Monday, September 19, 2011

Coop of Personality

Here's my ultimate wisdom from my near year of raising chickens. Wait for it. Wait for it. Every chicken is different. Aren't you amazed? The thing is, I mean it. I'm a planner and a researcher. I majored in English in college and went on to perform a short stint as a high school English teacher. I love writing a good research paper. More than writing the paper, I love researching for a paper. I carry this skill with me in my regular life (as I'm sure you're starting to pick up on if you've read any of my other blog posts). I read a bunch of books and did hours of research online before we got chickens. I read about their development, the different breeds and their characteristics, coop design, predator problems, feeding chickens, and anything else I stumbled upon in my quest for chicken knowledge. I'm still reading and learning about chickens and I'll have gotten chickens a year ago come October. Along with all that I've learned during my research, I've also learned that everything you read is not going to be true for your chickens. Hence my epiphany: every chicken is different.

What I mean by this remarkable piece of knowledge is that just because a chicken is a particular breed or gender, does not mean that he or she will follow the standard protocol you've read. Take the Brahma. They are a dual purpose breed (meaning they are raised both for eggs and meat) who are medium layers (in terms of frequency), are often known to go broody, lay well throughout the winter, have a docile temperament, and bear confinement well. My buff Brahma hen, Erickson, was docile until she went broody and hatched her clutch. Now, months later, she is trying to usurp the top spot in the pecking order, is mean to the hens lower than her in the pecking order, and clamors to get out of the run whenever someone goes out to open the door (to let them out or not). She is an excellent layer, laying a medium-sized brown egg at least 6 days a week. So she follows the standard protocol about half of the time. On the other hand, you may have a breed of hen that most people say are great layers and never go broody and yours lays half the time and has tried to go broody twice in as many months. I've learned that it's nice to read the information and get a baseline for the kinds of breeds in which you're interested, but don't be discouraged when things don't go the way you've planned and know that it doesn't mean your particular girls (or boys) are going to do what the internet says they should be doing.

We, as adult human beings, are wired for disappointment. We get all excited and set our expectations for one thing and have a long way to fall when those expectations aren't met. I say, don't do that with your chickens. But honestly, I think they're so cute and so much fun that they make it pretty hard on you to be too let down. Will you be sad when half of your chicks turn out to be roosters and you can't keep all of them? Yes. Will you hate it when none of your chickens are super duper friendly like you've seen on BYC and you think you've done something wrong because none of them will jump up into your lap? Uh, yeah. Will you be disappointment when your "Easter Egger" lays brown eggs instead of blue or green or pink eggs? Big time - I know about this one first hand. Will you love all of your chickies more than you thought you could love birds that live in your backyard? Sure thing. And that's what happens to just about everyone who starts a backyard flock. Then one day, you'll be a salty old veteran chicken farmer and you'll roll with the punches. I try to keep my sodium levels down, but I'm pretty excited about getting to the salty old stage.

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