Survival Saga of a First Time Chicken Mom

All babies are cute.  Baby chickens, all fluffy and peeping, are especially cute.  Raise baby chicks into adulthood, and they’ll teach you several life lessons.

IMG_6606

One: Babies grow fast.  Baby chicks grow extremely fast. Blink, and they’re bigger. I think mine doubled in size everyday. Before long, they were too big for their incubator, (a large tub with heat lamp), and soon were able to leap, and later, fly out. I have a phobia. I’m not scared of snakes or spiders, but if so much as a butterfly flutters anywhere near my face, I DON’T LIKE IT! Imagine my delight when my little birds learned to fly after a few weeks…in the storage room of my basement.

IMG_6887Two: Life’s messy. Santa delivered a chicken coop for Christmas. I couldn’t wait to move my babies into their new home. Unfortunately, the winter I get baby chicks ends up being the worst Connecticut winter in a hundred years! My chickens are cold-hardy breeds, crossed between Spotted Sussex, Rhode Island Red, and Leghorns; both my neighbors with chicks from this brood were able to successfully transfer their pullets to outdoor coops. My yard is too frozen and still covered in ice, so our coop couldn’t go outside safely yet. We had to build it in the garage. It hasn’t been too bad. They’re safe. Wood chips keep down mess and odor. (I scoop out the used chips everyday). The garage is large, with a built-in workshop, so there’s plenty of room. They’re warm and their water doesn’t freeze. The downside – my car also parks there. After a break in the weather, I took my car to have winter’s grime washed off. It had looked like a giant salt lick on wheels for so long, I forgot it was red. Next morning, the hood was white. Sigh..chicken feathers are dusty.

Like a new mother with children, everyone offers advice. Even when you don’t ask. Lesson three: Listen to advice, but find your own path and what works for you. With baby chicks, there’s a 50/50 chance they’re either male or female. Before long, “Spot” looked more like he should be named “Foghorn Leghorn”. Advice ranged from “make chicken soup”, “get more hens so he isn’t bored”,  and “you can’t eat fertilized eggs” (not true); to “watch out…he’ll tear you limb from limb”. Roosters can be nasty and have spurs. Now, I don’t feel that by naming my chickens or spending time with them I’m “playing” with my “food”.  I’m a farm-girl, not a farm-er.  I want eggs, not meat. I still eat chicken, I just don’t envision eating my chickens. (Unless I simply can’t handle my rooster, then I might have to reconsider the chicken soup advice). For now, I think he’s beautiful. I love that he’ll try to protect my “girls” if something tries to harm them. Just like anything I’ve ever done, I’ve thrown my whole heart into caring for my flock, studied up on all sorts of chicken care, and even attended a “chicken seminar”. (The advice on giving chickens yogurt once a week to aid digestion?  Won’t do that again. EVER. Refer back to life lesson two.)  Anyhow, my “chicken guru”, Susan, showed me how to safely handle said rooster. For now, Spot and I are okay. I’m the Alpha. (I just won’t let my guard down, ever, just in case).

Susan holds Spot.

My friend Susan holds Spot.

 

He's not dead! Spot was hypnotized by Susan's son.

He’s not dead…just hypnotized by Susan’s son.

Four: Anything worth doing takes work. Chickens are curious creatures. (I learned the hard way not to wear shiny rings and stick my hand in their coop unless I can move quickly). They’ll explore everything, everywhere given the chance. Thus it was the night I had a horrible, throbbing headache. Home late, I was dog-tired with a cranky tween, and still had dinner to make. Checking the chickens, I decided to lock the hen house up for the night after we ate. I guess the lock on the door to the coop wasn’t tight, because I came downstairs to chickens running amok…feathers, wood chips, and poop EVERYWHERE. It was Chicken-geddon! My daughter came to check on me, took one peek, and flew back upstairs. When my husband got home, there I was: chicken under one arm, feathers in my hair, poop on my clothes, and broken nails from scrubbing the garage.  Yes, there were tears.

IMG_7641

I was about to give up and give Susan my chickens. My favorite pullet, Nugget, must’ve known. That weekend, I got my first egg. (a.k.a. World’s Most Expensive Egg).

First egg.  Finding eggs in the nesting boxes is as thrilling as being a little kid on an Easter egg hunt!

First egg. Finding eggs in the nesting boxes is as thrilling as being a little kid on an Easter egg hunt!

Nugget was so proud, and we were thrilled! My happy squealing scared the chickens to death. I even posted the egg on Facebook. By mid-week, my husband and I had omelets for lunch…so delicious. That first egg was a double yolk, to boot.

I'm a happy farmgirl!

I’m a happy farmgirl!

My fresh eggs are so delicious! The yolks are firmer, the shells harder, and they are so tasty!

Egg trivia: only 1 in 1000 have a double yolk.

Finally, my chickens have answered the proverbial question…“Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

IMG_7649It’s the chicken…with lots of work. And expense. And love. They are sooo worth it!

Until Next Time…Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

Leave a comment 24 Comments

  1. Your post is sooooooo perfect for first-time chicken owners. You so nailed it. Thanks for putting a huge smile on my face this morning:)

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Thanks, MaryJane! Glad you enjoyed my post. I am so glad I stuck it out with my flock, the eggs are amazing! Farmgirl hugs, Nicole

  2. Lisa H says:

    I can so relate to your experience. We got our chicks the end of February. We are also first time owners. I was so excited. The chicks were purchased between my mom and my sister with the coop going to her house as she is the only one that can have them according to our zoning. For now they have been inside at my mom’s. The mess, the flying about and the many other experiences you shared have been experienced by us as well. Sadly though, our winter too has been so awful and so long that we have to give our chicks up. We can’t get the coop built yet because the space where it is going is still buried in snow! We have to be able to dig down and get fencing around the run buried because of all the critters in the area, including coyotes. My sister doesn’t live on Coyote Trail because it sounds neat. The ground was frozen more than five feet below the surface. We cannot wait that long to give our girls the space they need. Fortunately, I found someone that would take them. Note to self, don’t put the cart before the horse. Build the coop first THEN get the chicks. You know what they say, if you build it they will come. For now, our days of having our own chicks is on hold. Perhaps we will try again next spring IF the land ever thaws and we can get the coop built this fall. Enjoy your eggs. I’m so jealous!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Lisa, Sorry to hear you had to give up your chicks. It was close for us, believe me. Yikes…Coyote Trail! I too, worry about my flock being outside, but it comes with the territory, I guess. It’s been such a hard winter all around, but there’s hope! We have had a nice thaw all of a sudden. At least you were able to find someone to take your chicks, and now you can better prepare. Perhaps you can get them later in the season…there is a farm/feed store in my area that sales fully-grown hens. Don’t fret…it took me a long time to get my chickens. So true though, don’t put the cart before the horse! Take care, and thanks for sharing. Hope spring finds you soon. Farmgirl hugs, Nicole

  3. Adrienne says:

    To answer your question and the puzzler of all times, the chicken came first. The egg wouldn’t have been able to get on the ark on its own. Now you Noah. 😉

  4. Beverly Battaglia says:

    Nicole, I love this blog about your chickens. It is funny and cute! Pictures are pretty of you and others of chickens are great. Very informative too.
    Love you,
    Mother

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Mom! So glad you enjoyed it. Can’t wait for you to “meet” the new additions to the family. Love you, Nicole

  5. Laurie Dimino says:

    Oh Nicole,
    So glad you are enjoying “all” aspects of being a backyard chicken farmer! Yes, there is definitely the good the bad and the ugly sometimes (as with all things!) but, in my opinion the good far outweighs the bad!
    You have probably already experienced the roughest part- which is keeping chickens “indoors” when they get big! (and very messy!!!)
    I bet before long you will be wanting MORE chickens, as they tend to be addictive!
    I currently have 8 hens, but one of my girls is sitting on a clutch of 6 eggs, which if successful, are due to hatch out about April 12th or April 13th. Its very exciting to see this happen naturally right in my own backyard! Its a new experience for me, as the chicks I have gotten in the past came from a hatchery, so I have my fingers crossed that all goes well.
    As always, I loved reading your story. Always exciting to see whats going on in your neck of the woods!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hey farmsister! How fun to see your eggs become chickens! Mine are from my neighbor’s hen who built a nest in the woods! I’ve heard chickens are addictive! I saw some peeps and some hens at a local store, but was a good girl and didn’t get anymore, hee hee. Probably good mine were still indoors and I felt like I had my hands full! Take care, and keep me posted on your new babies! Good luck. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  6. Dena says:

    Nicole, So fun to hear about your experiences! We’ve been keeping a small flock of chickens for about 15 years now and it’s my favorite ‘farm girl’ activity. Now that our boys are older and have many other things to do (besides helping with chicken chores), they want to get rid of them. My sweet husband, who knows how much I love them, tells the boys that, “Your mother loves these chickens and, even though it is more expensive to keep them than to just buy eggs, we are keeping them”. I was so touched upon hearing him say that, but its true; more expensive than just buying eggs AND a delight to me. The nice part is that you can get that fun chick experience again and again as you need new flock members! Currently we have a buff rock, speckled Sussex, golden laced Wyandotte, black australorp, and a partridge rock. So pretty just to see them walking around outside! Have fun with yours this summer!
    Blessings, Dena

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Dena,
      How pretty your flock sounds with all of the different breeds! I have a catalog I saved with all the different breeds…you have some of my favorites. Black australorps are popular in my area, too. Your hubby sounds like a great guy. Mine is the same way…I am sure on his days off he’d prefer to relax, but instead helps me build chicken coops or go to the feed store, things like that. Enjoy your flock, and thanks for sharing. -Nicole

  7. Diva says:

    Loved your post, I am going to print your advice and look at it often. I have wanted chickens for years, deciding I might wait until we retire. Those cute little peeps at the grain and feed store get me every time, thanks for reminding me how quickly they grow. Someday I will take the leap and squeal at our first egg but or now I will enjoy reading your tales.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Diva, Thanks for commenting. Glad you enjoyed the post. We were shocked at how quickly the little sweet peeps don’t stay so little for very long!
      Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  8. cr lagroue says:

    Does this mean I get fresh bbq chicken next time I come visit?

  9. Amy says:

    Oh I can so relate!!! Enjoyed reading your post. Here’s a p.s. we had several roosters and they were the larger sized breed. One literally attacked my husband when he went in to check the coop. He ended up with a bruise and scratches on his face!! They were immediately taken care of. No…I cannot eat them…gave some away, made soup from a few and still have one left in the freezer…. any takers?!?!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Amy…oh my goodness! That is exactly why I will not let my guard down with my rooster! So far so good…Farmgirl hugs, Nicole

  10. I remember when I got my first chicks about five years ago. I got three chicks, a how-to backyard chicken book, and while they were brooding in a second bedroom (no basement here, or room in the garage), I built their tractor. This wasn’t the ideal way to go because of all the same lessons Nicole learned. No chickens in a bedroom again–and they were there for nine weeks because that’s what the book recommended. I live in a suburb of Portland, OR, and we have pretty moderate weather most of the time. But the day we finally put them outside in their new tractor, a thunder/hail/rain storm rolled in of nearly disaster-movie proportions. Their run was covered by a blue tarp (I’m smart, I’m smart–huh), which sagged in the middle under the weight of all the pouring rain and I could hear their terrified screeching out there. It was a rude transition from the comfort of a lamp-heated plastic tub in the house to the real world. I felt like the worst chicken mother in the world.

    Those first three girls are gone now. The first died over night last summer, the second one got killed by a new dog (!!), and I knew the third one would pine away with no companion. So she went to live with a flock kept by a local meteorologist in the Columbia Gorge. This time I have started pullets coming in mid-May so I can skip the brooding portion of the show. Keeping chickens has been one of the best experiences of my life!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Alexis, I am so glad to hear that after all that happened to you with your chickens, you still feel like it is such a great experience. It truly, truly is. Good luck with the new ones, and keep us posted. Farmgirl hugs, Nicole

  11. Loved hearing about your chickens. I grew up on a farm and spring always meant
    my mom bought a hundred chickens. Loved the little yellow balls. Helped my mom feed and water and make sure they were Ok in the bruder house they lived in. Also helped dress out chickens when they were ready. Never liked gathering eggs as chickens will pick your fingers when you try to gather eggs. Roosters are mean and not to be trusted. Thanks for sharing your experience. Good luck with the hens.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Marlene, Wow! A hundred chicks! I bet that was a sight to see. So far, so good with my rooster, but he’s got spurs now so I will not let my guard down. When I was a child, we’d drive through Tomball, Texas to go to my dad’s ranch. There was a (what now would be called free range) turkey farm. It had hundreds of turkeys. We’d stop the car in front of the fence on the dirt road and all the turkeys would come running. I was a child, so I thought it was hilarious to “gobble” at them, and have a crowd of turkeys answer me! Sounds like you have awesome memories of your childhood, too, Marlene. Thanks for sharing with me. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  12. MM Eagan says:

    I think that your first egg being a double yolker is a sign. You will be a great chicken mom! I usually get 50 chickens each spring. I usually get a different breed each year so I know which ones need to “leave home” each year. Every few years I lose my entire flock to the various critters that visit in the night. This past fall was one of those years. I am starting fresh this spring, I love watching my new babies grow. I do sell eggs and sometimes the meat chickens. I still miss the girls in my very first flock from six years ago, so I don’t get quite as attached to them now. Enjoy. For me, there is nothing more relaxing than sitting in the shade in the evening and watching the girls browse the yard.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi! Thanks so much. :) I keep telling myself I shouldn’t get too attached, but it is hard not to, and there is that magic of them being my first flock. I’m curious to know, since you get different breeds each time, do you have a favorite breed, and why? Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>