When I became a chicken farmer, due to my highly sensitive nature, a few family members expressed concern over how I would handle the first “chicken crisis.” Today some heart-breaking things happened and I’m trying to cope alright. I’m trying to appreciate the lovely, happy things, and keep my sense of humour with me.
On my second or third trip to the barn I was thinking about how I’d write about my general chicken-farming day so I’m going to do that, even though some of my former concerns feel empty now.
My sweet silkies are doing well. I love Henrietta and Gandalf and the unnamed Cochin/silkie mix. They seem a bit more emotional than my other chickens, which is saying a lot when the hens get very vocal while popping out eggs, and they squeak more instead of chirping. It might be because they’re all young, around 8-weeks-old.
I feel very fortunate to have randomly stumbled across some adorable silkies the way I did.
Anyways, the young silkies are considerably smaller than the rest of my flock, especially big tough Freckles the hen, so I have them separate. Unfortunately I didn’t think that one out too well because they’re in my nesting area and there are a few hens who prefer to lay in there (most go for impractical locations; today Feisty laid an egg and immediately knocked it over because I started to serve lunch). So I’ve let Feisty and Zebby in with them and they seem OK, although Feisty looked rather concerned at the look of her new flockmates. Zebby didn’t want to leave them and had a sleepover in the nesting area.
Now Una Jacobine and Thelma have been up to no good. I count my chickens at night so in the morning, when usually one or the other cannot be found, I don’t fret too much. I was very curious at where they were hiding though.
Curly helped me out with that. Curly is pro at sexy dances; he will dance up a storm when he’s around ladies despite the fact he’s sometimes 4th out of 5th of the pecking order (Flattop and him switch spots). So Una was in a real hurry yesterday morning trying to run to the other end of the barn. Curly, seeing his chance of a hen alone, started doing his fancy dances. He continually cut her off by dancing right in front of her and she had to keep going around him which made her zigzag her way to the end of the barn. Naturally, I was curious. So I followed her and this is what I found:
I imagine I’ll have to throw them all out. This is the THIRD time I’ve accidentally allowed too many eggs to accumulate and it’s a tough cock to suck. The first time I thoroughly checked all of the eggs and ended up incubating 6 I thought might have started developing. 1 was unfortunately cracked, 2 didn’t develop after all, and the other 3 hatched today and yesterday — which means all of those ones hatched a few days late. Anyways, second time this happened I think the owners realized the mess I had gotten myself into and removed them for me; otherwise I don’t know how they disappeared. This time, though, there is like THIRTY. The cock do I do?
Today Thelma was sitting on duck eggs in the duck pen. That was the last time I saw her.
Carrying on with my day, it became very apparent to me on Sunday that the chickens are making a right proper mess with their food and the ducks (mostly the drake) keep knocking over the water bowls. (The ducks have their own waterer but, of course, they prefer to hang out near the chicken water bowls.) I wanted to buy a bunch of chicken supplies, including some nesting materials for my happy chickie brooder which is sadly now located in the guest bedroom instead of my bedroom as my husband did not appreciate waking up to the choir of chicks chirping, and my fuck am I ever digressing.
On Sunday I wanted a bunch of chicken supplies. I was excited to get them on Monday! But it was the Queen’s birthday on Monday so alas, everything was closed (including my own work but I always have Mondays off so that’s BS), and I think for the first time ever I felt a little bit of resentment over the Queen and her closing everything for her birthday. Today I went out to my local farm store and finally got some stuff.
At the counter I asked if they had any particularly healthy chicken food or yummy treats. They did not, unless I wanted to start feeding my chickens organic food, which seems pretty pointless when I don’t eat all organic and I feed them lots and lots of my human food.
Then they asked me if I was a member. I said, “No, sadly.” He said, “OK.” In my head, I said, “Fuck you, why don’t you guys ask me to be a member of the local farm co-op voting system thing that I actually have to pay to join?” But instead I said nothing and the older man behind me offered to help me carry out my big feeders & waters & bag of seed to my car.
Grocery store next! The cashier talked to me about tattoos, as the cashiers generally do, and told me about her tattoo appointment booked at my shop’s direct competitor. Can’t say anything, though, as since that shop is on par with the one I work with, it is a very good shop. My shop and that shop are the two best in town (hands down! lolololol).
After a few other small errands I arrived home and decided I should probably have the lunch I just bought at the grocery store. I put in the oven but got distracted by my chicks and burnt it. Oh well. Instead I had an egg salad sandwich, made at the grocery store instead of using my farm fresh eggs because I’m lazy.
I cleaned out the brooder and now the chicks have a legit waterer and feeder. They were shitting in their shallow water dish and throwing food everywhere so I’m glad that is sorted. There is also some straw from the barn in there to help them get used to it; I don’t know if that’s necessary but I can’t see how it would hurt. Bruce likes playing in it.
One chick hatched last night and two more babies hatched today. The first one was pure yellow, followed by a yellow with black stripes and fuzzy feet, and a dark yellow/reddish-brown one. I have 17 chicks in my house right meow.
I had figured the last five eggs were duds as one was due on Friday (never hatched) and four were due on Saturday, but the “late eggs” surprised me. I was hoping to let them all stay together before I introduced to chicks that are up to a week older, but, frankly, the first yellow was being such a dick to the second baby. I was already in the process of increasing the humidity before I took the eldest one out and I came back to the incubator with some water and I legit thought yellow baby #4 had killed striped yellow. Striped yellow is OK, and now she has a new friend who cuddles her.
After sorting out my inside chicks, I went to the barn to try to improve that setup. I placed a cute waterer in with my silkies and gave them some raisins and grapes. I filled up the water bowls and changed the main feeder. It used to be by the nesting area but there is way more than can even fit in the bowl on the barn floor so I knew I needed a better system. (Thankfully chicken feed is super cheap.) Unfortunately the chickens still managed to spill a substantial amount of feed from my new $40 feeder.
An hour or so later I visited the barn again when my parents came over to show them my silkies. My dad is skeptical of my chicken farming; he has essentially said “life is too short to own chickens” and really, that sounds backwards to me. Life is too short to NOT own chickens!
I happened to count all of my chickens at that time.
Later on at home I started to feel a little stressed as I received an E-mail from my boss that told me I needed to arrange a bunch of things ASAP that I had already arranged to handle tomorrow, plus no clear answers on a few of my dilemmas. I decided to go back to the barn. I hung out with my dear chickens for a while and it was such a lovely day, 30+, that I decided to walk around a bit.
IT GETS SAD:
I walked to the edge of the forest and noticed Whitetail lying in a clearing. At my first glance, I thought she was being broody over a nest with her wings splayed out. That lasted half a second before I realized she was very much injured. I ran over to her and she was alive, her eyes were open, and I saw her close them. Her mouth was full of apple blossoms.
Here are some pictures of where I found her, in case anyone can help me understand what happened:
I carried her to the barn, sobbing, until I fell to the shaded ground and cried over her as I tried to figure out if she was still alive. It looked like she was, so I ran to the barn, counted the chickens, and discovered Thelma was also missing. I grabbed a weapon and returned to the forest. I followed three trails of feathers to no avail, discovered some old eggs, found many more bones, but I did not see any sign of Thelma. I checked the barn again in case she was hiding in there, as she occasionally does. Then I carried Whitetail home, crying the whole way, and wrapped her in a blanket in a safe room. I’ll admit I was a little shattered and shocked at this point and I took a shot of vodka before I grabbed some supplies to return to the forest.
I looked everywhere, I was ready to fuck up any coyotes if they happened to be involved, and I even conquered some of my fears in my search for Thelma. But I did not find her.
Whitetail passed away. I stayed by her body, patting her a bit longer and crying a bit more. The chicks chirped beside me, as I had put Whitetail in the guest bedroom, and I was at least a little comforted that Whitetail gave me Shakur the chick before she passed.
I closed up the barn and looked again. My husband drove up and we looked together. He watched wrestling on TV then we went back up, past midnight, to make sure Thelma wasn’t outside of the barn door trying to get in. She was not. She is still missing.
Whitetail has been buried in my front yard beside Hetty. Whitetail is the first chicken to pass away under my care, the first of my chickens to die, and I miss her so much already. I miss Thelma too, but I’m trying to hold onto a smidgen of hope. Whitetail was the softest chicken I had before the silkies and she had let me pick her up a few times. She was named by my husband and she was very friendly. My two brothers-in-law declared her their favourite as well, that was how special and lovely Whitetail was.
Zebby, Whitetail’s sister, was distraught when she saw me carrying Whitetail’s body. We cried together for a bit and some fucking dick rooster (Curly) tried to “intrude” and I told him to sod right off and leave poor mourning Zebby alone.
SENSITIVE PEOPLE MAY READ AGAIN
I don’t know what else to say. It’s the life of chicken farming. Beautiful Whitetail will rest in peace, and I’ll always cherish her memory, and I’ll continue to care for my remaining flock in the same happy and loving manner I always have. And I hope my family is proud of me for keeping it together.