I’ve recently been put in charge of chicken feeding on the weekends, so I’m spending more time than I used to around our flock. They are a very happy bunch, and I got a request for more information on them, so I thought I’d share some of their antics and such.
History of the flock
When I first came to the ranch, our Wild Type neighbors had just a few chickens, who lived in an interesting coop made by Ralph the neighbor. The coop is next to the old cabin, so the residents of the cabin “get” to listen to chickens all day.
Later, the neighbors bought a dozen chicks and raised them. I can’t remember what breed they were, but I think they all produced brown eggs. But, disaster stuck. All the chickens but a couple disappeared one day! We still don’t know if it was some bad animal or bad people.
After a while, we got a dozen Brown Sex Links from Ideal Poultry, which is actually a local Cameron, Texas business. These chickens have a weird name, but are pretty, lay brown eggs, and are friendly. The hens are dark red and the roostes are white, which you can see on Buckbeak, above. They also bought some black meat. Originally they had planned to share them with a friend, but we ended up with all of them. So, we had a lot of chickens.
It turned out that the “all female” chickens turned out to have a lot of roosters in them, so we kept all the hens. The black ones laid fine eggs, just not as strong as the red ones. All the future roosters other than Buckbeak became dinner. Our chicken keepers at the time, Cathy and Kayla, liked to name the chickens, so we inherited some names!
I become a chicken owner
Then, the fun started. People were ordering eggs for farmer’s market along with beef, so we decided to get more. This time, I went in for half of them. We got a dozen Ameraucana, which are the ones that lay green/blue eggs. We also got a fun mixed bad of random chickens. We may have gotten two dozen of those. These are less expensive, because you don’t know what you will get.
The chicks were so cute! We ended up with mostly hens, but we also still have a couple of the roosters, a beautiful barred rock, an amazing Americauna, and I think a red one. We ended up with black chickens with green on them (australorps!) black spotted chickens, striped chickens (barred rock), a couple of white ones (leghorns or Ideal 36), and all sorts of variants of black and brown. THEN a neighbor gave us MORE Ameraucana chicks, which were mostly roosters. The roosters went back to him.
As you can see, it’s a chicken party!
I really get a kick out of watching these chickens. They put the “free” into free range, because they roam all over the place. I see them out in pastures running after bugs, find them in the barn next to the tack room, and see them checking out the horse’s feed buckets to see if they missed a bite. All of this running around and eating various things is why the eggs have such sunny, orange yolks and so much flavor.
But when it’s time to eat their chicken food, they really come a-running. And running chickens are funny. They get all flappy and fly into the chicken pen (they do mostly sleep there), where I throw food at them so I can go pick up eggs. They also get quite a lot of table scraps, so they serve as the rural garbage disposal system.
There are often rogue hens who decide to lay eggs in random places. For a long time, one red hen always laid an egg on top of the hay in the barn. Now a couple of chickens have decided that a well-protected former flower bed by the cabin is a great place to lay. There are often 4 eggs there.
For a while now, I’ve been selling/giving away eggs at my job in Austin. It’s been a fun way to meet new people and make people happy. The rave reviews are really sweet (well, the eggs ARE good).
Today I only had three dozen, so only a couple folks got eggs. I think they understand that I share the chickens, and that Ralph gets to take them when he has deliveries to make to his beef customers!
Because of the demand, and because there is natural chicken attrition (hawks, etc.), Ralph and I have talked about getting some more random chickens in the fall. He is also interested in some ducks, which would be fun! And once our friend Mandi moves out here, she has a room next to her house that would make an ideal spot for the chicks to grow until they are big enough to go outside. I see eggs in the future!
I’m hoping I don’t have to learn how to harvest chickens any time soon. It’s not the most fun activity. Luckily we try to get mostly hens, which get to live a long life producing eggs.