From time to time I will be publishing posts from guest authors whose writings I think will interest people. Of course, all opinions and assertions in these posts belong solely to the authors and do not necessarily agree with mine. Please direct your praise and criticism to the author. — rjb
Today’s guest author is Laird Smith
Before I begin on my story, allow me to mention that this article is published with gratitude to the Green Comet website. The publisher, Jim Bowering, is also an author who has written a most intriguing series under the Green Comet name. I would encourage you to read them.
There is much being said about chickens these days, raising chickens that is. Not just raising them on a farm but raising them in town in individuals’ back yards. I grew up on a tree fruit farm where my parents also raised chickens for eggs and for meat.
Every spring my father bought 24 Leghorn chicks, all females. We had a pen near our house so we could monitor them easily. The pen was cat proofed because once a stray killed almost every chick in the pen. When the killing started, the cat was overcome with excitement and bloodlust as terrified chicks darted here and there until only the hidden ones were safe. The next day my shocked father removed the live chicks and left the dead ones where they lay. He then set a trap for the chick killer while leaving the forced entry open. The next day yielded a feral cat. My father dealt with the animal and he made double sure the pen was secure from that day on.
We bought more baby chicks for a total of 24. They grew fast into pullets. As soon as they started laying eggs they were moved into the adult chicken pen. This pen had an outdoor chicken run as well as an indoor roosting house with a third of the building having cubicles in which the hens laid their eggs. The eggs were collected twice every day, once in the morning during the first feeding and in the afternoon because sometimes they returned to a cubicle to lay an egg. Sometimes we had to reach under a hen to collect the eggs while she was waiting for the one she was going to lay. The number of daily eggs collected was between two and three dozen. We ate some ourselves and sold what we couldn’t eat.
The adults didn’t lay eggs every day like the pullets did. Some of the adult hens — broody chickens they are known as — got the idea that they wanted to raise a family. They would sit on those unfertilized eggs and cackle. They were so loud they could be heard from the family farm house which was 150 meters away. That was a signal to us that we were going to have chicken dinner soon, for there was no way to dissuade those chickens from sitting on their eggs. They refused to lay any more and would peck anyone coming near their nests. For those wanting to raise chickens in town, you are going to encounter broody chickens. Think of your neighbors 150 meters around you. What are they going to think about your cackling hens?
The Leghorns were the best layers, however, if they saw one speck of blood on another chicken, they would peck that bird to death.
Our chickens were fed a mash pellet — wheat grain and oyster shell which strengthened their egg shells. They always had a pail of water in the fenced chicken run as well as a pail in the roosting house. As a treat, we fed them table scraps which they loved! They always had the run of the land where the fruit trees grew. We released them to forage at 10am, after they had finished laying their eggs. The wheat was served at their 5pm meal. To call the chickens in, we would loudly bang a tin can on the side of the feed storage hut. They would come running from all directions, some even flying briefly in their haste to arrive in the speediest fashion to feast on the grain. It was served in the chicken run so when they were finished they could either go roost or go and forage some more. The older ones went to roost and the younger ones departed to forage.
After dark, one of our family members would go and close up the pen to make it secure for the night. Sometimes the pullets chose to sleep in the fruit trees instead of the roosting house. Using a broom handle, we poked them out of the trees and made them go into the chicken run, and then made sure all the gates were closed. The next day the cycle started all over again.