Confessions of a Chicken Hoarder

Reader Contribution by Susan Berry
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This is a difficult blog for me to write but I really believe it will be good for my overall recovery. 

If anyone had told me 10, even five years ago that I would be addicted to chickens, I would have laughed till I cried. 

Chickens. I had no idea and never even thought about any of the facts I now know about this edible creature. To me chicken was what I bought at the supermarket. I never thought about how chickens were raised commercially, never ever thought about the animals themselves, didn’t wonder about what their life was like, their characteristics, I don’t think I ever saw a real living chicken until five years ago. 

My first encounter with a chicken was a very aggressive rooster that my niece owned along with a flock of five hens. I don’t remember if she warned me in advance about this devil rooster, I only remember asking her if I could take some veggie scraps out to the chickens in her backyard. She said yes and out I went … alone. In a matter of seconds I was standing there watching a rooster silently running at full speed toward me. A big smile came over my face and for a fleeting moment I remember thinking, “Awww, look he is coming to get veggies from me.” 

The next thing I remember is veggies flying through the air, my arms lifting in lightning speed to cover my face and head and a scream coming from a woman who sounded like she was witnessing Godzilla coming at her! I quickly learned that turning and running from a hostile rooster is not wise. I also learned kicking it away is not wise. Each time I tried to escape or deflect this rooster leaping up 4 feet in the air and coming at my face, he got more persistent. 

Finally my niece’s boyfriend came to my rescue with a broom. I was pinned up against the house and reaching frantically to find the door knob that was out of my reach. In that moment I felt like I could have been a stand in for Tippi Hedren and the scene in “The Birds” where she is trying to get away from her horrifying feathered attackers!

I finally got into the house and looked at my niece who for some reason was smiling at me. The first words out of my mouth after I got my breath back was,” WHY IS HE NOT IN A POT?!!!!” 

For the next two years I had a serious fear of chickens. And, I enjoyed eating chicken with a new gusto. 

In 2011, I finally got my first six chicks. I had a flock. I made sure I got all females. I had read every book I could, joined chicken groups online and asked a million questions. I was a frantic new mother, getting almost zero sleep the first three days my flock was home. I ran if they cheeped too loud, I ran if I didn’t hear any cheeping. I was on 24/7 pasty butt check and resisting the temptation to pick them up the first few days was unbearable!

Our first year together was amazing! My Girls, which I affectionately titled them, made me laugh, made me “Awww,” made me frantic with odd behavior. I had my friend, who is an expert on raising chickens, on speed dial, replacing my husband Don as No. 1 in my speed dial list. 

Suddenly I lost two of my girls to something poisonous while free ranging and another was sick from ingesting the same toxic matter. I remember walking back to the house after burying my second girl and saying out loud, “I can’t do this. I’ll never get anymore chickens, I can’t handle this sadness.” 

After four months of having a flock of three and healing from the loss, spring came again and with it, the urge to hear “Cheep, cheep.”

Off I went to the feed store, and I ordered not three to replace my lost three. I ordered 10 new chicks. I have since learned this is called “chicken math.”

I got my 10 new fluffy butts in March 2013, and the coop was full again. The three big girls took well to the new babies. I was in chicken delight again. My heart was overflowing with chicken antics, cuddles, chasing escapees and lots of gardening just for The Girls. 

In October of last year, my husband and I were presented with the opportunity to move to our beloved North Carolina where we had lived previously for eight years. In early December, I learned I would not be able to take my flock with me, as I had originally planned and so I had to find a family willing to adopt the entire flock, as I did not want to separate them. Like I said I never knew chickens bonded, with each other and their human owners. So the thought of sending them off in different directions was too hard. 

With the help of a friend, we found a wonderful family who were more than willing to take all 12 of the girls and give them a spoiled, loving, protected home like they knew. My heart broke, but I was so happy and relieved to know they would stay together. 

A couple days later I cleaned out the shed that was a coop for us, because it too could not come with us on the move. There was nothing quite so sad for me as an empty coop, I dreaded opening the door and not seeing the girls or hearing them “buking” Good Morning to me. 

So we moved, and once again I was a broody hen with no babies……….

Coming soon, the next chapter of Confessions Of A Chicken Hoarder. 

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