Iâ€™m admittedly a crazy chicken lady. I swear itâ€™s in my DNA. Iâ€™m adopted, and Iâ€™ve always been drawn to chickens and farm life even though I was raised in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. Thankfully, my husband, Gary, and I escaped to the country when we were raising our three children. Thatâ€™s where our wild Ohio chicken adventures began.Â
Strikes One & Two
We tried to raise our first batch of day-old white Leghorns from a local feed-supply store. It was spectacular â€¦ until a raccoon found our do-it-yourself pallet coop and slaughtered all six of our young pullets.
Our second try was half-hearted. I noticed our neighbors had ducklings and one baby chick in their barn. So I inquired about them and was offered the chance to have them.Â
We took two of the mallards and the solo chick and raised them for about 12 weeks. Unfortunately, our unknown-breed pullet ended up as a foxâ€™s main entree one evening. So my family said enough is enough, no more raising chickens.
We were heartbroken at yet another loss of a sweet-feathered friend.
When 2020 came around, Iâ€™d been considering a third go-round with chickens. Once the pandemic hit, I was determined it was now or never. On my wedding anniversary, I told my husband all I wanted was a secure coop and some chickens. I just wanted to get to the laying phase!
Funny enough, years ago I tracked down my birth parents, and I learned that my motherâ€™s side was from Slovakia and were chicken farmers! I could do this!Â
I found a hatchery based in Ohio that I could order chickens from online and decided to roll the dice. We ordered 10 hatchery-choice rare breeds, heritage breeds, brown layers and rainbow assorted, along with my picks of a partridge Rock, two Dominiques and a barred Plymouth Rock rooster.Â
I was so excited to drive the 42 minutes to meet my day-old hatchlings! I wanted my babies the day they hatched. My kids and I were thrilled to get these brand-new babies! My husband built me a Fort Knox coop. And weâ€™ve been having an amazing time thus far.
The hatchery gave us some amazing chickens and even added two freebies.Â
- Dumpling: a white Leghorn thatâ€™s the highest in the pecking order and my No. 1 layerÂ
- Tuck: a docile and sweet white CochinÂ
- Nugget: freebie No. 1, one of two buff OrpingtonsÂ
- Mango: freebie No. 2, the other buff OrpingtonÂ
- Turbo: a family favorite Welsummer that lays beautiful brown, speckled eggs
- Nutmeg: a stunningly beautiful partridge Rock, and a dependable layerÂ
- Stella: a true blue Cochin thatâ€™s the biggest, most gorgeous hen we have and very kind
- Sammi (short for â€śSam I amâ€ť): a shy green Queen that was hard to identify because of her feathered legs, black feathers, five toes and late developing beard/muffs and pea combÂ
- Mica: one of two Dominiques
- Flick: the other Dominique
- Lava: a barred Plymouth Rock that is easy to differentiate with the feathering and comb
- Stephen: a great barred Plymouth Rock rooster
Read more: Check out these all-American chicken breeds!
Recipe for Success
We live on 22 acres of wooded property. And itâ€™s been amazing to spend time watching, studying and learning everything chicken.
Iâ€™ve learned that white Leghorns, with proper handling when young, arenâ€™t flighty and are mad foragers; that chickens love, love, love scrambled eggs; and that happy hens truly will lay all winter!
My flocks eats high-quality feed, has access to free-choice grit and oyster shell, and gets a smorgasbord of treats, including:
- scrambled eggs
- dried fruit
- black soldier fly larvae
- sunflower meats
I also make them fresh â€śmagic water,â€ť five days a week. This consists of:
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cloves of minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon blackstrap molasses
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (from the mother)
I just mix it all together in a gallon of water.
Happy, Healthy Ohio Chickens
My flock has plenty of access to freedom outdoors with a guard rooster, a guard dog and a human on patrol, as well as proper dust-bathing areas. I even use essential oils in their nesting boxes inside the coop.Â
The results are a happy, healthy flock of chickens here in Ohio that provides me with unbelievable and amazing eggs. I give dozens away, and people marvel at the size, color and shell thickness, along with how rich the yolks are.
Iâ€™ve had quite a lot of time to bond with my new feathered friends, and I couldnâ€™t pick just one. Theyâ€™re all gorgeous, friendly and unique! Every family should own at least three chickens, for eggs and meat as well as for teaching responsibility, kindness and relaxation.Â
Michelle Jester thanks her husband, Gary, for encouraging her backyard pandemic hobby gone wild and for continually working on the coop and run.Â
This article originally appeared in the September/October 2021 issue ofÂ ChickensÂ magazine.