In early 2021, my family was thinking about getting some pet chickens for eggs. Every weekend, we would go to farm-supply stores for supplies. We even had a custom coop built by a local builder. In April, we got our first Rhode Island Red hens: Phoenix, Joe, Eater, Daisy, Big Bird, Karen, Popcorn, Angela, Suni and Jeffrey. The breeder said they were roughly 2 years old, but we believed they were older.
These hens were the sweetest birds I had ever met. They would hear me coming outside and immediately start “talking.” I spent hours hanging out with them, taking care of them in the morning and night and daydreaming about them during school (especially during math!).
However, most passed away within a year or two. We currently only have two left: Big Bird (more on her later) and Daisy.
My brother, Carson, and I kept researching new chicken breeds and really wanted a rooster and some more hens. We found a lady selling two Black Australorp hens, one Rhode Island Red hen, one Easter Egger hen and an Easter Egger rooster. She was moving and didn’t want to transport them.
By that fall, it was time for more chickens! I purchased some chicks at a farm-supply store with my own money: two Speckled Sussex, which is one of my favorite breeds; four Sapphire Gems; and two brown Easter Eggers. The chicks lived in the back of our horse trailer with a heat lamp in a plastic pool lined with bedding.
Every time I buy chickens, I get more creative with breeds. This round of birds was one of the sweetest but sassiest. This was my first time with chicks, and I really discovered my love for these tiny little creatures. I just loved checking on them, hanging out with them and hearing their little peeps.
Ever since 2018, Carson and I have been involved in 4-H, and we’re just starting to show chickens. One of our club leaders asked us if we would like to add a few baby chicks to their order. I excitedly started researching the best breeds to show and decided on a Golden Laced Wyandotte. (To anybody who wants sweet birds to start your flock, choose these! They’re the nicest birds and my favorites!) and a Plymouth Rock. Carson chose a White Leghorn and a Buff Orpington. (These two breeds are also super sweet, and I totally recommend them as well!)
Well, the hatchery messed up the order and didn’t send a Plymouth Rock but instead sent two Black Stars. Although I was sad and disappointed, I am now thankful that they messed up the order because my two Black Stars are such outgoing birds. Every time I walk into the coop, they run up and greet me.
In early August, Carson and I took our birds to the fair. I showed my Golden Laced Wyandotte, Greta, in the showmanship class and the pullet class. She behaved very well and placed third. I also showed my Speckled Sussex hen, Chika, placing fourth.
My birds stayed the week at the fair. They loved the extra attention, but by the end, they were ready to get back home and see their friends.
In early June, we decided to add some ducks to our flock and settled for four Muscovies. Muscovy ducks are the closest ducks to a chicken and get along great.
They are very odd because they don’t quack. Instead, they hiss and growl, and red bumps grow all over their head. They sometimes frighten the chickens, but they just really want to be friends.
One of my original chickens, Big Bird, kept getting bullied. Her coop mates would even rip her feathers out. I knew I would eventually have to do something.
One day when I got home from school, Big Bird was sitting in the nesting box with her head gushing blood and her flesh showing. My mom and I took her into our basement and put her in a cat carrier. I visited her every day and came to realize there was something special about this small, hopeless, old hen.
We soon moved her into our shed into a dog kennel, where she loves spending time. Her head healed perfectly, which I am very thankful for. She also sometimes hangs out with her bestie, Daisy. Big Bird is the first chicken that I really bonded with. I hope she has a smooth future and an easy rest of her life.
I love my chickens more and more every day. This spring, I plan on getting more chicks: a Buff Cochin (this will be my first Cochin and I’m thrilled!), a red laced Blue Wyandotte and a Silver Spangled Hamburg.
For any new chicken owners, my advice is to start with older chickens. They are way less maintenance than chicks, they produce eggs right away, and they’re extremely sweet.
Malia F. lives in Prescott, Wisconsin. She prefers cold-hardy breeds with sweet dispositions. This article originally appeared in the May/June 2023 issue of Chickens magazine. Have a great story about your flock? Email the story of your birds in ~750 words to firstname.lastname@example.org (subject line: Chicken Chat). Be sure to include high-resolution images of yourself, your chickens and/or your coop. The author of each issue’s published essay receives a prize from one of our ad partners. (See print magazine for rules. Sponsor: EG Media Investments LLC)
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2023 issue of Chickens magazine. Have a great story about your flock? Email the story of your birds in ~750 words to email@example.com (subject line: Chicken Chat). Be sure to include high-resolution images of yourself, your chickens and/or your coop. The author of each issue’s published essay receives a prize from one of our ad partners. (See print magazine for rules. Sponsor: EG Media Investments LLC)