Friday, May 16, 2014

From the Robbins' Nest

I have become very interested in other people's chicken stories. The other week I featured a story about my sister and her beloved, late rooster, Albert.  This week you will read about my cousin's wife and how she got started raising chickens.  

Please welcome our guest blogger, Erin Robbins!

From the Robbins' Nest

I have to start by saying I was not raised a country girl.  I grew up in Portland, went to a big University after high school, and never had a second thought about the in's and out's of what I ate and where it came from.  After getting married and moving to a small town with my husband and children, we purchased some property of our own. I saw an article about chickens that had a picture of a blue shelled egg and was so intrigued by the color that I quickly came to the conclusion that I just had to have chickens.  

With little research, I purchased my first 3 hens on Craigslist.  I didn't know their breed or age - just that they laid brown and blue eggs.  About 3 months later, my first blue egg was laid and I instantly knew I made the right choice in purchasing chickens.  I kept that egg in the fridge - not wanting to eat it and would constantly go look at it, amazed at it's beauty.  Once I cracked the shell and saw the amazing orange colored yolk and tasted the egg, I knew I had made the right choice!

Our first four eggs

Since then, I have spent countless hours observing and researching chickens.  We have quite a variety of breeds in our flock (with Rhode Island Reds, Ameraucanas, Australorps, Silkies, Jersey Giants, Copper Marans, and Speckled Sussex) and currently have 25 hens and 1 rooster.  Our family wanted my birds to be as natural as possible so we allow our birds to free-range on our property and do not medicate (and knock on wood, have not needed to) for anything.  Our chickens are apart of our family now and will get to spend their lives pecking at bugs and dust bathing under trees.

Hungry chickens getting warm oatmeal during 
our freezing weather this last winter;
Months after getting the first birds, we got my first "broody inclined" hens, 3 Silkie sisters as we wanted to expand our flock.  That first summer all 3 sisters wanted to hatch eggs.  I allowed all 3 to sit at the same time and several eggs each.  After researching every article and book on candling eggs, I went to the coop at dusk with my flashlight.  Minutes passed before I figured out how to hold the egg and if I did hold it just right, I could see it - the baby chick with all it's attached blood vessels moving inside the egg!   I was so excited and each night I couldn't wait to go out and check the progress of my eggs and eventually, the first egg hatched!  And then another.  And another.

Our recent hatchlings

The 3 sisters raised their brood all together as one big group and this year their daughters are laying eggs.  It has been so rewarding and exciting see them grow and noticing how each chicken has their own personality.

A Silkie mom raising her three chicks

As exciting as it is to each new chicks hatch, we unfortunately have lost a few chickens as well.  I always read that it is "a matter of time" before a chicken owner loses a chicken but I didn't realize how upset I would be when it happened to me.  Last winter, we had a pesky raccoon family who found our chickens and made a quick meal of several.  We also had a hawk who grabbed a few young birds.  Since then, we put a tight door on the coop and are careful about what food we leave out.  We have also gotten some goats and their presence seems to defer any predators. 
After having chickens now, we can't stand to look at store bought eggs, and worse for thought, how factory chickens are treated and housed.  Our chickens give us the most beautiful eggs and we try our hardest to reward them with the best life possible.  As I look out the window in the mornings and see the sun coming up, I listen for the first sounds of the rooster.  And when I hear him crow, I know all is right with the world.

Our main rooster “Brutus”

Thanks for sharing your story, Erin.  I hope we get to hear from you again!

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