S. Morehead

S. Morehead

Shane Morehead, Entertainment Writer

Four years ago, my parents bought six chicks from Tractor Supply, and since then we’ve lost some and bought more, and now we have about thirty. They’re fun to watch and chase around sometimes. We’ve lost a lot to hawks, a few got sick, and two got too hot. A fox tried getting some a few times but never succeeded. Whenever there’s a continued animal problem, we just put our dog Marley in their fenced-in area, and any predators will stay away. Along with the chickens, we have two ducks and six guinea hens. The guineas are still new, so I’m not familiar with how they act or live. They haven’t seen the other animals yet, so it will be interesting to see if they can be around each other. Only two of our poultry have ever been named. My now-dead Ameraucana chicken Hedwig looked like an owl, and Little Bub, who is unusually small, is the friendliest of the chickens. She hangs out with people at cookouts, and she’ll follow me around sometimes. It’s mostly to get food though.

There’s a lot of variety in what the chickens look like. Some have different shaped eyes and faces, some have greener legs, some have patterns in their feathers, some are light grey, and some are spotted. Some of them have torn or short combs. None of them look exactly the same.

It’s my chore to gather their eggs, feed them, and give them water. The food and water are easy, but sometimes the eggs can be difficult to get to. The chickens leave me alone and let me take the eggs, but the ducks quack and breathe heavily if I get close to any of the eggs. Their bills aren’t sharp like a chicken’s beak, but the ducks go really fast and they put a lot of force into it. The two ducks are always side by side with each other, and they don’t even acknowledge the chickens. Chickens will stay in groups too. It’s only ever with the chickens they grew up with. We had a group of six that aren’t even related, but they stay together constantly. Every chicken ignores my cats, but they’re terrified of the dogs.

My feelings about roosters depend on the individual. We only have one rooster right now, but we used to have three. There were almost identical ones that were bright red and a peaceful one with no comb. One of the twins killed the other one, and then the killer got sick and died. The killer used to chase me around and peck at me whenever I went inside their fence. I had to give him food so he’d leave me alone. The one without a comb never gives me problems. He always goes inside the barn before dark on his own, he’s very calm, and he does a good job of scaring off hawks. I’m considering naming him.

The only thing I don’t like about owning poultry is how aggressive they can be. I have ways to deal with them though. It really messes with the roosters if I don’t move when they get close. If any ducks or chickens get too close to me, then I get a rake and gently push them away. If there’s too many that are gathering around me, I’ll go back inside and bring them some stale chips or cereal.

The first one we lost was a hen that died a few months after getting our first six. A hawk picked her up, and she struggled too much, so the hawk dropped her. The others got scared and hid underneath the porch for the rest of the day. I cried that time, and I cried over a chick I was especially attached to, but I’ve stopped getting sad about them since. They’re very fragile, and they can be stupid with some things, so it’s inevitable that one’s going to die every two months or so.

The best part of having all of them is the eggs. I used to eat them every single morning, and I still have them often. The only time we have to buy eggs is on Easter. Some of the eggs are blue, some are brown, and some are white, but all are equally good. Duck eggs have a slightly different taste, but it’s not very noticeable. For my birthday breakfast a few years ago, I had two egg sandwiches, one with a chicken egg and one with a duck egg, and I tried to tell the difference. I’ve been eating fresh eggs for years now, and I can’t have anything but them now. Store-bought eggs feel like rubber, and they don’t taste like anything. My preference is going to be a problem when I move out, and I don’t have chickens with me though. When I eventually get land of my own, I’ll probably get a few of my own chickens. I enjoy their company. The miniscule annoyances of farming poultry are outnumbered by the benefits. It’s as easy as taking care of a dog or a cat, and I’ve enjoyed it so far.