The Woes of Chicken Raising

My husband and I are still relatively new to raising chickens. It was only a year ago this past May that we received our first 8 chicks. At the time, our intentions were focused on raising meat birds to satisfy our search for local, free-range, chemical/hormone-free meat that we could feel good about eating.
We ended up with 5 roosters, which in our little neighborhood with it’s nuisance laws, was not great. I learned my lesson on ordering a straight-run and “hoping for the best”!
What we truly did not expect, were the personalities, entertainment and bonding that happened with the remaining 3 hens. I am not kidding when I say the day after the last rooster was processed, I saw an immediate change in the behavior of the hens who we know affectionately call “our girls”. They were relaxed – they laid out in the garden for dirt baths and naps in the sun; they would come running to the gate for treats and snacks, and started following me anywhere I went. It wasn’t long before we found ourselves admitting that those beautiful hens had gone from food to friends!
Over the winter through spring, we learned a lot about each other. Sassy became the attention-hungry diva, jumping into my lap for grooming and cuddling. Little Hen became the garden-expert – any time you till, dig, rake or move the hoe, and her eyes lock on to you as if to say “what needs to be done? I’m on it!”. Amelia (named for Amelia Earhart as she consistently tried to fly into our bedroom and bathroom windows) was evasive to hands and hugs, but was adventurous and a prolific layer. I grew to know who needed to lay an egg, the meaning of their different calls and cries, and more about chicken anatomy then I ever thought I would learn when they acted unwell.
It’s been a wonderful year, and if you had told me last year I would fall in love with those hens, I would’ve laughed. If you’d met me 7 or 8 years ago, the fact that I would even have chickens would have seemed ridiculous!
So it is with great sorrow that I announce that my dear Amelia passed away early last week. It was one of those heartbreaking situations where there is no apparent cause; no symptoms, no foul play. I simply found her one morning, lying in the run beneath the coop. My husband and I buried her in her favorite spot in our garden, and I think of her often. She laid so many eggs – one large, perfect egg each day – that we still have many of her eggs in our fridge! The day we crack the last one will be sad, but I look back on the joy and time we had together, and the wonderful eggs she provided us every day. While we have adopted two new young hens, and I look forward to new challenges and adventures with them, I hope they know what a wonderful hen went before them!

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