Over the past year, a lot of people have had to take up new hobbies and change career paths. Some people have taken to urban farming as a therapeutic pass time. I recently had an opportunity to do this first hand. I was tasked with taking charge of chickens for a short time and eventually would like to make this a full-time gig. I have been in love with chickens for a long time and was so happy to be able to get a couple of practice weeks in. I started this chicken sitting job with 7 grown, live chickens. All of which lay eggs and require a lot of care. They weren’t familiar with me so I had to get them used to me being the food giver and egg gatherer. This was helped with lots of treats and talking to these animals like they were my children.
Every morning was started with trekking down to the coop and inspecting it for damage that might have occurred overnight by predators looking for a bite to eat. No damage meant that all of the ladies were still in good health, which was a huge relief. I then opened the coop door and they would all single file out onto the property. The first few days they would all go their separate ways, foraging for bugs and water. I would then make the journey back up to the main house and open up the feed bin to give them breakfast. It didn’t take these ladies long to figure out that when I was walking up to the feed bin following me was the best option. They love dehydrated mealworms and roaches. I had to overcome plunging my hand into this 5-gallon bag of bugs. It turned out to be worth it, they loved it so much that they came right up to me and even let me pet them. Animals are completely food motivated and so it became easier to make friends with them after they all realized that I was the bug giver.
They would all trot right along beside me clucking and bocking at me. I finally named them just for clarity for myself. I have no idea what the protocol is for chicken-sitting other people’s unnamed chickens. I just needed to tell them apart. So, I gave all 7 hens names. I had Brownie, Noir, Tailwind, Floppy, Red, Spot, and Fluffy Butt. They were so sweet. I spent so long talking to them and slowly moving their feed closer to me as I talked to them so they would come closer and be comfortable with me. After I fed them for the day and let them roam and do what they wanted, I would go hunt for the eggs that they had laid. There were several places made for them all over the property. I carried the egg basket around collecting the numerous eggs everywhere.
In the evenings they would all make their way down to the coop area and file back in to roost for the night. This flock was very predictable and well-behaved. 7 in the evening rolled around and they would all move down to the coop area and get ready to settle down for the night. They would all go in one by one and hop onto their perches. Doing the final count before closing the door was what made me the most anxious about the whole situation.
It took me a few days to not be paranoid about letting them run loose on the farm and be unattended. I was really scared of losing one or a predator getting a hold of them. We were out in the middle of the woods with who knows what all is out there looking for a nugget. I already knew that we had seen bears, coyotes, hawks, eagles, and bobcats where we were.
One of the last nights that they were in my charge I was waiting for all of them to file into the coop like they predictably do every evening. One of them was missing. I was horrified. I scoured the property and there was no sign of her. It was getting darker and I still hadn’t seen her. I decided to shut the coop door and camped on the front porch waiting for her to come back. I had no idea that chickens get broody and sometimes find other places to sleep. Trees, high brush piles, on roofs, I did some research and felt a little more optimistic about her not being in the coop for the night.
The following morning I went and let the ladies out and fed them. I figured that I would see the lost one during the day. I was wandering the property and still hadn’t seen Fluffy Butt, being optimistic about the situation I was not prepared for what I saw that evening. The grass has overgrown around the property and it would be very easy for anything with teeth and claws to hide. Around the beehives that are also on the property, there is tall grass. This hen must have wandered away by herself in the late afternoon, looking for a place to brood. I found beautiful grey feathers behind the beehives. I was heartbroken. It was Fluffy Butt feathers. All of the rest of the flock is currently safe and happy. I have noticed though that they have been sticking closer together lately.
These hens have taught me that I do want to raise chickens and take care of them like little fluffy obstinate children. I love these chickens and I will keep updated about different aspects of my Urban Farming experiences.