Keeping chickens has always been something I had wanted to do. When we finished our garden one beautiful summer day, we decided it was time to plan for where we wanted to build a chicken coop. We drew a site plan, trying to provide adequate room, utilizing our limited space as efficiently as possible.
Time flew by. With so many projects going on, the chicken coop was put on the back burner until the next spring.
I was over at a friend’s house late that winter walking around with her and her son Jonah in their back yard. Jonah showed me his coop and the different varieties of chickens he was raising. He was explaining how docile and friendly the Appenzeller Spitzhaubens, a black-and-white breed with silver feet, were and how they like to fly up and roost in the trees.
I was fascinated. He told me his Spitz hen had gone missing. He figured she had flown off, and one of the many predators we have around had got ahold of her.
I looked at him. He looked back at me and shrugged his shoulders, “It’s just one of the things that happens when you keep animals,” he said. “I don’t get attached.”
We continued around to the garage, from which there was another entrance to the inside of the coop. As we made our way through the packed space to the door, I noticed movement. I was startled.
I saw it again and told Jonah about it. He looked over. “It’s the Hoot!” he exclaimed.
There was the Spitz, perched up on some boxes protecting five small eggs and one tiny chick.
Before I knew it, Jonah and his mom were setting up a transport tubby, collecting some starter equipment, and setting it up in the back of my car.
I couldn’t possibly take the little creatures home, I protested. My coop wasn’t done, and it was still cold at night.
“I thought she was gone, and I was okay with that,” he said. “Now she is meant to be with you. You will have plenty of time to get it all set up. Bring them home and keep them in the house for a few weeks. That should give you enough time to get your coop finished.”
I was now on my way home with my very first flock.
I couldn’t count my chickens before they all hatched. By the time I got home and set up a spot in the house to keep my Hoot, two more eggs had appeared. And by the next morning the last two eggs had hatched.
I now had my Mama Hoot and five chicks.
I just fell in love with Mama Hoot, watching her teaching her chicks. I had thought keeping chickens would be great and all, but I had never thought I would enjoy them as much as I did. And do.
Luckily, I already had the majority of the materials I needed to finish the coop. We had been collecting stuff for a while. I had a run (enclosed outdoor space) dug out, and it all came together within a matter of weeks. By then it was Memorial Day weekend, and it was warm enough for the chicks and Mama Hoot to get out to their new house.
In the next few weeks, I got six additional chicks for my flock. The chicks grew into pullets (the next stage).
Two of Mama Hoot’s chicks were roosters. New to the chicken game, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. Jonah reassured me that all would be fine. Having a rooster is good to help protect your flock. But more than one rooster can be trouble with a small flock. As they grow. he said, they will fight with one another and can get more aggressive with the hens.
It all worked out. I had a friend who wanted a rooster, so one of mine went to a good home.
I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that there’s a fair amount of work involved, though I think it’s worth it. There is nothing better than fresh eggs that are still warm when you collect them. Eggs from your own hens. Hens that are entertaining, constantly doing funny chicken things.
They all have individual personalities, and there are chick cliques in the henhouse. That’s no joke. A bunch of them like hanging out with each other. They act like adolescent kids, and if you watch them you can see them treat the chicks they don’t want to be around as outcasts. Pecking orders and bullying can occur. Nobody likes to talk about it, but chicken cannibalism is a thing, It needs to be nipped in the bud before it gets out of hand.
Knowing your flock is tremendously important. Each bird has distinct features that can make it identifiable, which is helpful when you need to separate or isolate any of the birds.
Curiosity has almost gotten the better of me. I have considered getting chicken video cams. I’d like to know what they are saying to each other when I’m not around.
I have been keeping chickens for over ten years. I am so thankful that Jonah and his mom insisted I take home those hoots. It was the best introduction a person could have to raising chickens.
Mama Hoot proved the quintessential chicken. She would follow me around and come to the back door. She would perch on the steps chirping sweet little songs. If the back door was open, she would come in and sit in the sink.
Mama Hoot is no longer with the flock, but she is with me every day in the life of keeping chickens.