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.
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!