Yesterday we had the pleasure of completing a major goal in our business plan. We are now the proud owners of about 125 chickens (116 hens and 9 roosters). We acquired them from a wonderful homesteading family near Milwaukee. They are raising a new flock for themselves, and we were able to get a hold of their former flock through Craigslist.
The flock is mostly made up of Sunnyside Browns (similar to a Rhode Island Red) and Sunnyside Blacks (similar to a Black Australorp) from the Sunnyside Hatchery in Beaver Dam. We also have several striking roosters: 1 Americauna, 2 Barred Rock and a couple more Rhode Island Reds.
Before we could accomodate the chickens, we had to do some work on the brooder house in which they would live. My father and mother have been doing extensive work rebuilding the window frames and replacing the windows. Here, my mother is putting the finishing touches on one of the windows.
One of the main things that we want to do for our flock is to free-range them. In our eyes, this is what God intended for the animals. As a benefit to our allowing the "chickens to be chickens" as we say, we in turn receive wonderfully healthy chickens that produce fantastically wholesome and oh-so-delicious vibrant eggs.
We had the brooder house on the original transport frame that we used to get it to the farm and it was too far off the ground to be used in the way that we wanted. We decided to replace the skids on the bottom of the house and drag it around on them like two giant skis.
While Me'n the Girls were off getting the new flock. Dave worked on finishing the nesting boxes (where the hens will lay their eggs) as well as dropping the house off the transport onto its new railroad tie skids.
We arrived in Milwaukee a little after 10:00 in the morning. We spent a great time with the family. They were operating a homestead with many elements that we are going to initiate, and they were able to answer many of the questions that we had. I was especially impressed with their daughter, Tara, a lovely and intelligent 19-year-old woman who couldn't have weighed more than 105 lbs and matched me in terms of strength. Very cool.
We were all packed up at about noon and were able to get right on the road. The drive home on 41 was uneventful (thankfully) and we arrived home a little after 2:00. I must add here that having a pickup truck bed full of chickens poking their heads up at every stop did create quite the commotion from passersby and other drivers. We got lots of stares and even a few laughs. Dave and I began unloading the chickens into their new home. We were saddened (though not unprepared) for a few losses: 4 hens were injured during the trip, and the other chickens had nipped at them to a point of fatal contusion. Two hens were still walking about but their injuries were too severe and their fate was sealed. We were forced to provide them with a quick and painless solution. I will be detailing our forays into home butchering soon.
While I was attending to our ailing friends, Becky and Dave spent time attending to the furnishing of the brooder house. They installed the first of four sets of nesting boxes as well as using wooden pallets that we had for temporary roosts. (Great idea Becky!)
By 6:00 we were all finished. We added our current chickens to the flock and our patron rooster, Reinhold, was deep in a challenge fight for dominance with the other roosters. Other than that things seemed rather peaceful.
Our next goal is to finish all of the interior additions and get the house out on grass for the chickens (they need a couple days to acclimate to their new home) and selling eggs off the farm.
Rebekah Sell lives on a small plot of land with her husband, Andy, on which they are hoping to build a sustainable homestead. With a small business and four kids, life is always interesting as Becky and Andy live fully the idea that the journey is the reward. Find her on Google+.