Gardening · Homesteading

The Pandemic Poultry Story

You ever wake up and freak out that YOU MUST HAVE CHICKENS NOW or life will be off kilter? That was me in March of this year. It just clicked into my mind that we needed to make a decision quickly and quit sitting on the fence about farm animals. I contacted my egg lady, Jessica, and asked her to hatch me some chickens and she set out on that. Now then, that takes time of course. It was nearly a month before these came home:

So there I was…standing in Tractor Supply with a dozen Pekin Ducks for a $1 each, wondering if I had lost it. While waiting for the chickens to even be chickens.

Just remember….those cute little things grow up to be this:

Pool parties and eating fresh veggies daily.

But nah, they are a lot of fun and we have enjoyed them so much. Ducks have personalities! However….as it comes with all poultry we had to start culling drakes, and found a home for 4 of them, leaving us with 3 more (and 5 hens out of 12!). The ducks started laying eggs this week, at 17 weeks. One in particular loves building nests.

I have found they are great for when I am cleaning the gardens. Just toss it over. If they don’t eat it, well, the wild rabbits will. They love carrot tops, gone to seed lettuce, green beans, beet tops. It’s a cheap way to supplement their tummies and to use a lot less commercial feed.

And you get very large eggs. They range from 50 to 95 grams!

But back to those chickens. They came home and grew. I was however anxious using heat lamps on them. I just don’t like them. So I started researching how do off grid folks raise chickens in say…..Alaska? Well, they don’t use lamps and the chickens survive. Since mine were late spring, our house was holding at 67* in the small bathroom they were living in. I used a small safe heater if it got really low at night. But they fared well and started sleeping on a good schedule. And they feathered faster. By the start of Week 5 I was done with having poultry in our house, and they were moved out to their coop in the gardens.

So tiny then, but growing fast.

3 of them would become roosters eventually. And all 3 had to be put down. 1 was violent to my kids, the other 2 were trying to kill 2 of the hens. Culling them wasn’t easy, but we did it humanely and with respect to them. Once the roosters were gone we noticed the hens relaxed and were healthier.

The first of the hens produced her first egg at just past 15 weeks. The other 4 have not yet, but they will get there.

Meanwhile….I ended up with other hens due to adopting them.

First came Myrtle and Byrtle, but sadly within a week Myrtle showed she had a bad infection from Strike Flies. We had to put her down as she was in very bad shape. Her hen mate Byrtle was fine and healthy thankfully. Not long after an old friend approached me with 1 year old hens that needed a new home and Byrtle got new friends: Color, Cupcake and Sunny. Those 3 are pets and love human interaction, which the boys love. All 4 are good egg producers and good at keeping the orchard bug free.

We built two separate fenced areas for the coops, due to the age differences, but also the older hens coming in unknown disease wise.

Did I go overboard? Maybe, but I enjoy it overall. The spring gave me the kick to finally jump in. Mostly the work load is low, and it gets me to go outside and stretch, to take care of them. I’ve learned a lot about what to do and not to do. And the long game is finally paying off with all those eggs!