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Getting Started with Chickens

I live in a small town southwest of Oklahoma City, but originally I’m from Dallas, so I’m more familiar with fashion and makeup trends than I am with a farm and chickens. My first experience with chickens was several years ago on my mother-in-law’s ranch in East Texas, unless you count eating chicken. She ordered some Rhode Island Reds, which at the time I had no idea what that meant. I certainly wasn’t aware

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We inherited our first birds when we moved into our current home on an acre. And we were told they were Leghorns, and were supposed to be good layers. So we were excited. There we were, just getting started with chickens.

I live in a small town southwest of Oklahoma City with my family. But originally I’m from Dallas. Therefore, I was more familiar with fashion and makeup trends than with a farm and chickens.

brown chicken
Photo by Maxine Novick on Pexels.com

Furthermore, my first experience with chickens was several years ago on my mother-in-law’s ranch in East Texas. Unless you count eating chicken. She ordered some Rhode Island Reds, which at the time, I had no idea what that meant. I certainly wasn’t aware of all the breeds out there. Or that I would end up having my very own flock.

Getting Started: First Steps

To say we were unprepared is a gross understatement. We had no feed, no waterers or feeders. And we didn’t have a coop either. But at least we had a fence around our half-acre backyard. That was something. Plus, my husband was, at the time, busy working as a fireman/EMT.

Thus, with his schedule, and lack of immediate funds from buying our house, we decided to make do with a temporary shelter. We made sure there was good ventilation, a roof, and that the shelter would keep them dry. Also, it kept critters from getting them. However it was nothing like our birds have today. It was just an emergency shelter.

Getting feed, waterers, and feeders was the easy part. And once we had the temporary shelter in place, along with their necessities, we put the chickens in their shelter.

The Chickens: Not What We Expected

white hen on the ground
Our first hen Natalie was actually a broiler.

It was maybe 2 or 3 days after we got the chickens that we noticed they didn’t seem to do anything. None of them did anything. Except if you consider laying down an activity.

We didn’t so much as inherit the eight chickens as someone my husband worked with gifted them to us. And the local feed store, where he lived, told him the birds were Leghorns.

Well, shortly thereafter, we did some reading and educated ourselves. Then soon discovered that what we had were not, in fact, Leghorns at all. They were broilers!

After the kids recovered from their disappointment of having named the birds, we changed their diet to what they were supposed to eat. And three months later might have signaled the end of that adventure. But in the time we had with our lazy, fat broilers, my daughters and I learned some things about chickens. And some things about our meat chickens too.

We soon realized that most of them were cockerels, who I might add, wouldn’t live to see adulthood. Although there was one pullet in the mix that we were determined to save from her fate. So we called her Natalie.

Our chickens, such as they were, liked to sit or lie in the shade at the fence-line that separates our neighbor’s property from ours. In addition, our neighbor has a couple of dogs, cats, goats, etc. So one day, when all but Natalie and one cockerel were gone, one of my neighbor’s dogs was busy digging under the fence to get at the broilers.

Natalie was smart for a broiler; smart and different. She didn’t stay in the shade at the fence. She would walk around the property and stop sometimes to look at the chickens on the other side of our property. So when the neighbor’s dog attacked, she got up and ran for cover (as much as a broiler can run), while her brother got snatched under the fence and perished.

Cream colorful cream Legbar rooster on ground
This is our first official rooster, Casanova, a cream Legbar.

Getting Started: Layer Breeds

Our neighbor felt very bad about the loss of our last meat bird. Therefore, he vowed to repay us for our loss with another rooster.

small white chicken egg on ground near white hen
Natalie and her first egg.

Natalie laid her very first egg during the few months that we waited for our new rooster. And she continued to make her rounds around the half-acre.

Before the new rooster arrived, we had a real coop for the couple. And we were definitely prepared unlike with our first birds.

The new rooster was a short little thing, compared to other roosters I’ve seen and had, but very colorful with beautiful tail feathers. For a while we had no idea what breed Casanova was. When I asked my neighbor for incubating purposes, he guessed at game hen. But then I saw pictures of birds like him, along with his progeny, so it’s no longer a mystery.

Being a broiler, Natalie was a lot bigger than Casanova. Therefore, it was interesting to watch them together, especially at first. They seemed to get along. And our first experience with a rooster overall was not a bad one. Though that started to change when we got chicks.

Casanova and Natalie in their coop at night.

I now have over 30 chickens, 7 ducks, 2 of which are broody with 0ver 20 eggs between them. And one broody hen, while I’m currently incubating 60 chicken eggs.

How did you get into chicken keeping? Your comments are appreciated.

By KS

I breed pure Black Ameraucana chickens and Easter Eggers that are Black Ameraucana mixed with either Cuckoo Maran or Barred Rock. And I donate eggs to people or organizations in need.

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