Last summer, in my first weeks on the farm, we built a new chicken yard and then of course decided to fill it up with chickens. In our jump-right-in-with-two-feet-style, we decided to check out our local chicken auction in spite of having read warnings against this very idea. Why? Because we were just too darn excited to increase our flock, and it happened to be auction day.
The auction had already started when we got there, so we couldn’t really get a close look at all the available birds. I waited and watched, thinking I was being really good. But when the auctioneer announced the chicks that laid green and blue eggs, I was all in. We took home three a Giant Jersey Black hen, a Rhode Island Red hen, a speckled hen (probably a Rhode Island Red and a Maran cross), a Wellsummer pair, and a total of ten chicks – two “Easter Eggers” and eight “splash ameraucanas”. The chicks were the blue/green egg layers. Only catch was, they were not all hens. I knew this, but hoped at least half would be hens.
Back home, our original flock was down to three birds: a rooster and two hens, which had come with the property along with two more hens. One of the hens died before I got here, and the other ran off into the woods when we tried to move them to temporary quarters during the chicken yard construction. Now I knew from my research that you can’t just dump chicks in with grown chickens – they will get eaten. So, I sectioned off a chick corner and tucked the larger hens in the other corner, but let an opening so they could get to know the original residents.
Well, that proved to be a bad idea. The hens all seemed to get along at first. But after a while, I started to notice the rooster chasing some of the others around. Particularly the Wellsummer rooster. I found him dead a few days later. I thought that was going to be the end of the fighting. After all, another rooster could have been a threat to the head rooster’s territory.
A couple days later, I was on my own on the farm. Robert and David had gone out of town for a few days. Walking down to the chicken coop that morning, I distinctly remember the stillness…and the silence. As I approached the chicken yard, I knew something was wrong. I saw the rooster and some of the hens, standing very quietly. Then I saw the other Wellsummer body. Then I saw the Jersey Giant hen laying in a heap.
I knew the rooster had done this. I got a shovel and started to lift up the black hen. She was still alive, but badly hurt. Then I noticed something else. One of the chicks had been grabbed through the chick pen and cut in half. Now I was furious. I knew the rooster had to go, but I couldn’t do it by myself. I called the neighbor and asked him to come over with an ax. While I held down the rooster with a rake, the neighbor chopped off his head. Then he put the giant black hen out of her misery. We buried all the bodies. I was too shocked and angry to think for a second about trying to utilize the meat.
Probably should have realized right then that I would not enjoy participating in the slaughtering/skinning process…but still I thought I would be able to do it when the time came. Boy, was I wrong. Months later, when first time we tried to process rabbits for the first time, things did not go well for me at all.