Chicken business

Posted by Hannes on 6 April 2010 | 2 Comments

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If anybody had told me ten or twenty years ago I would find my peace one day keeping chickens at the age of 42, I would've thought they were insane and yet here I am today, entertained by over 50 free-ranging chickens! Strangely enough they have become so special to me that some people might think I am completely insane or just obsessed. I do believe there are other people out there with similar interests in keeping chickens and that's what inspired me to share thoughts and views in this blog. How it all started...

We moved to the farm few years ago and decided to keep just a few hens for fresh free range eggs. We adopted five retired hens from the local egg supplier. They were in bad condition and battled walking properly from being in tiny laying coups for so long. They had lost most of their feathers and were not the best layers obviously so we got them at a very cheap price. It took them a few months to grow a new plumage and by then they could walk and started to plough through the garden with vigor. A tail-less rooster named Max was donated to us and, since being introduced to his new harem, turned a new page for all on the farm. Being the only rooster with five hens he became one of the most entertaining birds we've had. Max eventually became father and great grandfather to many of the hens we have today. He was from a mixed background and predominantly white and traces of his genes are still clearly visible in our flock! The hens were happy and we averaged about two eggs a day. Max was a very brave boy and eventually dared to enter doggy territory after dog biscuits which later caused his own tragic end. We built a new, better and bigger house for the feathered family and considered expanding slightly so we could get more of these superb eggs we enjoyed so much. As a strategy we bought eight little chicks from a breeder nearby, not knowing what to expect or how many hens we got. They were mostly bantams and only two were hens. These little hens inspired us to hatch our own chicks for laying purposes. Bantams are known for being good brooders so we tried them out as surrogate mothers by letting them sit on our layers' eggs. It worked like a dream and before long these two hens were all over with chicks almost matching their own size. These little chicks were the sweetest, fluffiest things and added a special kind of harmony to the hen house. We decided to name them, and called the first hen hatched Maxine (after her dad) followed by Silver and Honey and the list goes on. Unfortunately as in any good luck story there has to be some kind of baddie to pop your bubble and we started losing hens one after the other. We researched and learned of caracals, wild cats, mongoose and decided to secure the henhouse more for maximum protection. Attacks started from the air too and we had to deal with a forest buzzard, sparrow hawks and even owls. It was disappointing to see our girls disappearing and we ran out of ideas to prevent this from happening. We tried our best to keep numbers up. We felt the need to increase our stock anyway so added 12 Rhode Island Red and two Black Australorp pullets to our remaining flock. We had to separate the bantams from the laying girls to give both parties a bit more space. Two months later we averaged ten good sized eggs a day! It was going good and the eggs started rolling in. Soon after, our original old grannies started fading one by one. We noticed a clear pattern of signs they would show a day or so before they took off to their own special heaven for feathered folk. It was sad seeing them go. Scraggles was one of those old girls that went nearly completely bare and roasted into flaming red from the hard sun, but kept fighting and just wouldn't find peace. She was a feisty granny that wouldn't stand back for anybody at the food bowl and picked fights with anything in sight even the roosters and she remained their most favoured hen to the day she died. She went peacefully one night and I found her next to the feeding bowl early morning. By this time the new hens were delivering all they could. These girls ate well and looked extremely healthy. Some of them enjoyed the space outside and preferred to roost in the nearby tree at night. We lost them - both new roosters and a number of hens. So off to the chicken lady we went again. We needed replacement instantly. As before, she had nothing we were looking for,  no rooster and not a single hen! We left there with five cuckoo chicks and one white cockerel and started a whole new episode of life of the farm...

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  • Fantastic! Having just read an expose on factory farming it's all the more poignant to read about the way it should be done.

    Posted by Martin, 10/06/2010 1:06am (9 years ago)

  • Love the farm in all its shades as told through the eye of your lens and words.

    Posted by Karin Karin, 15/04/2010 1:45pm (9 years ago)

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