Hi there! It was just last year when I received my cute little Chicken house for Christmas. I’d wanted to get chickens since we moved to Ireland, and waited patiently (9 years!) for the right time. Living in the country, it was fairly easy to source chickens and it was recommended that it would be best to buy them right before they would start laying eggs, at around 22 weeks old. The idea of getting little chicks didn’t appeal to me, and getting them at 22 weeks and ‘ready to go’ did.
We knew very little about chickens! I did know that we wanted a good egg producing variety, and the Rhode Island Red hybrid would be perfect for that. In March we bought just 4 for our house that would fit 6. We had our little chicken house and a tiny, albeit extended from the chicken house, enclosed area. After the first couple of days, if we were home, we’d let them out of their area. We soon learned it was quite challenging to catch them to put them back! So, little by little, we started leaving them out all day. We soon learned that they’d put themselves to bed when the sun went down. In the summer that meant 10 PM, and not a minute before!
About 6 weeks after we bought the chickens, they started exploring the extended area around us. We are completely surrounded by fields, and that season the fields were mostly planted with barley. At first, it was just one chicken who’d go off to the field behind our house. And then little by little, the others started following. Before this, they would spend all of their time wandering in our yard. They’d often go under our hedges and be completely camouflaged. In the beginning, I’d constantly go out looking for them. They could be anywhere in the garden! They made several dirt-bath locations in my flower beds. Nap time could be spent on our deck, under the hedges, or in a flower bed (anywhere, really). If it was raining, they would hang out on our front porch, or under the table on our deck. It seemed the perfect life! But the ‘call of the grain’ was too strong, and off they went exploring. They’d been spotted a few fields from our house on several occasions. I’d also been informed of their being in the road, too; Not just for crossing to the fields, but if grain was spilled on the road, they’d stand there and eat it…
No matter how far they went, every evening they’d make their way back home. And as the sun set, they’d put themselves to bed. They each would lay one egg a day, and those eggs … WOW! Delicious!
By late summer, they were only in their house at night, and they were never locked up otherwise. We’d been planning on making an enclosed run, but mostly I loved having them roaming the garden with me and they seemed really happy, so I was in no hurry to start or finish the run. But unfortunately, chickens and roads and cars, well, they don’t mix well. I sadly lost two chickens, who were both hit by cars (at different times). Since then, we finished our run and they have remained safely in it.
After the second chicken was killed, I stayed off of social media. I didn’t feel like posting … anything. I love having chickens, and they were/are my pets. They each have names and are identifiable. The first one to die, Poppy, well, she was quite bossy. I thought she’d been the ring-leader to crossing the road and exploring. So honestly, when she was gone I thought the others would stay close to home. I was wrong. Of course I am responsible for their getting hit. I should have kept them safe. I feel terrible about my negligence. The run they now have is quite a nice size, approximately 25 feet by 10 feet, but it sure isn’t the same as roaming free.
So I now have just two chickens: Rose and Daisy. Rose lost some feathers on her back a while ago. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, as I thought maybe she was moulting. But she is possibly too young for that, and it was only one area. Those feathers have mostly grown back in, although her tail feathers seem to be on their way to falling off. I consulted with a ‘chicken friend’, and we sprayed the area to stop Daisy from pecking at it. Although the area had been clean and looked ‘fine’ for a number of weeks, Daisy had then started pecking at it and causing it to bleed – which is why I called my friend. The spray has worked, and Daisy has stopped pecking at it. Hopefully the rest of the feathers will grow in and all will be fine… Hopefully!
Next up is winter. After we get through the winter I’ll reassess, although I’m already planning on getting more!
So there you have my chicken story. I will miss having the chickens roaming with me in the garden. Maybe someday I’ll have fencing around the entire yard so they can once again roam freely.
You know I live vicariously through you as I would love such a garden and your beautiful birds. It’s probably very different with chickens but there are 3 reasons tropical birds pluck or lose feathers at that rate. 1. They can have a yeast infection and it itches. 2 they began vigorously grooming because something in their environment has changed and they are anxious. 3. Possible cyst or issue that hurts under that skin. Most pull tail feathers due to stress. So sorry you lost two of your flock.
Hi Michelle, thank you so much for your insight! I will have to keep a closer eye on her. I haven’t actually seen her pull her own feathers, but I’m not around them all of the time. Hopefully she’ll be ok! Thank you, it is hard to lose a pet no matter the circumstances. Xx
The way the story was going, I knew it wasn’t going to have a happy ending. I’m glad you still have two of your girls. Come spring perhaps they will get new roommates. 😘
Hi Karen, yes, I guess I was thinking that I lived in a world where chickens could safely cross the road. I am definitely planning on getting more this spring, now that I know I can keep them safe in a run. But the ultimate goal would be to fence the entire property to have them roam free again! 🙂