Chicken Chat: Growing A Joyful, Fancy Flock

Chickens filled a void left by the loss of Stella M's beloved cat, leading this young chicken-keeper to start flocks for herself and others.

by Chicken Chat
PHOTO: images by Stella M.

One day in October 2014, my family’s beloved cat passed away. We spent nearly two years mourning the loss before we discovered a new pet: chickens! We researched their care and supplies they needed before building a coop from scratch in our backyard. It took us a month to complete, and then we adopted two full-grown hens: Janet and Henny Penny. We had no idea that chickens would be so amazing and fun. Both hens brought so much joy to our lives for many years. 

Henny Penny ended up outliving Janet, and we bought three more chicks: Sweetie (a Black Australorp), Zippy (a Silver Laced Wyandotte) and Cocoa (an Ameraucana). They grew up to be well behaved except for Cocoa. She chased everyone! We gave her away to a loving home where she spent the rest of her loving days. Henny Penny had an excellent life and passed away from old age. We are very grateful she accompanied us for such a long time. At that time, we were down to two chickens that were (and still are) inseparable. 

Out of This World

After Henny Penny passed, we got two chicks on the same day that Perseverance, NASA’s Mars rover, landed on the red planet. In honor of that historic event, we named the New Hampshire Red, Perseverance (Percy), and the Ameraucana, Luna. 

A year later and our flock was getting along great. However, I wanted to raise chicks on my own that other chicken-lovers could “adopt,” so I purchased four chicks and all their supplies with my own money. I picked a Rhode Island Red (Ginger), a Buff Orpington (Buffy), a Golden Laced Wyandotte (Dotty) and an Ameraucana (Lou). 

I thought I was raising four girls until realizing that Lou was a boy! I wouldn’t have minded too much if we lived in the country. But we live in the city, so Lou had to go to his adopted family sooner. He now lives on a big farm. 

Subscribe now

With one rooster out of the way, there came another, Buffy. I had the strongest bond with Buffy from the start. Buffy would do a rooster dance every time he saw me. A rooster dance (aka tidbitting) is a dance roosters do to show affection to their owners or hens. One time he even dug up an earthworm and gave it to me. 

I tried everything to keep him, even putting a rooster collar on him. But it didn’t work. A couple weeks went by, and it was time to say goodbye to Buffy. He currently lives on the same farm as Lou.

Dotty suddenly looked very sick. She was the oldest out of the four but extremely tiny for her breed. Never in six years have I ever seen a standard chicken her age that was so small. Her face was white, not the normal pinkish red, and she didn’t have a comb. Dotty passed away naturally in our arms. Our friend even tried to do CPR on her, but it didn’t work. We presume that she was born with an illness that made it difficult for her to grow.   

 Sour Experiences

While chicken-keeping is fun and exciting, you also must deal with sick or injured chickens. Let’s face it: That is difficult. A lot of people would just take the bird to the vet, but a lot of the time you still end up with a dead bird. 

We had that problem when our New Hampshire Red, Percy, got sick with sour crop. Sour crop is terrible to treat, and the smell is awful! We had to force her to throw up whatever was troubling her stomach, fast for a day and no water for 12 hours. We also isolated her for a couple days so we could keep an eye on her. 

When she was able to eat again, we gave her fermented (soaked) feed and let her recover. Don’t worry. She’s still alive and perfectly well!

Chickens are fun animals to have and are constantly looking to explore. Buff Orpingtons are my favorite breed because of Buffy and Henny Penny. For people who are just getting into the hobby, I recommend Australorps, Rhode Island Reds and Orpingtons. They are hardy and docile breeds that are great to start with. Also, if all goes wrong and you can’t get the breed you want, you can’t go wrong with Orpingtons. 

Stella M. (age 11) lives in California. 

This article originally appeared in the Nov./Dec. 2023 issue of Chickens magazine. Have a great story about your flock? Email the story of your birds in ~750 words to (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)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *