When I met my husband, he already had chickens. They were about three years old by the time I moved in. The coop was already built, and he had figured out, some of it by trial-and-error, how to raise these hens.
I, on the other hand, had never handled a live chicken in my life.
Suffice to say, it was quite an experience to care for these feisty hens.
One was skittish, another a bully, and the third an independent soul. And over the first few months of feeding them and cleaning their pen, I had come to learn their quirks and unique traits.
I had no idea how different each hen could be, how much personality they have, and how quickly I could get attached.
Last year one of our beloved hens passed away. (Read about her here.) And it was so hard watching her suffer. I didn’t think I wanted to do that again.
And then we got the call.
Maxie Asagi from Asagi Hatchery, a family-run hatchery — and the only chicken hatcher in Hawai‘i — in Kalihi, called. She said they had just had a hatch of brown layers, a very prolific breed that will lay an egg a day for years. (Our other chickens are brown layers, too.) If I wanted some, she’d hold them for me.
I hesitated. I wasn’t sure we were ready — and willing — to take on another brood of chickens. Our other two, already five years old, had stopped laying eggs for months. It would be nice to get fresh eggs again. But the commitment, the cost, the attachment — were we ready?
My husband was. He told me to call Maxie and tell her we wanted three baby chicks.
So I did.
Maxie had put aside three baby chicks for us. By the time we were able to pick them up, they were already a week old. And boy, did they come with personalities!
One is big and bossy; she squawks whenever I pick her up. The other is sweet and loving; she settles right into your hand. And then there’s the third one, a darker brown chick that pretty much does whatever she wants. While the others are drinking water, she’ll wander over to the food bowl. When they’re standing next to the heat lamp, she tries to fly out of the plastic bin. She’s definitely her own chicken already.
I don’t know much about raising chickens, just whatever my husband told me. So I went online, reading through forums on BackYard Chickens Community, an online resource started in 1999 and managed by Rob Ludlow, co-author of “Raising Chickens for Dummies” and “Building Chicken Coops for Dummies.” I learned about the importance of proper chick feed and how using dry newspapers to line the crate can cause something called spraddle leg, a deformity of the legs that makes walking difficult, if not impossible.
Spraddle leg? Who knew!
So several times a day, I go downstairs into our covered garage to check on the chicks. I change their dry bedding, adjust the heat, and add more water and feed. I carry each of them to get them used to my touch. And I let them walk — OK, saunter — around. They’re so curious and interested in everything, it’s fun to just sit back and watch them.
I never imagined I would be raising chickens. Never. Then again, I never thought I would be bottle-feeding a baby goat, either.
So stay tuned for more about this new adventure of mine. (I still need to name them and figure out a good hashtag.) I’ll be posting photos on Instagram, so follow me @catherinetoth.
And if you have advice, post it here.
I’ll need all the help I can get!
Cat, I use to live on Liliha St at the ending part near Panui. I had a hen and rooster that like
roam around the neigborhood everyday. One day a mongoose came from the mountain and bite and try to kill the rooster. Rooster died of shock and poor hen left all alone a widow. Becare of mongoose they can smell chickens from a far.
I now live in El Sorbrante ,CA where there wild turkeys, deers, rabbits, owls and other wild animals around,
I raised chickens when I was young in Makiki. It gave me a spence of pride during the 50’s. I still remember them today! Good job Cat!
Goats, chickens, and a Cat! How cool is your life shaping up to be? Really enjoy this a lot!
It isn’t at all like Green Acres, and your earlier love of all creatures that don’t sting and spoil a good surf will serve you and your new charges well in this new chapter of life.
That, and your love of food pairs well with having the freshest most tasty eggs ever in your pans and on your table.
So sweet! And how cities the hash tag not be #foxinthehenhouse ? 🙂
How *can (I need to be more aware of auto correct). 🙂
There’s so much chickens running around where I work you think I work on a chicken farm.
I’ve been raising chickens in Kaimuki for years but only raise hens. Neighbors don’t even know I have chickens. I normally only keep two or three at a time. I would trade eggs for vegetables with others farmers.
One very important thing I learned was that if you want to raise tame chickens you will have to carry and play with them at least once a day. If you can handle them twice a day that would be better. They will get used to you and your presence.
I used to get on all fours and scratch in the garden imitating a mother hen trying to find food for her chicks and they would follow me looking for bugs. Lift up pots and let them feast on the bugs.
Just my 2cents.
CAT aka Lisa Douglas: I can’t wait for you guys to get a cow!
Hey Cat … love all your adventures with animals … reminds me of my childhood … yeah, we practically had a farm in the city with chickens, dogs, cats, hamsters and rabbits … and yes, chicks too …
… I loved it when we had chicks … all the peeping was great … we’d stare at them for hours … watching every little thing they did … and we probably handled them a bit too much …