I never dreamed I would become a chicken farmer, but last year I became one quite unexpectedly. My mother-in-law purchased twenty-five chicks for my niece. Unfortunately, my mother-in-law's plan for the small fuzz balls fell through when she found out she would not be able to keep them where she had intended. So she made a phone call ~ to my husband. Shortly after, we became chicken farmers.
Raising chickens has been a learning experience. When we first got them, we could see one of them was sick. I found it the next morning, dead. Another one looked similar, and it, too, died later that evening. This brought the number to twenty-three. Being inexperienced, we couldn't tell how many males and how many females we had. But we had red ones, black ones, speckled ones, and some white ones. The whites were my favorite, and I quickly named one Sunburst due to the yellow spot on the top of its head. They grew quickly, and as they did, I gradually introduced them to my dog Tucker. Even though Tucker is not an aggressive dog, I had no way of knowing whether or not he would see the chickens as a special "treat." I wasn't taking any chances. And it was cute watching one of the white ones walk on his back; they got along just fine.
Of course it didn't take long for the twenty-three chicks to outgrow their cage. My niece's father built a chicken coop for us to put in our back yard. The box part was just big enough for the chickens to have room to sleep, and the run (i.e. cage part) gave them room to, well, run. By this time, we knew about half of the chickens were roosters and half were hens. One speckled rooster seemed to be deformed (I learned later the "deformity" was just a characteristic of the breed) and he was the most aggressive. He would puff his feathers out and run at me as if he was set to attack, but then he always backed off when I stomped my foot at him. He was, after all, a chicken.
Egg production began to soar. On average, we had about nine dozen eggs in our fridge every day. We sold them to friends and to people at church. The sales paid for the chicken feed and put a few extra dollars in our pocket, which was always nice.
We soon lost two more chickens when our neighbor's dog got loose and took advantage of the free meal our yard roaming chickens provided. One of the ill fated hens was a white one. I was very upset about that, even though by this time I could no longer tell which white chicken was Sunburst. Another month or so went by before my husband and I decided we needed to do something. The roosters were...abusing the hens. Many of them had their feathers ripped from their backs. Some even had raw/bloody spots. Though we had originally intended on eating the roosters, they were too old by this point. Once a chicken becomes more than a few months old, the meat is very tough. So we got ride of the meanest roosters. Eventually my husband gave the remaining roosters to a guy he worked with which put our chicken count at ten. Ten was much more manageable. And my husband didn't miss being woken up at 5:30 in the morning by the roosters crowing.
**In an effort to keep this from becoming too long, I will post more tomorrow.**