Where’d all these chickens come from?! March 20, 2012

A few of my Polish hens enjoying a sunny March day.

There’s nothing I like to do more with my free-time than to sit on the porch of my old show-conditioning shed and watch my chickens go about their business. Sometimes I find myself wondering just how I ended up obsessed with chickens in the first place. The only conclusion I can reach is that I was “doomed” to a life of cleaning coops from day one. To understand why I’d say this, you’d have to know a little about my family and our long-running involvement with chickens.

My grandparents ran a small dairy and row-crop farm. Aside from the cattle they also kept  what folks would now call a “hobby farm”. They had quite the menagerie of animals, mostly birds. The collection was so varied and large that schools would often come out to visit the farm as a field trip. If it had feathers and was the size of a turkey or smaller they probably had it at one time or another. They even had some whitetail deer at one point.

Dad and his siblings grew up with the birds from an early age, each one seemed to have their favorites. My dad was particularly fond of pheasants, quail and peafowl. He even trained one of his button quail to ride atop his cowboy hat. Eventually he met my mom who befriended a one-eyed buff Cochin bantam rooster on the farm that she named “Doc”.

"Doc" with two button quail

As far back as I can recall I was racing around the bird pens. I remember helping guide tour groups through the farm and getting so excited to show off our Silver pheasants, chasing ducks through the cattle corrals, collecting eggs and peacock feathers. As I was just beginning my first year of elementary school my dad decided to increase our laying flock. He let me and my sister choose the breeds; I picked a Polish assortment, she went with Easter Eggers to add to mom’s Rhode Island Reds. From there it went to me taking over the laying flock. (My sister refused to help after having her leg flogged by a mean rooster.)

As I got older my grandparents began taking me to chicken auctions. At first I wasn’t allowed to buy, but that didn’t last long. Soon truckloads (literally) of chickens, pigeons, ducks, geese, turkeys, pheasants, peacocks, quail and guineas were appearing on our farm and more and more barns started sprouting chicken wire. My never-ending quest prompted me to start working at an early age. Between work, school, sports and my birds I never had a chance to get into real trouble (much to my parents’ relief as I was quite a rebel by small town standards).

My birds were building a reputation at the local auctions and online and began to attract the interest of several exhibitors. I had always wanted to show at the county fair, but was never able to. One day one of these showmen decided to pay me a visit on our family’s farm to purchase a few birds. After getting the tour of my set up and seeing the birds I was raising he simply told me, “You need to be going to shows.” A little discussion and we worked out a temporary partnership which brought me into the world of exhibition poultry. At the time I was in college so my birds traveled to the shows with my showing partner or my mom.

One of the hen houses at my Grandparents' farm

Chickens have also sent me on some pretty epic road-trips. Northern Illinois in January in below zero weather; Topeka, Kansas in the hottest part of summer, driving twelve to fourteen hours straight to shows in Indiana and Michigan…the journey is far from over, but it has lead me to some unique destinations, including working for My Pet Chicken. Currently I am away from my chickens, but only briefly. They reside on my parents’ farm until I am able to acquire a place of my own. Next destination – chicken paradise!

Chicks hatched in 1984

Lil Red with some of chicks in 2010

4 Comments
LindaG March 20th, 2012

Looks like you have chicken paradise. :o)

Ellen March 20th, 2012

I heartily agree about having a chicken fetish….Obsession…call it what you will, they are addictive….The “Hen song” is really a siren’s call, I know….Love to watch my gang . They are endlessly entertaining.

Mousepaw April 7th, 2012

I <3 chickens. I've had 10 of them for just over a year now… but do you have any tips for a broody hen? We want her to be broody and she is, and she is sitting on 11 eggs right now. I am keeping her in the house because when she was outside her comb froze. Her comb froze because she wasn't up on the roost with her sisters. We don't have any petroleum jelly for her comb… will some kind of lotion work?

Also, there is another hen down at the coop who wants to be broody but we only need one broody hen. Is there a way to make her un-broody without putting her in a broody pen? If so, what is it?

Please reply at my blog: Mousepaw.Wordpress.com

You're chicken-crazy friend, Mousepaw

Josh April 11th, 2012

Hi Mousepaw,

I’m replying to your inquiry on both the My Pet Chicken blog and your blog. We have some good info on broody hens on the following blog posts:

http://blog.mypetchicken.com/2012/02/01/what-is-a-broody-hen/

http://blog.mypetchicken.com/2012/02/15/your-hen-is-broody-now-what/

As for combs freezing, it is best to use a petroleum based product. Water based lotions will only make the freezing worse. I use vaseline which is easy to find at grocery stores. Avoid Vicks due to its menthol vapors (makes the eyes water).

If you want to get a hen to quit being broody the best way I’ve found is to temporarily house her in a different coop with a wire mesh floor (hardware cloth, also known as hail screen, works best). You will also want to gather the eggs daily, or twice daily if possible. Eventually between you taking the eggs and the slight discomfort from setting on the wire will typically cause a hen to quit being broody for awhile.

Good luck!

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