Having pet chickens isn't always fine and dandy. There are rare occasions where I walk up to the coop and find a sick hen sitting in the corner. That's when I whip out my chicken med kit to try to nurse the chicken back to health. But that doesn't always work.
Chicken med kit
I remember the first chicken that ever died at my hen house. Her name was Courtney (why I named her that, I do not know…I was 4 when I named her), and I found her dead in one of the boxes the hens lay eggs in. I was really upset, so we had a little funeral for her. My grandparents came, and my grandma’s friend Audrey brought flowers to lay on the grave. Remember, I was only four. It was a really sad time for me.
Gravesite for Chicken Little
The absolute worst part of owning chickens is trying to hatch out peeps with a real mother hen instead of an incubator. I distinctly remember when I was in fourth grade, I had my first clutch of eggs under Holly, a cute little black hen. It was early in the morning, and my dad went up to check on the hatching chicks (I was in bed sleeping). He came back in the house, woke me up, and told me a chick had hatched, but it fell out of the box and didn't make it. Holding a little lifeless chick in my hand was (and still is) one of the worst feelings I've ever had.
Just this past summer, I was letting Ruthie try her hand at motherhood. She was a devoted little mama hen, and sat on those 5 eggs for three weeks. By the end of those three weeks, only two eggs were left (the others either rotted or were broken). One of her eggs was hatching, so I put up a barrier around the box so the chick wouldn't fall out when it hatched. When I went up to check on the chick, it had hatched, but it wasn't breathing. It was completely out of the shell, and looked perfectly healthy. It was a cute little black peep with feathers on its feet, and cute little poofs on its cheeks. It was hard to not feel like it was half my fault the chick didn't survive. I felt like I should have stayed up there to ensure the chick hatched safely. When the last egg was hatching, I was determined to make sure that when it hatched, the chick lived. I went up to the chicken house every hour of the night to check on the chick, and finally it hatched around 2a.m. I named her Georgia Peach, and she's the silliest, smartest hen I ever had. Ruthie was one proud mama hen when Georgia hatched!
Ruthie's first chick still in her egg
Ruthie, being shy, with her chick Georgia
Full grown Georgia hanging out on my homework
Another thing I learned from having chickens, is how to repair a chicken’s (or duck’s) broken leg. My rooster Lenny, who lived down on my grandma's farm, was run over by a golf cart two summers ago and ended up with a broken leg. So, I got my chicken medkit out (a Makita tool box with medical tape, popsicle sticks, and other chicken medicine) and wrapped his leg with tape and popsicle sticks. His leg fully healed, but a month or so later, he was run over by a tractor and died. I guess he didn't learn his lesson the first time!
Lenny's broken leg
A healed Lenny, shortly before his untimely death
Lenny wasn't the only rooster who got run over. Alan Jackson, the very first rooster I ever had who lived to be 8 years old, lived down on the farm before Lenny did. On my grandma's birthday, I couldn't find him anywhere. I went inside my grandma’s house and said I couldn't find Alan Jackson. Everyone looked over at my grandpa, Pence, who had the weirdest look on his face. He sighed and said, “I didn't want to tell you this because it's your birthday, but I ran over Alan today with my car. He is down in the freezer in a black trash bag.” Why he put the rooster in the freezer is beyond me, but that was the stiffest chicken I ever had to bury.
My favorite chicken I ever had was named Dory. She loved to sit on my lap and come into my house to raid the kitchen for bread. My whole family loved Dory and her quirkiness.
My favorite, Dory
I am so thankful my parents allowed me to get chickens when I was so young. It taught me responsibility and, in a weird way, taught me how to cope with death. At a very young age, I learned how to care for a flock of chickens, paint a chicken house, take care of a sick hen, and how to tell when to let go of a suffering chicken. Chickens are such a huge part of my life, and I can't even begin to imagine how my life would be if I hadn't gotten chickens thirteen years ago.