ANN BAILEY: Singing the praises of chickensLast winter, one of my plans for the spring season was to buy some young laying hens to add some young blood to my mom’s aging chicken flock. Her 20 chickens are 6 years old, a pretty advanced age for layers, and production had dropped off, so I figured we could get a few new hens to increase our egg numbers. I have a lot of friends who enjoy farm-fresh eggs, so I wanted to collect at least a dozen a day.
Last winter, one of my plans for the spring season was to buy some young laying hens to add some young blood to my mom’s aging chicken flock.
Her 20 chickens are 6 years old, a pretty advanced age for layers, and production had dropped off, so I figured we could get a few new hens to increase our egg numbers. I have a lot of friends who enjoy farm-fresh eggs, so I wanted to collect at least a dozen a day.
I didn’t get around to contacting anyone this spring, but in mid-summer was going to talk to a farmer in northwest Minnesota about getting a dozen or so new hens when a friend asked if we would like three chickens that his daughter had raised for a 4-H project. I told him we would be happy to take the chickens and assured his daughter that the chickens, which had become like pets to her, would have a good home.
Feeling at home
I didn’t know exactly how my mom’s old girls would react to the young chicks, but was glad when they didn’t react much when the friend and his family delivered them. The hens showed the new layers who were the bosses by cackling and flapping their wings when they got too close to the feed pans, but other than that, didn’t pay a lot of attention to them. We spread the feed pans far apart so the young chickens didn’t have to compete for food, and within a few weeks, they were part of the flock.
About six weeks after we got the three new chickens, another friend asked if we wanted her seven chickens, which were a variety of breeds including, bantam, Sebright and silkie. I told her we would be happy to take them, and a couple of weeks later we got another chicken delivery.
It took the new gals a little while to be accepted, but once the pecking order was established, they too, became a part of the flock. The trio and the seven still stick pretty close to one another, though. Two or three of the group of seven like to sleep together in a nest at night and the rest roost next to one another. Meanwhile, the first three we got still march around the chicken yard together and also perch next to one another on the roost at night.
With the addition of the new chickens our egg production has increased by several a week, averaging about a dozen a day. The eggs are all shapes and range in size from extra-small to extra-jumbo. They also come in a variety of colors, including dark brown, green and tan. All of them taste good, and, to me, are much better than the ones from factory-raised hens.
Besides enjoying the taste of the eggs, I like knowing that they come from chickens that are well-taken care of and can run around outside hunting for bugs during the day and be safe in a roomy, well-built coop at night.
Although we had chickens during all the years growing up on the farm — my mom has had layers since the early 1950s, — it was only until the last few years when I started helping her take care of them that I really began to enjoy them and to appreciate their cheeriness. Forty below, or 90 above, they’re always singing. Meanwhile, they’re easy to take care of and about as low-maintenance of a creature as you can have.
Judging by the number of stories I’ve read about backyard chicken farmers in urban areas, I’m not the only one singing the praises of chickens. Sixty years after my mom started raising them, other people have realized that chickens are chic poultry.