Several years ago we had a large assortment of poultry, but over the years the flock had dwindled until we were down to a rooster and four hens that were all about seven years old, and a lone drake.
We decided we were ready to get some new birds, so we went to the feed store with a mental shopping list. There’s just something about the peeping of baby birds and, well, we got a little carried away. After we had picked out all that we wanted, the breeder gave us a few large handfuls of baby bantams as freebies. (Bantams are small chickens). We returned home with four geese, three ducks, seven guineas, four turkeys, and at least forty chickens of various breeds and sizes!
We had a giant round livestock tank that, being blue and 8′ in diameter, strongly resembled a child’s wading pool. My husband used his tractor to put it in our garage where we used it as a temporary brooder for all of those birds. We lost one chick that first night but the rest thrived. We had forgotten how quickly they start to smell. Over the course of two weeks the odor grew stronger until it started to pervade our home. It became unbearable!
We had a “shack” in the chicken yard that we prepared as best we could to house the chickens and their peeps because we had to get them out of our garage. My husband reinforced it to protect them from snakes and drafts, added fresh shavings and a heat lamp. Our daughter was nice enough to help me catch birds and we put them in boxes and made several trips back and forth between the garage and shack. It was so wonderful to have them relocated and be able to clean out our garage!
That night it stormed and, unfortunately, some rain dripped through the tin roof, shattering the heat lamp. As a result, three of the chicks got wet and cold, and died. My husband made more repairs, put a tarp over the roof, replaced the heat lamp bulb and added a second heat lamp, and everything went well after that.
Free at Last
The geese grew like dinosaurs in comparison to the bantam chicks which didn’t seem to grow at all. We decided it was time to open the door of their shack and let them come and go freely in the fenced chicken yard.
I stayed out there with them for awhile. It didn’t take long for the goslings and ducklings to come bouncing out into the greenery. They soon found a patch of clover and settled into it. It took quite awhile for some of the others to venture out, but finally half the turkeys, all the guineas, and a few chicks found their way over the threshold and started exploring. I had worried that our geriatric chickens might bully the newcomers, but they didn’t.
Country Girl Initiation
The new flock reminded me of the first chickens that we got about ten years earlier. Our kids were young, and we handled the chicks a lot, so several of them were pretty tame. There was one in particular, named Esmerelda, that was a gold Sebright banty hen. When I went out to tend the flock, Esmerelda often flew up to perch on my shoulder, or when I squatted down she’d hop up on the back of my waistband. One day the kids brought her into the house because she was acting funny – she wouldn’t stand up. I held her in my lap to look her over and see if I could figure out what was wrong. I didn’t have any idea, but she laid there quietly so I stroked her and talked to her. All of a sudden she stood up and laid an egg in my lap! That was a turning point in my life. I had started my transformation into a country girl.
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