coop air out and such. We ended up ordering our chicks from Murray McMurray Hatchery, where we ordered 5 Ameraucanas (which were actually Easter Eggers), 5 Plymouth Barred Rocks, 5 Black Stars and one free mystery chick. A few days after placing the order, our post office called and told us our chicks were ready for pickup, which was a speedy delivery. We had a wooden box set up for them in our garage, until they were old enough to move outside.

I awoke one morning to see a crime scene unfold in my garage. There was feathers on the ground, baby chicks roaming around the garage, a broken brooder, one dead chick and another missing. The only conclusion I came to make about what happened was that a stray cat must’ve gotten into the garage. Our garage door never shut all the way, possibly because it was old or it was broken. There would always be a small, couple inch tall crack on one end. We never thought anything of it because it was so small, but now I wish we had done something. That brought our flock down to 14, with a Barred Rock missing and a Black Star dead. When they were about 4 or 5 weeks old we moved them into their coop outside, the average time to do so. Our mystery chick turned out to be a white Polish rooster, who we named Derpy because of his lack of intelligence. The hens ended up laying pretty shades of brown, blue, and olive green. I’d never gotten eggs colors but brown before, which was one factor that drew me to the Easter Eggers.

We had those hens for almost two years before we had to move away from Georgia.  They were all amazingly friendly birds and good egg layers. Murray McMurray Hatchery is defiantly a good place to order from.

We moved away from Georgia on Thanksgiving Day of 2016 to North Carolina, and we didn’t get chickens again until April of 2017. We wanted to get settled before we got chicks again, and when we did end up getting chicks it was by accident.

The feed store downtown had uploaded a Facebook post of their baby chicks, and we couldn’t resist. We ended up with 12 Easter Eggers this time, because of their sweet personality. We didn’t have any predator issues or illnesses, but none of them were vaccinated. It’s my personal preference to vaccinate chicks against Mareks.new baby chicks

They were about two or three months when my family and I went to Minnesota to spend the summer. We left the chickens with our neighbor, and in payment we gave him the eggs from the hens. We came back to North Carolina and found that one of the chickens tail had been pecked at. I didn’t think anything different about, so I let it be. Soon, I realized that I had a full blown pecking issue. It’s one of every chicken keepers nightmares…literally. I believe the root cause of the pecking was boredom. The run and coop they were in is small, not big enough for 12 birds who are unable to free range due to us living in town and predators. I tried everything to stop the pecking as it worsened, getting rid of the major bullies, feeding them feed and treats high in protein, pinless peepers, and chicken saddles. The peepers and saddles seemed to help the most, but it still wasn’t enough. Recently I got rid of all the hens that remained (one turned out to be a rooster, two I sold earlier due to the pecking, and one died mysteriously one night). I separated the hens so they would be better off in their new home, the 4 that never got pecked, and the 4 who got pecked. I just hope everything worked out for the new owners!

I wasn’t going to go without chickens for long, I knew that, so I did some looking around and decided to order from My Pet Chicken. The breeds I wanted where only available the next day, so I made the decision to order them then, versus having to wait until next year for them to become available. I ordered two Favaucanas (a My Pet Chicken designer breed), two Olive Eggers, two Cuckoo Marens, one Lavender Orpington, one Speckled Sussex, and one Favarolle. They arrived two days after hatching, and all seemed healthy and happy. I had them all vaccinated against Mareks, and that’s the only vaccination My Pet Chicken offers since the coccidia vaccination is to hard on them.Baby chicks from the feed store

Sadly, my Speckled Sussex and Favarolle passed, both having the same symptoms of lethargy and not eating or drinking. I researched and researched about what they could have, and came to the conclusion that it must’ve been something they were born with, or the travel was hard on them.

herb box in the run DIY

The rest of them are doing great, all happy and friendly, and feathering quickly! They also seem to love the herbs I’ve been chopping for them recently, Oregano and Basil seem to be the favorites, but they’ll eat anything! They also love oatmeal, I’ll sprinkle uncooked oats in their feed or feed them leftover oats from breakfast at room temperature, and they take the chance to pig out! I’m looking into to yard sheds to convert for the chickens, but that’ll be a fall project since is so hot in the south. I’ve also done some landscaping (future blog on that) and cleaning to the current coop, to get in in top shape while it lasts.oatmeal for chicks

Thanks for tuning into this weeks blog, be sure to follow my page for notifications whenever I upload! Enjoy your week!

© Dancing with Chickens, 2018.

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