PHOTO: Carrie Miller
My family was moving home, and we—myself, my husband, and our son and daughter—couldn’t have been more excited. We were headed back to the country where we belonged, with more farm animals than people, no red lights to be spoken of and no big-box stores in sight. Cornfields grow across from our new house with cows next door, and only 10 houses remain on this perfect country road. With 7 acres and a home unlike any other, this was our happiest moment in a long time. We were in our own little slice of heaven.
As we adjusted to our new way of life, we headed to the farm-supply store to grab a few things for the garden. At the store, we could hear chicks peeping from every corner just waiting to find new homes. Unfortunately, we went home empty-handed and a little sad. However, on our way out, my husband suggested that we do some research, so we purchased Hobby Farms: Guide to Chicken Breeds. As much as it pains me to say, my husband was right: We needed to research chickens before we jumped in with both feet.
When we got home, I was so excited to read the magazine that I read through it twice! I was surprised how much there was to learn about the different breeds. I spent the next few days with highlighters and pens marking each breed in the magazine that I thought would be a good choice for us. It really came down to three breeds that I thought would be great for our needs and climate: Brahmas, Australorps and Orpingtons.
Armed with this information, I began calling every farm-supply store within an hour’s drive from our home asking if they had these breeds available. I would call weekly and sometimes even daily to see what they had available. I called enough that I started to know the names of some of the employees. Finally, I found Brahmas and Australorps. We arrived at the store with the understanding that we would only get six chickens: three Brahmas and three Australorps. We ending up purchasing 12: six Buff Orpington pullets, four Australorp straight-runs and two Brahma straight-runs. This, I now know, is what they call chicken math.
We set up a brooder in the garage, and we were instant chicken farmers. Looking back on that moment, I cringe over how little we actually knew. A few days later, we had to go get more chicken feed and we returned home with six Leghorn pullets. (Oh, how I love chicken math!) To house our growing flock, my husband and son built a large Quaker-style chicken coop from solid rough-cut lumber.
As our birds grew, they each received a name, and we patiently waited for them to start laying. In the fall, we acquired some retired show chickens—a few Polish hens and a Silkie—from a friend of a friend who was downsizing their chicken flock.
Fast forward to 2016: We now have more than 100 chickens. How did this happen? Of course, some was by chicken math, some were rescues, some were cool breeds that we just had to purchase, some were meat chickens and some we incubated ourselves.
I am so glad we moved home, and I can’t even imagine life without all these chickens. Who would have thought three years ago that this would be my life today? Certainly not me, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
This article appeared in the September/October issue of Chickens.