In 2012, Desert Daughter and I drove 20 miles to a chicken farm to pick out some future egg layers. Chicks are so cute and it was hard to put a limit to what we brought home. All I knew was we would have no white chickens. I have memories of plucking white chickens at my aunt’s about 35 years ago. The odor of wet feathers is something I can still smell today! My adult logic tells me color has nothing to do with the smell and my chickens’ feathers would probably smell just as bad if they were wet and getting plucked. However, I had no current plans to butcher these chickens. And if I did…I’d probably hire someone to do it. I’m not ready for that part of the homestead dream yet.
Two Ameracaunas, two black sex-links, and two brown sex-links made the final cut and came home with us in a box. Both colors of the sex-links looked the same and were hard to tell apart. The Ameracuanas were different colors. One was white/gray and reminded me of a pigeon. The other was brown and had feathers that I thought resembled a quail’s. We put the four day old chicks in a large plastic tote with a heat lamp and put them in their new home in the garage. Since it was only April, we had several weeks before they could move outside. This gave my husband time to get that chicken coop built. I knew if I waited to get chickens until the coop was built…I might be waiting for the cows to come home. And we don’t even have cows…yet!
It was fun and exciting to constantly check on the chicks. They were growing so fast. The day finally came when they could move into their new digs. The chicks weren’t in their new coop for very long when something happened to Dave (the white Ameracauna). She was laying around with a bad leg. I’m not sure what happened since she was fine in the plastic tote. We returned her to the tote for a chance to get better. Unfortunately she never got better and passed into chick heaven.
As a side note, all the chicks were given names by my kids. The Ameracaunas were the only names I could remember.
The chicks started laying eggs later that summer. We only got a few eggs. It was such a good feeling to gather the eggs that were provided by our hens. I researched several websites for information on taking care of chickens in the winter. I decided not to prolong the daylight for our hens to fool them into being productive in the winter months. It felt right to me to let nature take its course and give the hens a resting period in the winter. The first winter, we concentrated on keeping them warm and keeping their water from freezing.
We used the same heat lamp that we had used when they were chicks. We ran an extension cord to the coop—which was close to an outlet. I bought an aquarium heater to keep their water from freezing even though the folks at the pet store advised against it. We never did get the aquarium heater hooked up and ended up resorting to constantly knocking the ice out of the water dish. As we’ve gotten more experience in the last few years, we’ve resorted to using a dog water bowl that plugs in and keeps the water above freezing.
© 2016 by Marge Fox