I grew up in a small-ish town in central Iowa and never dreamed that I would some day be the PROUD owner of 25 chickens. I absolutely love them dearly but there are a few things that I wish I had known about chickens. I guess I like to learn things the hard way.
1. Chickens are not that friendly
For some reason I had this romantic idea that having chickens would be the greatest thing and they would all be my best friends. That turned out to be partially true because I have several hens that fight over my lap during my visits. However, the majority do not come near me and not all of them enjoy my presence. How could this be? I think it’s partially due to how many of them I have. I have spent a tremendous amount of time with them but due to the sheer number of chickens I have it was impossible to keep them all nice. I have found that my Buff Orphingtons truly are little Gold Retrievers and are the nicest of my bunch. However, I have one that is eating everyone’s feathers so I’m not convinced that they are the best breed.
2. You need a strong stomach
On one of my worst (and I mean worst) mornings… I found my favorite (photo above) of my two roosters had died in his sleep during the night. Nothing appeared to be wrong with him (no fights). My boyfriend had already left for work and I knew that I had to remove him from the coop. It was heartbreaking for me as he was the only chicken I had named. Eagle Eye. It was just something we called him one night when he was a chick that stuck. Even as I type this I still tear up over my little guy. Also, chickens are mean. Pecking order is a real thing. I have one Black Astrolorp that was picked and plucked so badly I thought her little butt would never heal up. I separated her immediately and she healed up just fine in a few weeks. However, she is now (still) at the bottom of the pecking order and is clearly picked on by the others.
3. You don’t need that many
We ordered our chickens online from a hatchery in central Iowa. Their minimum order was 25 chickens so we picked out six different breeds and ordered one rooster. Four of each kind of hen and then we got a bonus rooster (explained above). That was WAY too many hens. On good days last fall when we had more light and nice weather I was averaging 20 eggs per day. That might not seem like a lot but after three days = 60 eggs. It adds up very quickly! If I had to start over I would have ordered maybe six to ten hens.
4. Roosters are not nice
After Eagle Eye died we were stuck with Big Boy (now named and pictured above) and he is the meanest rooster ever. It started harmlessly enough but has now escalated quickly. I like the fact that he is very protective of his girls but I am not a threat. I can’t enter the coop without being attacked. I have read every article online as to what to do about this, but I’m not sure that it can be fixed. He has also been riding my girls too often and they are loosing feathers because of it. He has been separated from them now for four days so I am sure he is going to love me even more!
5. They get bored
Over the winter I had some bored chickens. I had read about boredom busters but didn’t realize how important toys/distractions really were until it was too late. I have a picking/feather pulling problem that I think is related to boredom. They have amazing diets and have supplemental oyster shells so I do not believe their feather picking is due to lack of protein. It’s important to keep your chickens entertained! Especially during the dark dreary winter months. As spring rolls in to Iowa I plant to free-range my chickens more often and pray that it will break their bad habits.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my girls. They all run to greet me and are always entertaining to watch. I had no idea how much I would get sucked in to their little society and lives. I care about each one of them individually whether they like me or not. They are one of the highlights of each day out here on the farm. I AM a proud owner of 25 chickens but wish I would have been a little more prepared!
XOXO – The Chicken Lady